Friday, 29 January 2016

Hotel Eccentrica

That crowded and damp, brain- hammeringly cut-throat London when it has the christmas bee in the bonnet -- one pictures that even the bees wear Santa bonnets -- sinks in a gargle of holiday themed Starbucks and laquered pop stars making fools of themselves. Here, on the French riviera, the brain enjoys mild wind and half-empty palatial hotels at a fraction of the price--the ultimate relaxation. We had our Christmas lunch at brasserie la Rotonde. Seating booths in pink velvet with yellow '70s style armchair tassel, wooden horses on golden swirly poles from a belle epoque carousel all around the upper seating circle, and azure blue walls with painted-on seagulls and palm trees ; panelled ceilings with trompe-l'oeil butterflies in a spring cloud, fairy lights, cherubs and clown figures, turn of the century stucco, all in psychedelically popping colours; I couldn't have been more lucky than to find this place. We had the multi-course Christmas lunch served by waiters who seemed to own the unreal spirit of this brasserie, which is itself only a small limb of the palatial extravaganza of surrealism chez Negresco. There is more, much more : the night before, we sat in the hotel's piano bar, all fauve velvet. I had a rosebud and red fruits infusion that came in a tea service my grandmother would just have loved. Pink rose motif, golden rim, and a rosebud lid, silver spoon of course ; and C had a fresh Mandarin juice. We sat there so gleefully listening to this ageing pianist singing jazz love songs in broken English and inspected the furnishings. Old Napoleonic uniforms are on display behind the bar, and then for the lavatories, the men's is inside a Napoleonic tent, and the women's in a pale rose boudoir with rose-patterned wall paper, silky pink and white stripes, pale rose doors, even a pink sink and loo... Enchanted is, for once, just the right word. 
On the way here, I had bought a Dior nail varnish, pink, in a shade called  "wonderland" ; if nothing elsd in me, then at least my nails were prepared for this amazement. Reading up on the history of the hotel Negresco left a bitter aftertaste behind all this magic. The bold entrepreneur behind it all was a Romanian hotelier, who had worked his way up from apprenticeships in Paris, London and Monaco. He was good with crowned heads, stars and multimillionaires, it seems; and the wikipedia article elusively states that "he became very successful" on the Côte d'Azur. Gangster? A french automobile maker financed Negresco's plans to build a sumptuous hotel for the super-rich in the early 20th century, but just as it opened, world war 1 began and the hotel was turned into a hospital while Negrescu was  drafted to the army. After the war, the super-rich no longer came to him, and he had to sell. When he died at 52 in 1920, he was bankrupt. One thinks of Proust's Search for Lost Time : here, as in the memory of Niçois palaces that were cut up into apartment blocks, the gone past is painfully grandiose and pointless, so much it hurts.
Like the 16,000-crystal chandelier gracing the main hall, only taken to the Negresco because its original commissioner, tsar Nicolas, was inconvenienced to take this delivery during the Russian revolution.

No comments:

Post a Comment