My most treasured travel souvenirs are the memories I carry with me. Lately, however, I am coming to terms with the fact that my memory is like the ever shifting sand dunes in the desert. As time passes what I remember imperceptibly changes, colored by new experiences and the erosive passage of existence. Impressions which were once so clear in my mind, vivid high-definition photographs, slowly transform into a Fauvist canvas. I am reminded of these tricks my mind plays on me as I look down from the cliff heights of Monte Carlo, Monaco at its cluster of ochre tinted tiled roofs.
A voice inside me insists that I was here before, standing upon this same hillside looking down at the same houses. Yet part of me doubts my recollection: was it a dream I am recalling more evocatively than other dreams; do I have a case of déjà vu; or is it the uncanny way my traveler’s eye sees similarities which makes me believe that I have done all this before? Right then, while the Mediterranean sun bakes the palm trees below and turns the tawny building facades into works of beauty, I start to panic. What use is all this if I won’t remember it correctly months from now? What if I am doomed to repeat the same mistakes as I wander from place to place? Perhaps I should take more photographs so that I will never forget exactly what this hillside looked like, what this particular view was, how the light and color danced in the air?
I pick up my lens put it to my eye and hesitate. I can see the cobalt sea, honey hued hills, and cloudless sky faultlessly poised in exact thirds inside the tiny gridded viewfinder. Except, the scene looks nothing like the one I am gazing at and I cannot pull the trigger.
I am suspended between two worlds, each a replica of the other, yet nothing alike.
The landscape inside the camera window does not shimmer the way my seashore does as if a silken bejeweled cape were waving back and forth. There is no friskiness in the sloping shades of umber and olive when I glance through the miniature looking-glass. Light and color do not pirouette and leap off the sky and descend upon the rooftops within the peephole. I now understand a little of the frustration that the Expressionist and Fauvist painters felt when they attempted to capture this region on canvas. How does one wrap up the mutating balance of shadow and illumination into a mosaic of color? How does one define the essence of a destination and deposit it on canvas? How does one distill the wayward catalog of memories and create a lasting impression?
If it is possible to do so, I do not possess the knowledge. Not through any photographs nor any notes can I hope to capture the exactness of this moment while I stand upon a bluff and stare at part of the Monaco landscape. I know these present images will metamorphose too into reminiscences that are neither wholly truthful nor complete fairy tales. In a week the colors will bleed together, in a couple of months I will identify the hill incorrectly, in seven years this trip and all that my senses have experienced here will be a jumble of incoherent thoughts. I can only hope that some of my pictures and a few of my scribblings will jog a vague memory in the future of vermilion houses, ultramarine waters, and orange headlands. Perchance I will still recall the dancing luminescence, but if not, all is not lost. My remembrances will continue to slip and slide into various shapes but I have to believe that in their fluidity is their strength. An idea, a recognized scent, even this feeling of déjà vu must mold me a little differently then if I had never studied this vista or sat upon this hillside in Monaco. That is a souvenir worth the journey for me.
Monaco is the world’s second smallest sovereign state famous for its Grand Prix raceway and highest per capita income. Away from the glitzy gambling and shopping venues, the “Jardin Exotique” is an aesthetic wilderness in which to admire tropical foliage, gather one’s thoughts, or explore two-hundred thousand year old history.
Experience the landscape that has intoxicated artists from Louis Bréa to Henri Matisse in our e-book French Riviera: Artist’s Paradise.