How do cherries taste to you? Many would say sweet. Some will detect a pinch of sourness. Cesare Pavese, a famous Italian writer, would have said that cherries taste like sky (‘le ciliegie dal sapore di cielo’). Or at least this is what Natalie Ginzburg, a friend of Pavese and a writer herself, remembered of him while writing her delightful autobiographic work, Lessico Familiare.
I‘ve never been interested in horror stories or haunted places, but I do have a thing for stories in general and that is what brought me to La Belle Creole, an abandoned luxury hotel in Baie Nettle, Saint Martin.
As the story goes, La Belle Creole was a flamboyant project of a visionary mind: Claude Philippe, a manager of one of the most luxurious hotels of all times, the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. (To be clear, the place where the famous dancing scene with a blind Al Pacino in Sent of a Woman was shot). Meant to be nothing less than a mirror of French opulence in the Caribbean, the project was doomed by its very start in 1964. Work on La Belle Creole, in fact, stopped only three years later due to a curse by the long dead Arawak people, or, more likely but less charming, to lack of funds. By the 70’s “the resort began to slip into deterioration”. Theft was also very common and it is not hard to believe the urban legend that says everyone on the island has a piece of this resort in their homes. (Wikipedia)
In 1989, although much reduced in splendour, the resort finally opened for guests. Many people have sweet memories of their honeymoons here, others remember hotel’s labor union employees already in strike. However, both accounts would be soon interrupted six years later. In 1995, indeed, Hurricane Luis blew away what seems to have been the last chance of profit for the owners of La Belle Creole. La Belle Creole sans merci.
Of the stone Mediterranean buildings, of the shady squares and cool terra cotta floors, of the wood-beam ceilings, hand-carved wood fixtures and colourful island fabrics, of the swimming pool, jacuzzi and outdoor cafe nothing is left more than torn shadows.
The real mystery – if there is one – is to be found in the lush tropical greenery that continues to thrive amongst the ruins and in the serene beauty of one of the resort’s private beaches, finally free and blissfully unspoiled.
The roots of the plants are invading any space available, and not.
“Svegliati che la mamma sta facendo gli gnocchi!” (Wake up! Your mother is making gnocchi). That is how my father used to convince me to get out of the bed on Sunday morning in that time of my life when my body seemed to need an indefinite amount of sleep. It is no secret in my family that I am crazy about this dish, but I’ve always also enjoyed to participate in the making process. In no time I would be from my bed to the side of the table where my mother was mixing up all the ingredients. The kitchen was already full of the sweet smell of boiled potatoes and flour. Often my grandmother, who used to live on the floor below, would come up to help. We where then all together. Three generation of women gathered around what for me was the one and only holy ritual on a Sunday.
Stromboli spends most of his time looking at the infinity of the sea, with his nose and ears ready to pick up any smells or sounds from the water that unfolds in front of him. If I didn’t know my dog, I would think he was a philosopher. Although he is not among the clever creatures, there is something undeniably stoic about him when he stares at the horizon. The other day he made me think about Ulysses. Continue reading
My last post about thoughts being less important than we think triggered an interesting conversation between my very good friend Vera and me. A well articulated exchange of opinions that led to a beautiful reference of a poem by Fernando Pessoa, The Tabacco Shop. Today, I would like to share with you this conversation. Join us, if you like. I started with saying that ‘we are not our thoughts’. Do you agree? Continue reading
The worst idea that has been taught to us is that it’s the thought that counts.
I believe it is not simply an expression used to lift our soul when we know we have bought a crappy present and we do not want to feel too bad about it. No! It is rather the greater excuse that we use in everyday life to escape the guilt of not taking action.
If I were someone else, I’d go along with you all.
But since I’m what I am, lay off!
Go to hell without me,
Or let me go there by myself!
Why do we have to go together?
Fernando Pessoa. Lisbon Revisited.
The awesomeness of travelling, of always pushing yourself a little out of your familiar place and of meeting new people is that you can learn so many things without even noticing it. Life in Sint Maarten has taught me already quite a lot. For example, I learned a great deal about sharks. Continue reading
Women’s bags are one of the many mysteries this world is built upon. Way before Hawking and Penrose discovered black holes, women’s bags attracted an unimaginable variety of objects without shedding light to none of them and absorbing the energy and patience of all people in the surroundings. I own several of these bags, but perhaps someone will award me with a Nobel prize for sharing another kind of black hole: my wallet. Continue reading