A Trip to Monk’s Island (near Cannes) and Cube-Throwing in Biot


Saturday August 24th

We all met for breakfast at 8.15. Some people are more awake than others, but buffets tend to get a little ‘picked over’ after a while, so although the AC Hotel does a good breakfast, I don’t like being late. I collected my freshly brewed coffee, some pancakes, banana and maple syrup, and tuned in to the conversations going on around me. Husband was discussing inherited advantage. Girlfriend stuck her finger into her eye—but I think the two were unconnected.

We decided to go to Monk’s Island: Ile Saint-Honorat. We could catch a train from Juans-les-Pins to Cannes, which avoids having to try and park, and then a ferry to the island. Emm had suggested that we hire kayaks and row there, but we were all ignoring that bit.

Catching the train was easy. Return tickets to Cannes were 5 euro. The train was air conditioned, double-decked, and quite full. Most of the journey we could see nothing but ugly concrete walls, with the occasional snatched view of sun shining on deep blue sea and boats.

We arrived in a very hot Cannes at 1.30pm. We walked through pretty streets, past restaurants smelling of steaks and garlic, and shops where cold air seeped onto the pathway, and hotels with sleepy guests on balconies. We followed signposts to the quay, and to the ticket office. We then sat, blasted by the sun, waiting for the boat. I wished I had carried my umbrella, so I could have created some shade.

The boat loaded, and we sailed out to sea. Cannes was laid out on the hills to our left, huge ships and pleasure boats were to our right. The wind swept across the deck, drying our sweaty tee-shirts while two men argued in French behind me. Actually, they were French, they might not have been arguing at all—to me, all French men sound as if they are either furious or trying to make love—there seems to be no middle ground.

Ile Saint-Honorat is a little island off the coast of Cannes, which is owned by a monastery. The monks allow people to visit, but ask that they dress appropriately and respect the silence of the island. I imagined a secluded island, rarely visited, practically cut-off from the rest of France. Instead, as we arrived at the quay, I saw about a million pleasure boats bobbing in the harbour—not so secluded then.

The monastery was lovely, with a very pretty church. We walked to it through vineyards, and attached to the monastery is a shop, where you can buy all things bee-related (beeswax candles, honey, soaps, alcohol) as well as wine made on the island, religious books, and saintly pendants (which always seem like lucky-charms to me). We saw a few monks, dressed in black and white robes (must have been incredibly hot to wear them all day) but most were hidden away in places not open to the public.

We caught the ferry back to the mainland. Cannes was still hot. We walked back to the station, staring at people we passed, trying to guess if they owned one of the multimillion-dollar boats in the harbour, or if they aspired to, of if they had no interest in the glitzy lifestyle at all. As we walked along one street, we were overtaken by soldiers, all in khaki, carrying machine guns. They fanned out, lining the road, looking in all directions. It was very unnerving. We kept walking, but I wondered if we were being stupid, and hiding under a table would have been better a response. Probably they were getting in place, ready for the motor cavalcade of someone important, but we’d have felt daft afterwards if we’d been shot. We weren’t.

Dinner at La Taille de Guepe (24, rue de Fersen, in the old part of Antibes). The food was delicious, and decorated with edible flowers. It was lovely.

After dinner we walked back via the main square, which was full of musicians and artists and people enjoying themselves. The sleepy old town wakes up at night.

 

Sunday August 25th

The last day of our holiday, so some people went to the beach, others to the pool.

After lunch we drove to Biot, a little village in the hills behind Cannes. There is a large town car park, which was surprisingly full. Then we learned that we had happened to visit on the afternoon of the boules carrees championship, and teams were playing it in every street, and square, and lane. The game appeared to be the same as boule—when you throw little balls towards a target, and the closest wins—but it is played with small coloured cubes (the kind you built towers with as a toddler). Teams were all ages, but the games were pretty intense, and there was a lot of pressure to not, by mistake, walk across the area where they were playing (which as they were playing everywhere was sometimes quite hard!)

Biot is a pretty town, and when not full of people throwing cubes around, it is famous for its blue glass. There were galleries and shops and art installations of blue glass. But mainly, there were people throwing cubes…

We ate an ice-cream, wandered (carefully) through some pretty squares, and sat for a while on a bench, enjoying the view. A sleepy end to our holiday.

Thank you for sharing the holiday with me. If you have enjoyed the blogs, look out for my travel book—I think you will enjoy it.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com
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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

Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com
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