Johnny Cash in the South of France
by Terry Everett
If you’re among those who’ve been kicking around the French since 9/11 (or, if you’re like me, and are tired of Americans who do that), I invite you to consider how I got my nickname, "Johnny Cash."
When I go to the south of France I stay at a small hotel (Les Vergers de St.
Paul) at St. Paul de Vence. The Directeur (hotel manager) is my friend
Jacque Meche. He always calls me something when I come back to the lobby
after one of my outings. He gave me the nicknames “Mississippi”
and “Mississippi River.”
I chose that little hotel the first time I went to France for a number of
reasons -- one is that it's inland, away from the high prices on the coast;
two, it is accessible by bus to both Vence (where the Matisse Chapel and
Villa le Reve are) and Nice (with its Musee Matisse and the Franciscan
Monastery where Matisse is buried); three, it is within walking distance of
La Colombe d'Or (The Golden Dove) where great artists, writers, actors,
musicians, composers from the 1920's on would spend weekends.
People like Picasso and Matisse were not yet wealthy when they first started going
there, so the weekend would be over and they couldn't pay their bills. The owner at the time was a man named Roux, and he was smart enough to say,
"Oh, give me a painting."
Eventually, Roux had a collection of paintings that are now considered masterpieces.
Ergo, I choose to do my big celebratory dinner at the restaurant at the Colombe d'Or. Besides all that ambience, the bar is excellent -- so I have a Pastis (or two), and the restaurant is excellent (but not inexpensive). One cannot order either water or wine by the glass -- both must be ordered by the bottle.
Thank God, the walk back to the hotel is down hill (in The Maritime Alps -- to
say nothing of the state I'm in). I must add at this point that since the
evening is to celebrate the connection of poetry and art, I always dress in
Well, the very first time I did that, when I wobbled back into the hotel,
Jacque sang out, “Johnny Cash!”
And I sang back, “How high's the water, Momma?”
And, I swear to you, every French person in the place sang back, “Well,
it's five feet high and rising!”
I have never been treated better anywhere on the planet than I have in St. Paul de Vence, Vence, and Nice. On the Cote d’Azur, the natives love Americans and Brits.