If you make the windy drive up into the hills of Cannes at sunset, it’s hard not to think of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of the place: “The diffused magic of the hot sweet south … the soft-pawed night, and the ghostly wash of the Mediterranean far below.”
Although it’s been almost a century now since Fitzgerald wrote Tender Is the Night, the South of France still owns a fair amount of real estate inside American hearts. It conjures up young Brigitte Bardot or Alain Delon strolling the promenade at the Cannes Film Festival, or Peter Mayle spending his year of bucolic bliss in the nearby hills of Provence. Picasso and Cézanne painted there. H. G. Wells lived there, and Édith Piaf died there. It’s a place we think of as elegant and refined, but in parts also naturally wild and strictly preserved. And yet today, outside the small city of Grasse, known as the perfume capital of the world, the air is no longer filled with just jasmine and cicadas. There’s loud techno music throbbing in the hills as well, and it’s probably coming from Château Diter.