Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

  • — Issue 2006/16 posted by hidden europe on

The small hilltop town of Cabris in Alpes-Maritimes is not, we would concede, normal hidden europe territory. Cabris is the archetypal French holiday town, beautiful in the winter season, but a little too crowded on these summer days. That is not to deny its undoubted charm: purple bougainvillea tumbles over the garden walls, and in the lanes that lead off the Montée André Gide there are beautiful umbrella pines, twisted olives and heaps of wild lavender.

article summary —

Dear fellow travellers

The small hilltop town of Cabris in Alpes-Maritimes is not, we would concede, normal hidden europe territory. Cabris is the archetypal French holiday town, beautiful in the winter season, but a little too crowded on these summer days. That is not to deny its undoubted charm: purple bougainvillea tumbles over the garden walls, and in the lanes that lead off the Montée André Gide there are beautiful umbrella pines, twisted olives and heaps of wild lavender.

But Cabris is notable, not just for its delicious variety of flora - a place where Mediterranean and montane habitats collide - but for its unique role in modern European literature. For André Gide is just one of a galaxy of twentieth century authors who wrote in Cabris. This was not chance, but due in part to the benevolence of one remarkable but little known woman: Aline Mayrisch-de Saint-Hubert. She was born in Luxembourg in 1874 and died in Cabris in 1947. Head down the hill from Cabris towards Spéracèdes, not on the main road but on the parallel and much quieter Chemin des Laurens, to find the secluded and manicured La Messuguière, where Aline spent much of the last two decades of her life. And it was to La Messuguière that she invited many of the leading writers and intellectuals of the day, that they might relax, be inspired and put pen to paper. Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Colette, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Paul Valéry and Herbert Marcuse were just some of the two dozen writers who were able to call Cabris their winter home, in large measure due to the generosity of Aline Mayrisch-de Saint-Hubert. She also, in the difficult years of the nineteen thirties, worked tirelessly with many of the leading intellectuals of the day to forge a vision of a Europe united by a common commitment to art, literature and liberal philosophy. Nowadays, Cabris commemorates in its street names its famous literati, and yet the contribution of Mme Mayrisch-de Saint-Hubert goes sadly unremarked.

Shetland links

When Atlantic Airways flight RC362 touches down in the Shetland Isles this morning, en route from the Faroe Islands to London, it will mark a little moment of aviation history. Not for many years has there been a direct air service linking the Faroes and the Shetlands, and never, in the whole history of airline schedules, has there been a non-stop service between the Shetlands and London. The new Atlantic Airways service stops four times weekly at Sumburgh airport in Shetland. The sector between London and Shetland takes 100 minutes, halving the existing fastest flight time between London and one of the UK's northernmost island outposts.

The new air link is timely for Shetland, the islands having lost their summer direct flights to Norway at the end of the 2005 season. Norwegian carrier Widerøe, part of the SAS group, has ditched Shetland from its 2006 programme to concentrate on developing services from the British mainland to Norway.

The new direct air link from Shetland to the Faroes comes at a moment when relations between the two communities are soured by a spat over ferry schedules. For some years, the Faroese shipping company, Smyril Line, has stopped off in Shetland, providing direct ferry services to Norway, Iceland, Denmark and the Faroes, incidentally making Lerwick the only port anywhere in the UK to host regular direct car ferries to four countries! Smyril has announced that from mid-October this year it will no longer serve Shetland, a harsh blow for the Shetland businesses that have developed export strategies predicated on the Smyril ferry links. The Shetland authorities, which have a substantial financial stake in Smyril, have mounted legal challenges in the Faroese capital Tórshavn to Smyril's decision, thus far without success.

Excerpts from every article in hidden europe 9 will be available on our webpage at www.hiddeneurope.co.uk from Monday, 26 June. Orders for this new issue can of course already be placed.

This article was published in Letter from Europe.

About The Authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.