On the French Riviera

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The French call it the Côte d’Azur, the Blue Coast. Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso painted there—you can see the jewel-bright colors in their work—and the writer James Baldwin found a haven amid the quiet green hills of Saint-Paul de Vence.

We checked into a hotel on the Promenade des Anglais, the main thoroughfare of Nice. There was a languid feeling in the city. Walking along the promenade and looking out at the Bay of Angels, the summer seeped behind our eyes, and the air seemed tinted with the same magical sunstruck blue as the water.

After visiting Munich and Dachau, France was a welcome relief. I knew the Riviera was going into Nothing Is Forgotten—Picasso plays a significant role in the plot—but then I was blindsided by a sight I’d never expected to see—a sight that made my heart ache.

It may have been responsible for two of the finest scenes I’ve ever written, but the heartache is with me still.

Here is what I saw.