Picasso, Yachts And Ramparts In Antibes

You could drive the entire Côte d’Azur (aka the French Rivera) and see all the towns along it, but it would take you forever and all the traffic would drive you crazy.  We didn’t have the time (or stamina) to do it all.  Instead, we picked a few of the best towns on the coast: Antibes, Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer.  Antibes has sandy beaches (many on the Côte d’Azur are rocky), an agreeable old town, and a nice Picasso Museum.

When we get a yacht, we want one with a helicopter too.

Antibes’s port is filled with enormous luxury yachts.  We watched crews getting the yachts ready for the start of the season.  We didn’t see anyone famous, but in the past few days Jennifer Connelly, Princess Beatrice, Hayden Panettiere and Petra Nemcova have all been sighted there.

Before joining France in 1860, nearby Nice was under Italian rule. Antibes was the last French town before the Italian border. As a result, the French built a fort and some major ramparts.  From the harbor, you can see Fort Carre, in the center of the port.    We strolled the ramparts, enjoying the sun and the beautiful views.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote one of his best known works, Tender is the Night, based on life in Antibes.  Judging from the story, we thought Antibes wouldn’t be too laid back or plebeian.  Nevertheless, Antibes has a down-to-earth ambience.  Well, at least it’s more down to earth than many of the neighboring towns (Cannes, I’m looking at you).  Ramparts and towers wrap the old town and guard its medieval streets.

It’s not some dour medieval town.  Party animals like Rudolf Valentino and Charlie Chaplin partied here in the roaring 20’s.  Legend has it that water skiing was invented in Antibes in the 1920s.  In 1946 after World War II, 65-year-old Pablo Picasso moved there with 23-year-old lady friend, Françoise Gilot.  He experienced a surge in creativity, painting like a madman and partying hard.  The merry, festive atmosphere continues.  We saw lots of Brits enjoying a pint in the sun.

The 12th century Chateau Grimaldi, an old town mansion on the edge of the Mediterranean, houses the Picasso Museum (it’s where he stayed while in Antibes) and has stunning views.  We took a minute to enjoy the sculpture garden on the terrace before checking out the museum’s paintings, sketches, and ceramics.

Picasso said that if you wanted to see work from his Antibes period, you’d have to do it in Antibes.  Picasso was prolific.  One of the best parts about the museum was being able to see several versions of a painting or idea.  For example, we saw about 10 platters on which he’d painted bulls.  You could see his experimentation with styles and subjects.  Fascinating.

The old town is charming, sunny, relaxed and filled with Brits.  We wandered the craft market and the antique sales.  I know, I am such a sucker.

On the way back to the car, we noticed the yacht store had a Che painting on the door.  Where do I begin?

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Yes We Cannes-ed

We just returned from our whirlwind trip to the south of France over the holiday weekend.  While we didn’t do much relaxing (there wasn’t much time as we were busy sightseeing everyday), we managed to see an incredible amount in a long weekend.  I picked him up and we headed out of Geneva.  Being a holiday weekend, the roads were pretty crowded (translate this to mean we hit a giant traffic jam and took back roads through the middle of nowhere France for about an hour in the dark), but we made it to near Orange where we spent the night.  Driving late into the night had an upside, we woke up in the south of France.  We woke up to this beautiful view of olive groves in the morning.  Yeah baby!  Let the vacation begin.

After downing more café au lait than anyone should be allowed to drink, we were on our way to the Côte d’Azur.

Cannes is home to little film festival, the Cannes International Film Festival.  It is held for two weeks each May.  During this time, the city is packed with film producers, celebrities and paparazzi.  We decided to drive through Cannes and see what all the fuss was about.  Having faithfully watched Entourage on HBO and seen the Cannes episode, he wanted to hang with Turtle.

Cannes is built around the Bay of Cannes and its palm lined seafront drive.  We drove through Cannes toward the beach, passing tons of cafes, luxury boutiques and hotels.

We drove past the exclusive hotels lining the Boulevard de la Croisette across from the beach gawking.  We weren’t the only ones.  It took about an hour and a half to drive through the town.  It wasn’t calming, but we didn’t mind.  We were busy people watching.

Although celebrities like Eva Longoria, Sean Penn, Sasha Baron Cohen, Gerard Butler, Jennifer Connelly and Alec Baldwin were in Cannes, we only saw tourists gawking and film types barking into their cell phones.  I guess that’s not entirely true, we also saw a few bodyguard types in suits with earpieces.

We saw signs of ridiculous wealth everywhere.   Like Geneva’s Auto Show, there were some insane cars.  I especially enjoyed how this one was parked next to a “No Parking” sign.  I guess you can do that if you have a Rolls.  If you do get towed, you can probably afford to get your car out of an impound lot.

It was hard to get good shots of the harbor, but it was filled with enormous yachts.  Sorry these shots don’t do it justice.  We decided that the best place to stay in Cannes is on a yacht off the coast and away from the crowds.  If it is good enough for Puff Daddy (or whatever his name is now), it is good enough for us.

Although it wasn’t relaxing, the sheer scale and craziness of it all was a sight to see…once.

P.S.  Cannes sister city, not surprisingly, is Beverly Hills.   Too perfect.