The view from Antibes sea wall
We’re in the French Rivieria, where the rich and famous mingle and the it (no, not information technology) crowd strut their stuff. Only, we’ve got our timings slightly out. We’re 2 days early for the Cannes film festival and 2 weeks too early for the Monaco Grand Prix. However, being one of the not crowd, it means we get to see these beautiful towns without the beautiful people (apart from us of course).
Our first port of call is Antibes,
famous for its 1920’s American Jazz scene and inspiration to the surrealist painter Pablo Picasso. It’s a beautiful sunny day and just a 5-mile cycle from the campsite. We wander through Vieil Antibes (the historic quarter), with its narrow cobblestone streets festooned with flower boxes. We visit the towns impressive 16th century ramparts and sea wall where there is a spectacular view across the bay to Nice and beyond where in the distance the impressive snow-capped Alpes Martine complete the vista. We soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a beer in the sunshine.
The historic quarter of Antibes
Next, we take a local bus to Nice
I have wanted to visit this city for some time, and its impressive. I’m surprised at how much it has to offer. The city centre is pristine and there is certainly plenty of money here. We head for the Cours Saleya (market Square) for a cuppa and wander along its stalls; flowers, vegetables and local produce. I buy some Provençal herbs, tapenade and aromatic jasmine tea. We continue along the tiny alleys of the historic quarter which are brimming with delis, bars, boutiques and restaurants and visit the Musée Masséna, an Italian neoclassical villa which retraces Nice’s history from the 18th century. A walk up the hill through the leafy Cimiez district to the Musée Matisse, a French painter who spent most of his life in Nice, is not be underestimated, but well worth the visit.
The market square and a little bar in the historic quarter
Henri Matisse is known for his bright colours and his work continually evolved throughout his career, though painting and sculpture and in his later years through decoupage. I’m still not sure about his more abstract pieces after my visit to the museum and as I descend the stairs, I find John in the main foyer staring up at a supersized Matisse decoupage picture. “I don’t understand” John says, “it’s like he had too much blue paper and ran out of the other colours. That bit in the middle just doesn’t make sense” I look up and the finished work could be the giant-sized painting of a 4-year-old, but I guess the mystery of modern art is that it leaves you with more questions than answers. As they say beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. We finish our day in Nice with a lovely meal washed down with a Picon biere (a caramel coloured bitter made from a base of fresh dried oranges). It’s what I would call interesting, an acquired taste, but it’s a perfect match for the sunshine.
We visit Cannes,
and we’re early for the famous Cannes Film festival. The Palais des Festival et des Congrés and some of the beach front restaurants/stages are still under construction, but there is a definite buzz about the place. We walk along alles des etoiles du Cinema, a path of celebrity hand prints, and the boulevard de la Croisette, past the legendary art deco Carlton International hotel, and soak up the atmosphere. The prices are jaw dropping, one beach front restaurant offers an Aberdeen Angus steak for 99 Euros! We quickly walk past and stroll along the marina, full of impressive yachts of the rich and famous. I spot a rather shiny yacht, called Glow. I’m sure that’s the name of Jennifer Lopez’s perfume, but alas, she is nowhere to be seen!
Outside the Palais des Festival, celebrity hand print, Carlton International hotel
We make a snap decision and take a ferry to Ĩle Ste-Marguerite, a tiny island just 15 minutes away from Cannes and it’s like stepping into a different world. We grab coffees and a sandwich from a snack bar (12 Euros 50!) and walk one of the many well marked out paths across this tranquil castaway Island, its clear blue shores fringed with pines and eucalyptus.
The shores of Ĩle Ste-Marguerite
On our last day we take the train to Monaco
View of the bay of Monaco from the Jardin Exotique
Squeezed into 200 hectares Monaco is the world’s second smallest country (principality). How do they do it, you may ask …well it’s because it literally hugs the cliffs. So, if you ever visit be prepared for the hills and the steps, the ups and the downs. We start off with Jardin Exotique which hosts the world’s largest succulent and cactus collection – you guessed it, it’s up a hill, but the views of the bay from the top are spectacular. Next, we head to the Musée Océonographique de Monaco (down one hill and then up another) with its centre piece being a 6m deep lagoon. On this pistol shaped rock (called le Rocher) the private residence of the Grimaldi dynasty, the Palais du Prince and Cathédral de Monaco is also worth a visit (although we didn’t as I was absolutely shattered by the time, we made it up there).The roads in this city snake their way up and down the hillside and you really get a sense of what the atmosphere would be like with the Grand Prix……maybe next time!
Getting ready for the Monaco Grand Prix, Jardin Exotique & on le Rocher
And there ends our visit to the French Rivera, and we are on the move again, heading for Italy. So, for now it’s Au Revoir France, Ciao Italy. I’m looking forward to visiting a new country and a new adventure.