Thursday, December 5, 2013

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 119

Peïra Cava, Alpes-Maritimes, France

At this time of year snowy postcards seem appropriate so it is hoped that a few more of them can be found to fill the whole month of Thursdays.  It is December 2013 now but this card was mailed from Paris, France in June of 1945.  My father’s good friend, Max, was serving in the United States military and stationed in Germany at that time. He was passing through France and Belgium on his way to return to his unit following a seven day pass to England.   The printed message on the front of the card “Meilleurs Vœux” can mean “best wishes” or on a winter scene such as this picture “Season’s Greetings.”  The written message on the reverse of the card might be similar to many that were sent home by soldiers so I include it even though the note is personal and announces a recent marriage.  Since current overseas postage is running $1.10 per ounce it was fun to see the $.06 airmail stamp.  Note that since the stamp did not get fully cancelled it looks as if a line has been drawn through it to show that it was used. 


Airmail stamp
[Twin motored transport plane]

This postcard, like a few others that have been shared, is by Yvon of Paris and shows a small cottage near or in the perched village of Peïra Cava located in the Alpes-Maritimes area of southern France.   Today Peïra Cava has been absorbed or attached to the town of Luceram.  A map shows that this is not far from Nice.  I think Max may have chosen this particular picture more because it reminded him of Alaska where he lived than as a picture of southern France.

In the early 1900s and through the 1920s this was a very popular ski resort area with an international reputation.  A favorite place to stay was the Grand Hotel Faraut shown on the vintage postcard from Wikipedia below.  Several famous people have visited here such as Victor de Cessole who was president of the French Alpine Club and the first to climb the peak Mercantour in 1901.  He encouraged winter sports development at Peïra Cava.  Other famous people include the actor Maurice Chevalier, the artist, Marc Chagall, the writer André Gide and others.  Following World War II it declined as a resort area in part because the snow pack was not sufficient and there was competition from more favorable sites at higher elevations where there was more snow. There have been political problems as well that have caused much of the winter activities such as skiing to suffer.  In 1963 an attempt was made to open three ski runs and install a chairlift, however the lift was dismantled in the 1990s.  More recently an effort has been made to offer a variety of winter sports activities again. 


The Grand Hotel Faraut, early 1900s

The shepherds and farmers who lived here originally established the village.  There was only a dirt road or path connecting it to the next larger hamlet.  Because of its position near the Italian border it has been the site of military garrisons with the first “hunters walk” in 1876.  A “hunter” is another name for a French foot soldier.   Below is an old postcard found on Wikipedia showing “hunters” walking along carrying skis.  The strategic position of the village also found it hosting soldiers in the 1940s during World War II.  German troops occupied the fortifications after the Italians left.  In April 1944 the French retook the village but at a great cost, 274 dead and 644 wounded on the French side.

As sometimes happens this week’s postcard looks so simple and plain and yet it turned out to be extremely interesting.  The photographer is the famous Yvon who took remarkable photos not only of Paris but lots of different places in France.  The sports activity here was a little surprise as was the military presence.  It was especially nice to find a few other old postcards on the Wikipedia sites too. 

For more information and pictures, please see these sites:

Note:  The French Wikipedia sites can be translated from French to English.

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