Thursday, December 06, 2012

In my memory La Ciotat, the town on the French Riviera where we spent summers in the early ‘70s, is small and compact, like the town in a children’s book: a road leads down from our house and suddenly you’re on the beach; take a right and you pass some cafés and hotels, a marina, a rocky cove where you can fish or dive or even tie a boat. A little farther off there’s a shipyard, set apart in a maze of docks, where one enormous oil tanker sits on stilts, its hull in patches, as unseen workers pound it with their hammers to break it down for scrap. Clang! Clang! Clang!

I looked at the satellite photo of it today in Google Maps. The coastline conformed plausibly to my image of it but the town itself was vastly more complex and sprawling. Roads in all directions. Schools, museums, parking lots. Major avenues leading into roundabouts and squares. I tried in vain to find the road we lived on. It could be this one, or that one. None seemed the least bit familiar. They all were too urban: heavily populated and girded with infrastructure.

Did the town develop that much over time? Or did my imagination tear it down?