Apodaca: No need for Riviera envy in Newport

Newport Beach has long had pretentions of being California's answer to the Cote d'Azur, with the wealth, waterfront living and that special something — that "je ne sais quoi" — of a Cannes or a St. Tropez.

Some city officials are hoping to burnish that French Riviera feeling with their recent proposal to allow so-called mega-yachts into our harbor. These floating, pimped-out behemoths of 200 feet or more — like those found in the south of France — would bring more money and prestige to the community, boosters contend.

That's fine, I guess, but I have to ask: What's with all this Riviera envy? Can't we stand on our own two flip-flops without having to compare ourselves to that other coast?

Don't get me wrong — J'adore France. I have traveled to France many times, and I visited Cannes just last summer. It's beautiful, charming, and wonderful in its own French way.

But let's give props to Newport Beach where they're due. We might not be Monaco, but we have our own kind of specialness. So for those who think we need to emulate some other beach town half a world away, I'm here to remind you of all the ways the Riviera — the real one — has nothing on Newport Beach.

Climate: Both areas are blessed with weather that's widely considered to be as close to ideal as you can get.

But I checked the average weather patterns for Newport Beach and Cannes and discovered that Cannes' average temperatures are a bit higher in summer and lower in winter than ours. Based on that, I contend that our vaunted Mediterranean climate is actually better than the European version.

Escargot vs. Chronic Tacos: I know, I know, French food is the ultimate fine cuisine — rich, butter-saturated and extravagantly delicious.

But there is no reason for us to feel epicurially inferior. How much foie gras and crepes suzette can you eat before you start hankering for a burrito, or a burger, or a Balboa Bar? Not to mention our own fine dining scene, which is acclaimed, eclectic and cutting edge. We can bon appétit with the best of them.

The beaches: No contest here. The Riviera is rocky. Our beaches rock.

True, the Mediterranean Sea is beautiful. But seriously, dude, where are the waves? Not in the south of France, that's for certainement. Our beaches are gorgeous too, and we have a world-famous surfing spot in the Wedge. Take that, my Gallic friends.

The glam factor: Cannes hosts the mother of all film festivals, where the international press turns out in droves each May to snap photos of the crème de la crème of celebritydom — names like Robert De Niro, George Clooney and Nicole Kidman.

We'll never beat Cannes on this one. The Newport Beach Film Festival is relatively young, operates on a shoestring and the celebs at last year's opening night gala consisted of the "Real Housewives of Orange County" and one of the "Twilight" vampires.

But our little film festival is growing quickly and has achieved a rather hip reputation. Newport Beach has plenty of glamour besides, with its long history as a playground for the rich and famous.

Ambience: France's Mediterranean coastline has tons of old-world charm. It has villas and castles, pastry shops, designer boutiques and beachside promenades. It has that elite yachting culture we covet.

But we have new-world edge. Our castles aren't old and crumbling; they're state-of-the-art mega-mansions. France is the home of haute couture, but we have world-class shopping and we're the epicenter of the casual beach-chic style that is popular throughout the world. And while we might not have the biggest yachts — yet — we have those cute little Duffy boats that putter around the harbor and allow us to dock and dine.

Attitude: No one can look down their noses quite like the French, but that famous snobbishness isn't reserved exclusively for foreigners. A friend of mine, a native of northern France who has lived in Newport Beach for more than two decades, told me that French northerners typically disdain the fun-loving lifestyle of the shallow, decadent south.

Sound familiar? How many times have we been subjected to that you're-so-superficial knock from Northern Californians? And how many movies and television shows over the past decade have spotlighted Newport Beach's over-the-top affluence and self-obsession?

But Caroline Bruderer, a spokeswoman for the Visit Newport Beach marketing organization, said that the world is starting to get to know the real Newport, which is far more varied and worldly than the stereotype. The common denominator, she said, is that "the people here are really comfortable in their own skin."

Indeed, we're not all about appearances. The French Riviera's chief industry is tourism, whereas we have a highly diversified business community. Right next door to Newport sits a world-class university where brainiacs churn out important research that could lead to advancements in science and industry. That's a much bigger deal than a few oversized boats.

Vive la difference!

PATRICE APODACA is a Newport-Mesa public school parent and former Los Angeles Times staff writer. She is also a regular contributor to Orange Coast magazine. She lives in Newport Beach.

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