Aah the art of letters. I always believed that the best part about letters which is lost in all forms of electronic messaging is that tiny colourful piece of paper that’s glued to the envelope in the corner – yep stamps, and why you may ask. Why, simply because it teaches us so much about the origins of the letter. As a child I loved collecting stamps and its a habit that I still try to keep although its getting to be increasingly difficult to find stamps in this electronic age. To discover that some of the countries whose stamps I have, no longer exist, is quite thrilling indeed. Over time though, the stamps gave way to the persons behind the letters. I began developing a passion for the people who wrote heartfelt letters – baring their soul to the reader; their desires, their anger, their faults, their desperation, their joys…
Enough has been said about the charms of travel by trains and many a traveller has waxed eloquently about the delights of journey through Europe by trains. Of course the imaginative mind immediately conjures up images of chance encounters, thrilling adventures and the like, well portrayed in several books and films. Mountain trains add an all new dimension to the experience of a traveller, one that seeks solitude and probably little adventure than to immerse oneself in the journey than the destination. In one such journey over destination preference, I planned on taking the little known “Train des Merveilles” from Nice to a mountain village called Tende in France.
As soon as I stepped out of the station I saw a car braking its speed all of a sudden for an elderly lady to cross the road. The result was some abuses from both ends, vigorous gesticulations and a traffic jam for a good 15 minutes. Ah how I loved it! I was back in Italy after a good two years and I had almost forgotten how different the feeling is, stepping into one culture from another. Entering Italy from France is quite convenient and easy, especially when vacationing along the French riviera. One gets to experience a different culture on a day’s jaunt from another. How could I let the opportunity pass?
The idea of the French riviera often conjures up images of rich aristocrats enjoying sunshine in their backyards in their uber-rich villas, overlooking the Mediterranean. Often, in their rich attire, they may wander into elite clubs, smoking away through their expensive cigars, the troubles of the outside world, playing in rich casinos through the evenings and sauntering into galleries in the afternoons. What does a budget traveller do in this part of the world? In the midst of all the shine and glory, is it possible to find one’s own space and call it theirs?
When Hemmingway puffs one of his cuban cigars chatting with Ezra Pound and the silhouette of Scott Fitzgerald scribbling on his notes, appears in the smoke, you are thrown back to an iconic time in bohemian Paris. The Latin Quarter in Paris is my favourite part of the city and a renowned bookstore here has the most claim to fame. Shakespeare and Company is one of the finest english language bookstores and is truly an exceptional little part in the heart of the left bank of the city.