Table of Contents
- 0.1 Destination: Antibes
- 0.2 Mode of Transport: Soupe de Poisson Provençale (Provencal Fish Soup)
- 0.3 Tender is the Night
- 0.4 Spending time his last days in Antibes
- 0.5 First class tickets to Antibes
- 0.6 St. Tropez and Cannes
- 0.7 La Place D’Antibes
- 0.8 Marche Provencal
- 1 A festival like atmosphere.
- 1.1 The Riviera
- 1.2 Like a French Onion Soup
- 1.3 Pan Bagnat
- 1.4 Imagining an Elderly Graham Greene
- 1.5 Chateau Grimaldi houses the Picasso Museum
- 1.6 La Joie de Vivre
- 1.7 Brenda’s Short Travel Guides to Antibes
- 1.8 Getting to Antibes:
- 1.9 Where to stay in Antibes:
- 1.10 La Place D’Antibes
- 1.11 Where to Eat in Antibes:
- 1.12 Books we read about Antibes:
Mode of Transport: Soupe de Poisson Provençale (Provencal Fish Soup)
He was treacherous, sadistic and a misogynist. These were the traits that were highlighted and the impression I was left with upon reading Creator and Destroyer, Arianna Huffington’s 1988 biography of Pablo Picasso. It didn’t stop me from being enthralled by the man. In some way, the book made me even more obsessed with him. In having read more about the enigmatic artist, there was one thing that all biographers seemed to have agreed upon, which was, that his happiest days were spent in Antibes, in the South of France.
Tender is the Night
F. Scott Fitzgerald, was another tortured genius, that captured my imagination to no end. Of his works, Tender Is the Night is possibly my favorite. The backdrop, in which the stories of the young and beautiful played out, was in Antibes. From 1922-24, he and his wife Zelda have been known to have spent some of their happiest times during their travels in Antibes. Which was an anomaly in their torrid relationship.
Spending time his last days in Antibes
I’m dissident about religion, but in great irony find pride in being Catholic. It’s a theological conundrum, but at least, there’s Graham Greene, whose novels portray characters that share the same disposition. Faith is sometimes a wonderful tug that we pull against. I still haven’t gotten it quite right, but again, at least, there are Graham Greene novels that make me feel that I am not alone in this. My favorite being, The End of the Affair. The novelist spent his last days in Antibes and was purported to be a pretty light-hearted fellow and not as pained as his characters.
First class tickets to Antibes
It was a small train station, about a hundred meters from the arch that was the gateway to the Provencal town of Arles. The ticket agent behind the counter was heavy set but had a gentleness about her. A woman, middle-aged, probably a local tried to muscle herself to the front of the line. The attendant, paying her no attention, waved us over and after hearing our idiomatic French, spoke to us in perfect English. I requested three first class tickets to Antibes.
“Ah, Antibes..”, with a smile on her face. “You will enjoy your time there, you and your family.”
“Yes, but you don’t need a first class ticket, it’s very close. Save your money.”
As we walked away, we can hear the lady that tried to cut the line, giving the attendant a hard time. We all had a good laugh and thought of scenarios of how it would be like if the lady ended up on the same car we were in (she did not, thankfully).
Second class sucked. The seats were in little cabins, and as we arrived at our seats, a man was sitting where Brenda was assigned and was disgruntled about having to get up. He abruptly took his baggage down from the overhead compartment, grazing Brenda in the head. I gave him a stare that he didn’t expect from a demure-looking Asian man, and the New York in me was only tethered by my wife’s hand that told me that it was okay and to let it go.
St. Tropez and Cannes
The train made a stop at Marseille where most of the commuters got off and gave us a bit more room in our second class cabin and also ended the staring match I was having with the disgruntled man that stood outside the cabin the whole time.
[Tweet “As the train pulled into the station, I started to feel the weight, of the staring match and the rude lady on the line, fall off my shoulders. We were in Antibes.”]
The train started to hug the coast as we passed the luminary towns of St. Tropez and Cannes. The pace started to slow, almost to a snail’s pace, which gave us the opportunity to look out the window and appreciate the locals bathing and jumping off the rock beaches that lined the coast. As we neared, I can see that the terrain had turned less gray and more clayish red, and the rocks replaced by sand. As the train pulled into the station, I started to feel the weight, of the staring match and the rude lady on the line, fall off my shoulders. We were in Antibes.
La Place D’Antibes
We took a short taxi ride to La Place D’Antibes which was a boutique hotel that sat at the fork in the road. One side being a main boulevard, the other a narrow street. It wasn’t Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc, which was the inspiration behind the superfluous Hotel des E’trangers, in Tender Is the Night, but it was certainly charming enough for the three of us. The hotel had a wonderful cafe on the ground floor which also acted as the registration office for checking in. It was not unlike those movies in which the lonely wanderer walks into a pub and asks if there was room to let. Just a lot more refined.
We took the narrow street toward the Old Town where you had your boulangeries, patisseries, boucheries, fromageries. Name it, this street had it. We also passed the Marche Provencal which served as the town’s Central Market. Where verdant vegetables filled the stalls along with fresh lavender and other lavender based products such as oils, etc.
This road also led us to the beach. It was late in the day, but we wanted to feel the sand under our feet. Upon reaching the beach, we decided to treat ourselves to a private area in which we were given lounge chairs and umbrellas; only to find ourselves squeezed in like sardines. This specific club was favored by fashionable Italians that seemed to all know each other and didn’t seem to mind being taken advantage of by the proprietors, as it was clearly a rip-off. Happy just to be there, we all made the most of it by staying until the sun went down.
A festival like atmosphere.
On our way back to the hotel, we took the same route and noticed that at the market, vendors were replaced by rows of tables and chairs that belonged to establishments that lined the exterior of the market, which made for a festive atmosphere. Bailey, excited by the energy around her, asked us to rush home to get changed as she wanted to have dinner there that night. She was only eight, but she knew what a good time looked like.
[Tweet “It felt like being part of the largest family table everywhere. The wine came out in unpretentious carafes and was served to us in small tumbler glasses.”]
That evening, we sat with tourists and locals alike. It felt like being part of the largest family table anywhere. The wine came out in unpretentious carafes and was served to us in small tumbler glasses. The waiter recommended we try the fish soup, which we obliged. The soup was so wonderful and the experience second to none, that I forget now what else I had that evening.
Antibes boasts the largest harbor in the Riviera and docked there are some of the most impressive and expensive yachts known to man, but I’m a romantic, and instead, pictured a bunch of old fishermen, with their tattered canvas pants and pinstripe shirts, having woken up before the sun rises, in order to catch the fish that was responsible for my beautiful soup.
Like a French Onion Soup
The consistency of the soup was akin to that of French Onion Soup, except the broth had the lovely foundation of fishbone, and as opposed to minced onion floating around, it was pulled pieces of fish. It was topped by a wonderful aioli versus cheese. Rich and delicate is a term used too often but in this instance fitting. It was the first time in my life that a soup was the highlight of my meal. We didn’t want the evening to end, but it was getting late. The Lost Generation, that stayed up all night, may have inspired us to visit this town, but we’d like to think we knew when enough was enough. It was time to get back to the hotel and get a good night’s sleep.
“Bonjour, mademoiselle”, The young man greeted Bailey. “Bonjour monsieur”, she replied, still a little hazy from a good nights rest. He ran a lovely little shop near the harbor that sold beautiful postcards. Bailey had her sights on a pinwheel. The young man took it off the display and handed it to her.
“Can I use my allowance?”
“Sure”, we answered
Hearing that we spoke English, he responded, “Perfect day for it, the sun is out and there is a little wind.”
Bailey handed him two, one euro coins. Brenda and I wanted to support the shop and bought some postcards and a tin of cookies.
This was our second day and we were smarter this time around. We passed by a shop that sold inexpensive towels and mats for the beach. For the price of half a seat at the private beach, we had our own equipment for the week, along with beach accouterments such as a boogie board, a shovel, and a pail. We walked further along the sand and found a spot on the narrow side of the beach.
There was so much more happening in this area, and we were very pleased. There were people playing beach games, there was more room to move around, and the promenade behind us was filled with energy created by the people on it. In some way, it almost felt as if there was a common dislike for the private beach area by the people on the public beach, and they wanted to show everybody that joined them how to have a better time. We decided to set up at the same location for the rest of our stay. For those seeking beautiful tanned people, there was no better vantage point than the public beach. For those seeking simply made authentic food, this was also the place to find it.
[Tweet “A Pan Bagnat is basically a salad nicoise in sandwich form.”]
Not only did we have sand under our feet (which is an anomaly in these parts, as the beaches are usually rocky) and the water crystal blue, there was also the added bonus of having the food truck near us. It was family run and they made the best Pan Bagnat among other things. A Pan Bagnat is basically a salad nicoise in sandwich form. Ingredients used in this specific rendition, included tuna (canned), anchovies (jarred), boiled eggs, lettuce, tomato, green beans, radishes, olives, and onion. All in a flaky baguette that is ultimately drenched with the oil and vinegar in which the sandwich is dressed. If one wished, one was able to purchase beers and wines to accompany their sandwich. There was also ice cream for dessert, which pleased Bailey. We did it all. Every day. I consider those days on that beach as some of the best family and dining experiences I ever had.
Imagining an Elderly Graham Greene
I pictured an elderly Graham Greene strolling that same promenade, wearing a light shawl collar sweater, smoking a pipe, and no longer wrestling with his faith. Looking out onto the sea as the sun began to set, and watching my daughter and wife enjoying their ice cream, I found to be less conflicted as well. There was something behind this beauty that I needn’t have to question.
Chateau Grimaldi houses the Picasso Museum
L’Armoise, sits at the end of the Marche Provencal. This restaurant has a very limited occupancy and has only one seating a night. Chef Laurent Parrinello works with a small staff in an open kitchen and pipes out Michelin Star food in the coziest setting one can find. It’s a treat we were fortunate to have.
Brenda, Bailey and I were given service that aimed to please as opposed to impress. It’s family dining elevated. From one of the small windows, I was able to see the Chateau Grimaldi which houses the Picasso Museum. That was to be our final stop on our final day.
La Joie de Vivre
There are no clouds allowed to hover over Antibes. At least it seemed that way. The weather had been perfect all week. On our last day, the sky and sea were a glorious blue. The same blue one sees when they first view Picasso’s “La Joie de Vivre”. It was here, after the war years, that he set up camp with his new lover Francoise and produced some of the most positive-themed art of his long career.
Reading Ms. Huffington’s book was the impetus for visiting this site, and as my family and I looked out the second-floor porch, right outside his original studio, it was easy to imagine that this wretchedly flawed person found some semblance of joy. It was here, he was more a creator and less a destroyer.
I am no genius, and the three of us are far from tortured. But if ever we were to find ourselves to be, we would know where we can find joy.
Share this Antibes travel story with your friends, we’d be so thankful. In the comments, let us know your Antibes stories. We’d love to hear them.
Brenda’s Short Travel Guides to Antibes
Getting to Antibes:
We took the local train from Arles to Antibes, it took about 3 1/2 hours. The fare was 40Euros per person.
Where to stay in Antibes:
La Place D’Antibes Hotel | Dish Our Town
Where to Eat in Antibes:
Le Marche Provenscal – is a market by day and a row of restaurants by night. We ate here often during our stay because it was great to be outdoors during our meals and the dishes were all great. Don’t miss the Socca lady during the day for a fantastic snack.
L’armoise – 2 rue de la Tourraque, Antibes, 04.92.94.96.13 or 06.60.21.44.05. This tiny restaurant was such a great experience for us. Chef Laurent Parinello was so welcoming and his food was truly excellent. Even Bailey enjoyed it.
Pre-fixe menu of the day at L’armoire | Dish Our Town
Books we read about Antibes:
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