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Published: October 22nd 2017
Geo: 43.5807, 7.12087
Traveling is fun for so many reasons...seeing places where the water is bluer or the mountains are higher; speaking to people in a different language and realizing that their story is not that dissimilar from your own; learning about a new perspective of the world through original art or architecture that you couldn't have learned from a video documentary. But there always comes a point for Sean and for me in any vacation when we are ready to return home. I think we reached that point today.
We took our final day trip from Nice today to the city of Antibes. It is reputed for its Billionaire Bay where some of the richest people in the world moor their private yachts while visiting the area, for its sandy beaches (Nice's are all stones), and for its Picasso museum which houses some of the artist's sculpure and painted pottery from the 1940s. Upon departing Nice this morning, it was difficult to overlook the fact that the train to Antibes was heavily graffitied, both inside and out, which made us feel more like we were traveling through Detroit than the French Riviera...but we decided our expectations may have been a tad
too high. Once we arrived in Antibes and stepped onto the train platform to begin our explorations for the day, we were yet again accosted by a pervasive urine stench and I thought again, perhaps I had been expecting too much. We retrieved a city map from the tourist office and set out for the old town city center for its shops and the Picasso museum. Surely the day would get more enjoyable.
Our first stop was at a small cafe for coffee (we have been preparing our own meals from our apartment in Nice, so finding a morning beverage has been a treat). I ordered, as I usually did, a hot chocolate which is made here with steamed milk--usually a cup of creamy deliciousness. But this morning, it was made with what tasted like baking cocoa, bitter and nasty. What a disappointent at 5 euros! Yes, I know...1st world problems....
The Picasso museum, thankfully, was such a delight. Occupying a few rooms of the Grimaldi castle (formerly owned by a friend) on the rocky coastline, the Picasso exhibit consists of pottery he decorated while in Antibes, sculptures, and my favorite, The Joy of Life with its smiling faun, nymph,
and centaur. Something about the blues and yellows, the juvenile smiles on the characters' faces, and asymmetrical abstraction of the naked dancing girl just lifted my spirits and made me smile. It was so easy to imagine Picasso leaning against the warm stone walls of the castle to paint and sculpt his work.
For lunch, we braved an outdoor cafe when we should have stuck to our hommeade sandwhich routine. We ordered a mixed salad and croque monseiur (French sandwhich we wanted to try) to share, and after eating the salad, we waited another 45 minutes. It became apparent with each passing minute that we weren't going to get our sandwich. The waiter brought our bill, and when I asked about our croque monseiur, he rudely hollered that we ate the salad, now we pay for the salad! When I persisted about our incorrect order and bill (we did NOT order a 16 euro salad), he harumphed and said it was very difficult to hear the orders when customers sat outside. It felt like a waste of money and time and by now, our clothes and hair were saturated with cigarette smoke. Suddenly we longed for the familiar restaurants of
Boise, speaking English, and friendly, helpful wait staff.
Before returning to Nice, we tried to walk off our frustration and disappointment with a stroll around the tip of the Antibes peninsula. The afternoon wind was whipping up whitecaps and tossing around sailboats like corks, but the turquoise waves breaking against the rocks were a nice relief from the congestion of the plaza. We definitely felt more relaxed outside in nature and enjoyed the strong wind in our faces and the spray of saltwater on our lips. While I don't plan to return to Antibes (indeed, with all the litter on the streets and graffitti on the buildings, I had to wonder at the reliability of people's rave reviews of the area), I will say that all things natural about the place are worth seeing. It must have been there that Picasso looked for his inspiration, to the jagged coastline and the teal waters, and the people on the beach who were, in fact, smiling.
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