Old Town Antibes, Are the French Rude? And David David (so good they named him twice…)

Thursday August 22nd

I walked with Husband to the old town of Antibes (it takes about 15 minutes to walk from the bustling beach of Juan-les-Pins to the ancient town of Antibes on the other side of the peninsula).

There is a public beach area, dotted with rugs and towels, where families had set up camp for the day. Most of the beach is reserved as ‘private’ by the hotels and restaurants, and are crammed full with loungers practically touching under parasols. I much prefer the public areas. The beach has sand, and has a long shallow strip into the sea, which makes a nice place to swim (if you like swimming, which I don’t).

We wandered along the quay area, looking at boats and sculptures, and the little fort on the hill, before walking through one of the old city gates and to the area full of narrow cobbled streets. There are lots of art shops and galleries and interesting things to look at. On Thursdays, there is a market, full of bright spices and smelly meats and fresh fruit, and French people doing their shopping.

We had an espresso next to a fountain, listening to an old man playing an accordion. This is what I love about France.

We ate warm baguettes and humus for lunch, then Husband and son set off to Nice airport to collect Girlfriend, and the rest of us went into Juans-les-Pins. We strolled along the front, then decided to stop for a drink. The place we chose basically ignored us, and even though we eventually managed to order drinks, they never actually arrived, so we left. I left a bad review on Google Reviews, and when they replied, they basically said it wasn’t worth their effort for “two lousy sodas”! I felt that summed up our experience rather well. The trouble is, when we are visiting a different country, the people who we meet tend to colour our view of the whole nation. People often tell me that “the French are very rude” and undoubtedly, some of them are (like the people in the over-priced cafe by the beach). But some of them are not, some French people are kind, and polite, and help us with our bad French speaking, and make our trip special. It’s important to remember the nice people.


Friday August 23rd

Today we went back to the old town of Antibes, as I wanted to show the family some of the sculptures. They are by an artist called David David. (I really hope that his mother was called Mrs David, and she decided to name her son David. It’s an easy name to remember!) There was an exhibition of his work, which I rather like. He makes fibreglass people in poses that make a statement about society, and they are rather like those people you find in tourist areas, who pretend to be a statue and then move when you’re not expecting it. These did not move. I’m not sure about his paintings, but the statues I loved. I took lots of photographs, some with people posing next to them (and then felt bad about commenting on Husband’s many photographs of fish).

We ate dinner at La Storia, Boulevard Dugommier. It was a lovely meal, and the first restaurant in Antibes where I felt they cared whether or not we enjoyed our meal (many restaurants are rather off-hand, even though quite expensive). The pasta was freshly cooked, the salads were arranged to look pretty (rather than simply plonked into a bowl) and the puddings were all delicious. We were given lemoncello shots when we paid. I wish we had found them earlier in the holiday, we would have eaten there again.

I hope you have some good food today.
Take care and thank you for reading.
Love, Anne x

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Finding a Launderette in Antibes, and A Visit to a Bizarre Museum in Grasse

Wednesday August 21st

We plan to stay in the Antibes area of France for the rest of the week, so first on the agenda, after breakfast, was a trip to a launderette (wayhay!) Finding and using a launderette in another country is usually fairly easy due to the internet (except for in Beijing—I don’t think self-service launderettes exist in Beijing). However, it is always unpleasant, and in the south of France it is especially unpleasant due to the heat. We found one that was full of people doing their washing—mainly tourists. There were machines dispensing washing powder, but I had brought some capsules from home, so all we needed to do was decipher the rather confusing instructions (you had to put your laundry and soap into a numbered machine, then put the money into a computer on the wall, and when you entered your machine number, it automatically started to work. It was not unlike paying for parking when you enter your number plate at the ticket machine). All worked fine, and we didn’t die from heat-exhaustion (though it was close).

After a lunch of warm baguettes, and cheese from the supermarket, we drove to Grasse. Grasse is a very pretty town on a hill overlooking Cannes, where there are several perfumeries, and a museum all about making perfume, and lots of shops selling perfumes, and very few places to park…We went to a completely full carpark, and were lucky enough to find people who were about to leave, so we waited. The people began to vacate their parking space, and we became aware that several other, recently arrived cars, were positioning ready to zoom into the space we had been waiting for. Adrenaline levels rose. The boys got out of our car, and stood behind the departing car, filling the space so that we could reverse into it. There was much gesticulating from the other drivers, but I am assuming they were discussing the weather.

I had hoped we would wander through the pretty town, have a coffee, smell the perfumes and buy some gifts. We have toured a perfumery on a previous visit, so I knew I was safe from that little delight. Husband hoped we would visit the museum.

We visited the museum. Grasse has one of the most boring, yet bizarre, museums that I have ever visited. To be fair, it has washrooms (and I was desperate, which is how the plan was sneakily adopted) but really, that was the sole redeeming feature. The first room showed how ancient Egyptians had used perfumes to embalm bodies. One display case held a human hand, blackened with age, skin peeling, fingers hardened into claws. Bea was somewhat perturbed by the hand, but I was more concerned about the rest of the body—had several museums decided to share various body-parts? Who decided which museum received which part? So much to worry about…

The museum also had pots, lots and lots of pots, all used to store perfume. There is, in my view, a limit to how interesting pots can be.

And then, just when you were beginning to tire of yet another room of pots, there were the sensory boxes. These really have to be seen to be believed. They were little wooden boxes, fastened to the wall in several places around the museum at head-height. The unwary visitor was encouraged to peer through the small glass window, and to sniff the air above some holes drilled into the box. I think/hope the scents were of perfume, I never sniffed. The views were of body parts, and there was a lot of pubic hair involved. All I can imagine, is that they were depicting the places on the body that people wear perfume—but to be honest, I have no idea. It was most bizarre and meant the museum was full of hysterically giggling teenaged girls (as well as a lot of pots). There were also small dark rooms, where clips of films were being played. They were snippets from well-known films, and again, I think they were showing people (mostly nude) applying perfume.

To be fair, there was also a scented garden and greenhouse, full of herbs and flowers used to make perfume, which was lovely and very interesting, and there was a shop, which had lots of reasonably priced perfumed products. But mostly, the museum was not a highlight of my holiday. The boys liked it though.

We walked to the town, enticed by a street that had pink umbrellas strung above it, giving everything a rosy hue. The shops were wonderful to look at: a shop with great chunks of nougat that gleamed like granite, a chocolate shop decorated with cacao beans and photographs showing the production of chocolate, a cushion shop—as well as, of course, lots of perfume shops, where they gave you tiny slithers of white paper to test the perfumes. We drank coffee, and wandered through the town and up to the old church, where someone was playing the organ and candles flickered in front of the marble saints.

We found a sensory garden, near to a viewpoint, laid out with coloured deckchairs under pipes in the trees which squirted perfumed mist into the air. People rested there. Some people rested for a very long time, and although I had a book in my bag, the pipe above me leaked and the pages got regular dollops of water, so I left, and went back to wait in the cool of the church.

I hope you find some good places to rest today.
Thank you for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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