When Gerald Murphy and Cole Porter discovered the French Riviera as a summer resort during the early 1920s, the swells and avant-gardes still spent the warm months in cool places like Deauville and Baden-Baden. I think of the deserted summer Riviera and how marvellous the place must have been when people like Picasso and Hemingway joined forces with Cole and Gerald and launched the resort to end all resorts. No longer. The place is now an overcrowded hellhole, expensive, dirty and dangerous, but not to worry. If the recent heatwaves continue and the temperatures keep climbing, soon we’ll be right back where we started, except this time it will be the German island of Sylt in the North Sea for the have-a-lot elites and the boiling Riviera, southern Italy and Spain for the have-a lot-less peons.
This has to be good news for my Swiss friends here in Gstaad, who always worry about the lack of snow and lack of height of their winter wonderland, at only 3,300ft. ‘You will be known as a summer resort,’ I tell the perennial worriers. ‘All it takes is a bit of role reversal.’ And they’ll have a longer season, too, four months as opposed to two in the old days.
They’re funny, the Swiss, known as dullards because they lack Italian fire and Spanish passion, but what would we do without them? Their manners are impeccable: formal but polite to strangers, whatever their creed or colour may be. There are no spray-painted signs saying ‘Kill Cops’ here, as there are in America, no fraying social fabric, no rioting for riot’s sake, no Extinction Rebellion. There is no animosity towards one another, yet the Swiss speak four different languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh, not to mention Swiss-German, not exactly a melodious sound.