Friends: Last year I made my approach to Cannes from the west across the relative flats of Provence. This year I descended from the north following the Route de Napoleon, the road Napoleon took in 1815, though in the opposite direction, from Cannes to Grenoble to overthrow Louis the 18th.
The terrain was mountainous the final 150 miles all the way to the Mediterranean. My map listed one last pass about 65 miles from Cannes. When I surmounted it last night shortly before seven I thought my climbing was done and it would be gentle going the rest of the way. But after a three-mile descent into another of those classic French villages with an ancient castle towering above it, I began a two-mile climb, followed by a similar descent and then another climb.
Rather than persisting at it until I overheated into another sweat, I elected to end my day just short of 90 miles, leaving me less than 50 miles to my movie marathon of the next two weeks. And then today, I had a final series of mini-passes until I came to the city of Grasse, perfume capital of France and big enough to have a McDonald's and wealthy enough to be dotted with hoards of villas for those who want a break from the heat of the coast 15 miles away.
I've had some sunny skies and warmer temperatures the last two days after five days of chill and overcast and occasional rain. Rather than basking in the sun, I've sought patches of shade when I've taken a break to eat or rest or study the map. For years a patch of shade has always brought Crissy and our ride through Central America to mind. It was beastly hot down there deep in the tropics and shade was rare and most welcome. Women in the countryside walked around under umbrellas to shield themselves from the fierce sun.
When we stopped to rest, I immediately ducked into the shade, but not Crissy. She preferred to remain in the sun, darkening her already deep tan. She didn't want to relinquish her title of having the best tan on the beach when we returned to Puerto Escondido. Sometimes she'd squeeze a lemon on her hair to bleach it a little more. I'd have to insist on her joining me in the shade so she wouldn't wilt away and have the strength to keep riding.
But my strongest memory of that trip is the image of Crissy with her nose on her handlebars curled into the aerodynamic egg position so she could speed even faster down the descents, faster than even I could keep up with even though I was carrying all our gear. My favorite picture of Crissy is one of her astride her bike overlooking Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, named "The most beautiful lake in the world," by Aldous Huxley. It was among a gallery of photos of her life that her friend Anne Rawlins had put together on a bulletin board in her hospital room. When a visitor commented on the photo, I pointed out that even though Crissy was smiling, she'd just had one of the most horrific experiences of her life, climbing the long, steep, ungraded road to get there, maybe even worse than chemotherapy. That prompted a chuckle from Crissy, one of the last few she had as she lay there in the hospital.
Crissy loved the beach and the water. She could body surf with ease. I'll be imagining her sprawled on the series of beaches I will bike past every day from the camp ground I am staying at three-and-a-half miles west of the Festival. I am ready for the movies to commence. I picked up my credentials this afternoon. They will allow me free access to the hundreds of movies to be screened in the next 12 days. The only ones I will need a ticket to are those playing in the Palais, the largest of the 50 theaters screening movies all day long. And those credentials give me free Internet access at the festival business center, where I'm at now. There are only twenty terminals, however, for the over 30,000 film professionals that will be gathering. Fortunately there are other free outlets provided by businesses and organizations trying to attract favor from all of us attending.
A quick scan of the schedule shows films by many of my favorite directors, including the Spaniard Benito Zambrano. His first film, "Solas," won the audience favorite award at Chicago's film festival in 1999. I had seen it at the Berlin Film Festival and campaigned hard for it to be included in Chicago's Festival. I have been looking forward to his next film ever since. All that he has directed these past six years has been a TV mini-series. His film here is "Habana Blues," set in Cuba. I have once again promised regular reports for my friend Matt to post on his cinema-related web-site http://rashomon.blogspot.com so brace yourself.