Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Hemingway Years (5)

"St Martin Vesubie"

Scenes in novels and short stories by Ernest Hemingway of men fishing--especially trout fishing in Spain--appealed to me. It was something I wanted to do if I ever had the chance, although I'd never been fly fishing in my life. But the setting of cold streams in the mountains and men catching fish held a strong allure for me. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to go fly fishing in the mountains. But I did get to go to the mountains.

My ship, the USS Cromwell, anchored near Nice, and I joined some friends on a weekend excursion to St Martin Vesubie in the French Alps.The trip was one of the highlights of my time in Europe. My buddies and I shared a room in a chateau. Just outside our room, a clear stream flowed past, careening over rocks and boulders strewn in the riverbed. I could look out the window of our room and see the stream ten or fifteen feet down rushing by, and I could hear its melodic rumbling all night long.

It was the quaintness and beauty of the old town and the countryside--the steep hills and flower-covered plateaus--that captured my imagination--my Hemingwayesque imagination.

The French Alps

My friends and I--Butler, Price, and Matolyak--bought wine, bread, and cheese, and wandered the town and the hills. We were all photography buffs, and taking pictures was our stubstitue for fly-fishing in the cold steams.
Butler, Price, Matolyak

In one way, it was a dissappointing trip. At the chateau, I was shocked by the fact that in the dining hall was a television blarring away. I had thought the French were better than us Americans--more cultured. But that weekend undid my false belief that the French were above the commonness of television--the trivial game shows and gossip programs.They'd succumbed to the same trivialites as Americans. It was the weekend I woke up to the fact that the French are the same as us.
Central street St Martin Vesubie 1970
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