Posted three times previously: 20 years ago I went on a grand and glorious two-wheeled Steve McQueen journey during the Cannes Film Festival. On a scooter, I mean. In the hills above Cannes, Juan Les Pins, Antibes and Nice.
Some would say that the word “scooter” automatically disqualifies my adventure as McQueen-level. This is how Elvis Mitchell (at the time the chief N.Y. Times critic) responded when I told him about it later that night. “No, no…you don’t get it,” I replied. “I’m not saying I did the Steve McQueen motorcycle thing by classic Great Escape standards. I was buzzing around winding curves and taking in the scenic grandeur and kinda feeling like McQueen…okay? Because I was playing Elmer Bernstein‘s score in my head. It was rapture.”
I rented a decent-sized scooter around 10 am that morning. (It was a Sunday.) I drove into the hills above St. Paul de Vence and headed east, tooling along serpentine roads in the high craggy hills. I went from village to village, stopping for photos or just to stop and stare.
I had lunch in St. Paul and ordered a steaming lobster bisque with a submerged folded white tortilla filled with lobster meat. I visited a tiny little village that I forget the name of but which you can see for a few seconds in in To Catch A Thief. Then I made my way down to the coast west of Nice and headed back to Cannes, tooling along the beach roads, stopping now and then to bask in the warm sun. I returned the bike around 6 pm.
I haven’t solo’ed like that since. You generally can’t do this kind of adventure with a lady. Some are cool enough to savor this kind of roam-around but most girls aren’t. Too security-minded. They’ll explore but only in a car.
Posted on 5.10.11: For nearly my entire life I’ve been on extremely familiar terms with John Robie’s (i.e., Cary Grant‘s) mountaintop home in To Catch A Thief. Yesterday Sasha Stone and her daughter Emma and I actually visited the place. It’s located on the main road leading up to the medieval village of Saint Jeannet, and it’s absolutely dead real — relatively unchanged from when Alfred Hitchcock shot his classic 1955 film — with only the addition of a driveway gate and a tall thick hedge in front.
The last time I came upon a real-life location with this kind of hot-damn impact was when I visited Oahu for the Pearl Harbor junket and stopped by Halona Blowhole beach — the site of the famous love scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity.
We wandered around the winding, small-scale, centuries-old streets of Saint Jeannet for about 90 minutes and took several photos of the breathtaking rocky peak (i.e., the “Baou”) that towers above. Then we motored down to Tourrettes Sur Loup , another pleasant medieval village only much more touristy. It has nothing to do with Tourette syndrome, although we joked about that (as tens of thousands of previous visitors have also joked, no doubt).
Villa Robie – Tuesday, 5.10, 3:35 pm.
Villa Robie as glimpsed in To Catch a Thief.
Tourettes Sur Loup — Tuesday, 5.10, 5:40 pm.