Lunch with Robert Redford

Serendipitious Traveler, Day 11 ~ Cannes

The Hotel Martinez in Cannes, France
Photo by Leah Marie Brown

With Stephanie visiting childhood friends, I suddenly found myself alone in Cannes, Mistress of My Own Fate.  I opted to book a table at Z Plage, the beach side restaurant owned and operated by the Hotel Martinez.  The Martinez is the super swank hotel movie stars stay at while visiting Cannes.  I wanted to dine al fresco, to sit and gaze at the French Riviera, to sip champagne.  I wanted to create my Cannes moment.

Sitting at the swanky beach side restaurant, I pulled out my journalist's notebook.  I decided to do a writing exercise.  I call it Tapping Into My Inner-Ellen Degeneres...that free flowing, uncensored stream of consciousness.  Hoping to capture that small, sophisticated corner of Cannes, I wrote my observations.  I wrote whatever came to mind. 

September 15, 2012
Hotel Martinez, Cannes

Having lunch at the seaside restaurant Z Plage at the Hotel Martinez in Cannes.  Wondering if I am over-dressed or have stumbled into a Victoria's Secret catalog shoot.  Everyone is tall, tan, and practically naked.  Even the waiter, who, by the way, talked me into ordering a specialty drink called the Red Beach.  It's made with champagne, Malibu, strawberry syrup, and lemon juice and is sooo delicious.  The sea breeze is gentle and the sound of the waves so relaxing.  I feel lulled, like a baby in a cradle.  I've finished half of my Red Beach and already I feel tipsy. 
I just ordered Chinese noodles with veggies for lunch. Why did I order such a pedestrian meal?  I'm in France, not the food court of some suburban mall. 

The waiter came back to refill my water glass.  He told me about a path that leads up to the top of a distant hill, offering spectacular views of the marina.   Why would I want to leave this spot?  I have a potent drink, handsome waiter, and the beach.  Life is already parfait!  Parfait.  Now I am thinking about dessert.  I look around at the slender beach beauties and tell myself to stop thinking about dessert.  Chocolate is the enemy.  Chocolate is the enemy.  Must make this my mantra.

The beautiful people gather to sip champagne and pretend they do not care that they are surrounded by beauty and ostentatious wealth.  C'est normal.

An elderly woman with bleach blonde hair and large bug-like Chanel glasses gesticulates mildly, elegantly, while conversing with a Laurence Olivier look-alike in Feragamo loafers.  Loafers at the beach?  Bien sur!  It is, after all, Cannes in early Autumn.

The breeze has shifted away from me.  I feel the sun's relentless rays piercing my skin, a bead of sweat trickles between my breasts.  I hike my skirt up to my knees and take a sip of my Red Beach.  Why can't life always appear as beautiful as it does when one is sipping champagne in Cannes?

Is it my imagination or is the distinguished gentleman in loafers suddenly paying more attention to me than his gesticulating companion?  Yes!  I caught him.  I lower my skirt and wonder if I have a piece of broccoli stuck between my teeth.

I sip my Red Beach until my head starts spinning, until the sea tilts at a precarious angle, until the world beyond the French Riviera seems far, far away.  Right now, nothing else matters except the taste of the strawberry champagne on my tongue, the feel of the breeze on my bare legs, the sound of the surf sensuously lapping the shore.  It does not matter that I've spent $30 for one glass of champagne or that the waiter keeps hovering, his gaze fastened to my breasts.  It does not matter that when the delicious buzz of my drink wears off, I will feel a pang, a familiar pang of regret, that I am not sharing this moment with someone who adores me as much as I adore him.  In this moment, I am content to merely blend into the canvass of beautiful people, pretending that I do not care, that I am blasé.

An African with skin as black and shiny as licorice tries to peddle fake Ray-Bans and Panama hats to the beautiful people lounging on the sand, but they pretend he does not exist.  They stare through him, as if hypnotized by a distant spot on the horizon.  I wonder what Loafer Man would do if I called the peddler over, purchased one of his tacky Panama hats, and slapped it on my head? 

The lady at the table behind me is wearing a diamond bracelet that is surely worth more than I will spend for my entire month-long sojourn in France.  The jewels capture the sunlight, and for a moment it appears they are winking at me, taunting me.

Only one other person in Z Plage sits alone.  She is beautiful, with long, chestnut hair.  She sips water and nibbles a slender salad with an air of ill-ease.  She looks like she wants to flee her skin, like she wishes she could crawl out of her existence.  She is in stark contrast to the gesticulating woman, who seems as if she were born to wear a Cartier watch to the beach.

I was just about to ask for my check when I noticed a tall, handsome, older man with dirty blonde hair stroll into the Z Plage.  Something about his manner catches my attention.  He looks familar.  Damn my near-sightedness.  I push my sunglasses back on my face and study the newcomer.  You won't believe who it is.  Guess?  Robert Redford.  On the outside, I am trying to act all French and unaffected-like.  "Whatever!  He's some actor, right?  Pfft."  Inside I am like, "Robert. Freaking. Redford."

I order another Red Beach just so I can sit and secretly gawk at Robert. Freaking. Redford.  OMG!  Suddenly I realize I am gawking.  I wonder if this is what seperates me from the beautiful people.  It's not my Cartier-free wrist or my Ray-Bans (Real, not purchased from a peddler), it's my unabashed wonder at the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  I have not cultivated that unaffected manner. 

I've moved from Z Plage to the beach (34 Euros to rent a chair for 2 hours) and am sitting beside a paunchy American who seems to be performing oral sex on his cigar.  His - mistress? - is Italian and much, much younger.  She is wearing a skimpy orange bathing suit, her round ass hanging out of the minuscule triangles of fabric, and again I wonder if I've landed in the middle of a lingerie shoot.  She keeps saying, "Baaaabe, we need to go if we are going to get lunch.  Baaaabe!"  I cough and she turns to me, studying me through a thick veil of mascara-ed lashes.  She asks me if I would like a piece of gum.  How nice is that? 

I wanted to tell her that I did not need gum, but an iron lung.  Sugar Daddy's cigar smoke is like a toxic cloud.  She reaches a manicured hand into her LV bag (Who carries a Louis Vuitton to the beach?  I wonder if she saw me hide my Coach bag beneath my towel?) and pulls out an elaborately engraved silver box.  She hands the box to me and I remove the lid to discover white squares of gum inside.  I am not sure what kind of person carries Chiclets in a silver monogrammed box, but in my next life, I want to be that sort.

She tells me she is actually French, born and raised in Cannes.  She giggles as she tells me she met her "man" at a ... she breaks off, waves her slender hand in the air dismissively, and says, "Eet eez a complicated story." 

Miss Monogrammed Box (Ha!  My mind just descended to gutter level) is actually quite nice.  Her man is from New Jersey.  I am guessing, from the thick crop of hair circling his body and the copious gold chains around his fat neck, that he is from the Shore.  When he smiles, he looks like Mr. Potato Head.  His teeth are THAT white.  Still, he's friendly.  He snaps his fingers and a waiter appears.  Who snaps their fingers at the help anymore?  Did I really just call the waiter "The Help"?  He asks if I would like a glass of champagne but I politely decline.  He tells me about his travels, his concerns over the lagging economy, and wonders aloud if he will have to sell one of his homes in Palm Beach, Hawaii, and France.  Seriously? 

Miss Monogrammed Box whines,  "Baaaabe.  I am hungry.   The restaurant.  Eet ees going to close."

An elderly woman with short cropped, platinum hair drops down onto the lounger beside me.  She is extremely flat chested and topless.  Oddly, this does not disturb me.  It must be the Red Beach effect.

My personal beach boy (Score!  It turns out the 34 Euros I paid secured the use of a lounger and a beach boy) brings me a bottle of water, then hands me a 7 Euro bill.  Wait a minute?  The beach boy is complimentary but the water costs ten bucks?  Only in Cannes. 

A heavy set woman in a navy blue swimming cap and goggles has been swimming the shoreline, like a determined Retriever.  She hoists herself across the sand and collapses onto Sugar Daddy's now empty lounger.  She watches me snap photos and says, "There is much in Cannes to photograph.  N'est-ce pas?"  She falls asleep, snoring loudly.  Every once in awhile, her leg twitches, like a Retriever dreaming he is chasing a squirrel.

My journal entry ended there.  I stopped writing after my beach boy politely informed me that my time was up.  He cordially invited me to extend my stay ("Another 34 Euros, please Madame.").  Already feeling the pinch in my pocketbook, I politely declined.  Reluctantly, I slipped my dress back on and followed the path my waiter had recommended to the overlook. 

As I stood gazing down at Cannes, I felt a moment of pure happiness.  I had, after all, created my perfect Cannes moment.

Cerulean Sea
by Leah Marie Brown
Turquoise flags on a yacht are reflected
in the cerulean waters of the
French Riviera.
Old School
by Leah Marie Brown
A mural on the side of a building
in Cannes, France harkens the days
of Old Hollywood.

Quiet on set!
By Leah Marie Brown
The mural on the side of this building
in Cannes, France depicts an old
Hollywood set.  The old lady is real.

The Beautiful People
by Leah Marie Brown
Stuck in traffic, I couldn't resist snapping a photo
of a mural of Marilyn Monroe, painted on the
side of a building in Cannes, France.

Allez la France!
This fab car belongs to one of Stephanie's friends.

My Cannes Moment
Stephanie snapped this photo of me sitting in Z Plage
before she left to meet her friends. 
Notice my knee is showing - and this is
well before the Red Beach.  Mon dieu!

The Drink
By Leah Marie Brown
This is a photo of the infamous
Red Beach, a delicious, potent
concoction created by the bartenders at
Z Plage, Hotel Martinez,
in Cannes, France.  This
was taken before I had taken a sip...
If I'd waited a few moments, it would have
been out of focus and crooked. 


Nancy S. Brandt said...

You live the most amazing life. I am completely jealous.

Patricia said...

I absolutely hate that this story had to end. I was so sucked into all of it - expecially the "monogrammed box" - quite funny! You are a very talented writer and the wit kept me thoroughly entertained. Hated that it ended!

Leah Marie Brown said...

Nancy ~ Don't be jealous. I am still a real woman, with secret pains and scars. Hugs.

Patricia ~ Merci! Miss Monogrammed Box was very funny. I wanted to write more about her at the time - like as she was talking - because she was saying so many funny things. She even asked me at one point, "What are you writing in the leetle book?"

Heather J. said...

If your life is half as wonderful as your writing, it must be pretty damned good.

Anonymous said...

Loved it! You brought me there...thank you for the wonderful experience. :-) kelli