Communing With James Baldwin in France

Matthew Teutsch
6 min readMay 25

Over the past two posts, I’ve been sharing my journal entries from the study travel trip I led to France a couple of weeks ago. Today, I want to finish up this series by sharing a short post from the beach overlooking the Mediterranean in Nice and a post about my journey to St. Paul de Vence to walk through the village that James Baldwin called home during the latter part of his life.

17 May 2023

Sitting on the rocky beach in Nice, I watch the Mediterranean lap up onto the shore, spraying me with sea foam as I pick up multi-colored rocks and twirl them between my fingers. The smell of salt hangs in the air, and as the waves crash upon the rocks and retreat, the water rolls back into the sea, causing a cascading sound of rocks clattering together. If energy never dissipates and merely changes with what is affected upon it, then the water I see and the sound I hear have been here for centuries, carrying sailors across these waters to Marseille and beyond. What voices exist within the clear blue waters that lap up against me? Whose voices? Whose stories?

19 May 2023

Yesterdy, we were all supposed to go to St. Paul de Vence and see where James Baldwin lived the latter part of his life. We tried to catch the bus, but do to construction and Ascension Day, we were unable to catch one, so we decided to let the students have a free day since we had already scheduled for them to have the afternoon free.

I was determined, some way, to make it up to St. Paul de Vence, and after waiting, the 655 bus running on the holiday schedule arrived at the Gare Cagnes sur Mer. I paid my € 2,50, got on, and rode thirty minutes to the mountain top village where I could see the Mediterranean in the distance to the south and the Alps pressing against me from all other sides.

As we approached the village, I tried to see where Baldwin’s house was, the home he rented from a French woman for 17 years. I knew the home had either been demolished completely or incorporated into a new development. It was unclear where it resided, but this, for me, wasn’t the main thing. I knew the home and Baldwin’s…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.