It’s that time of year again. Advertising people will soon gather in Cannes for the most prestigious, coveted award show in the whole wide world (if you win, otherwise it’s just a sucky award show judged by hacks).
Just going to Cannes proves you’re somebody in the biz or will soon be. The croisette will be jammed with attractive people in designer eye-wear craning their necks to catch a glimpse of advertising icons and superstars (whose names escape me) while navigating the vomit=lined sidewalks in impossibly trendy shoes/flip flops.
Now, I’m not a huge Cannes fan the rest of the year, but every time I’ve been to Cannes during the advertising festival, my first reaction (and all reactions subsequent) has been to flee (to be fair, I kind of felt the same way about advertising). Granted, if I’m in the market for a $700 pair of shoes or sequin shorts, there’s no better place in the South of France.
Say you’re one of the lucky few whose agency sent you to Cannes, but you haven’t figured out how to expense $700 shoes and you don’t have a limo and driver at your service. Maybe you want to escape the advertising fishbowl for a little while. Not so long that you’ll miss some career-making party, but long enough to chill a bit and get a taste of the real South of France (Cannes is NOT France, it might as well be Cabo with a French accent.)
I know the thought is scary. If your career is anything like mine was, you may not have actually seen the light of day in ages, except from your cubicle. Going out in the real world and dealing with non-advertising people, especially in a foreign language, is terrifying. Which is why I’m keeping it really simple. These are places that are less than an hour away and easily accessible by train or boat. Getting to these places is practically idiot proof.
For the very timid
- You can leave Cannes without actually leaving Cannes. There are two morning Provencal markets every day, a small one with gorgeous produce, flowers and clothes about three blocks east of the train station a block or two north of Rue d’Antibes, at Place Gambetta. The Forville market in the Suquet district is huge, but only carries food and flowers (also gorgeous). Since you’re probably dining out in lavish restaurants, you’ll probably prefer the smaller market with the clothes. But I recommend wandering through the Suquet district (west of the Palais), up the hill. It’s quieter, medieval-er and feels more like a French village. Go down the hill and head east and you’ll find free beaches and fewer people you know in case you don’t want anyone you work with to see you in a bathing suit.
15 MINUTES FROM CANNES:
The Lerin Islands
Less than a mile from Cannes, but it feels like light years away.
- Ile St. Marguerite A pretty little island on which the man in the iron mask was held prisoner. It’s very rustic and charming, with few cars, a naval museum, unspoiled beaches a couple of snack stands and two restaurants with stunning views where a lentil salad will cost you E23 (for those of you on an expense accounts). Warning: there are no little shops on this island, so forget about getting any cute souvenirs here.
- Ile St. Honorat A monastery and refuge. The boat to this Island, (like everything else on the Island) is run by monks. Again, the island is totally unspoiled, with no cars, beautiful beaches and woods and best of all, there is a little shop whereyou can buy wines and jams and other things made by monks on the island.
The boats to each island are run separately, but you can buy tickets and board in the same place, in the South Port. They run hourly, so you won’t be stranded and miss your seminar “Facebook marketing: how to win friends and influence people” .
Juan les Pins A resort town on the west side of the Cap d’Antibes. Unlike many of the towns here, there is no old town. Juan les Pins is a product of the early 1900′s when the region was rediscovered by luxury travelers. It’s got nice sandy beaches, trendy shops, restaurants and night clubs. It’s the home of the famous Antibes-Juan les Pins jazz festival and is where Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald used to get really, really drunk. Easy 10 minute train ride.
Nothing to see here, move along.
A beautiful little hilltop village one train stop east of Antibes. It’s famous for its handblown glassware. But it’s got several boutiques, restaurants and cafes as well. The only problem is, you have to take the bus from the train station to get to the actual village, and nobody you know has ever heard of it so they won’t be jealous when you tell them you were there, so never mind.
1/2 HOUR FROM CANNES
I love Nice. It’s totally underrated. You can head north into the hills to the Matisse and Chagall Museums, Roman ruins, and monastary (really pretty gardens and views), head South to the old town, Castle, Promenade, Provencal Market (awesome antique market on Mondays) and the Mediterranean. There’s amazing architecture and art all kinds of shops and stores from high end designer to funky little crafts, restaurants, cafes and ice cream flavors that will blow your mind at Fenocchio’s. It’s got everything, but it’s not overwhelming.
If you’re into the whole perfume thing, this is a great place to go. It’s a pretty big village built into the hills, with several perfume factories, a perfume museum and lots of shops and restaurants. About 20 minute train ride from Cannes, but unless you’re a mountain goat, you’ll probably want to take the bus up to the village from the train station.
45 MINUTES FROM CANNES
Villefranche sur mer
A lovely little village on the sea. Lots of little shops and restaurants. Keith Richards has a villa here. About a 40 minute train ride from Cannes.
A hilltop village atop cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. Probably the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen and the village is pretty damn sweet too (but very touristed). The only problem is, you have to take a 10 minute, pulse pounding bus ride to get to the village from the bus stop, but it just might be worth it.
Monaco Ugh. It’s not really even France. But it does have more billionaires per capita than anyplace in the world. Sadly, many of those billionaires acquired their wealth in nefarious ways. Who knows, you may bump into Martin Sorrell. About a 50 minute train ride from Cannes.
Do not drive. It’s very stressful. The only way I can deal with driving in France is if I’m very, very drunk, which isn’t a good idea. It’s illegal here too.
Do not rent a motor scooter, unless you want to experience the French healthcare system first hand.
If you have to go to San Tropez because it sounds so glamorous, do not take a car, even if you have car service. Traffic sucks this time of year. Take the boat. Go on Tuesday or Saturday which are the market days. Boat info
Filed under: Cote d'azur, Nice, tourism, trains, transportation, travel | Tagged: #canneslions, #cannesstories, advertising, Antibes, Biot, cagnes sur mer, Cannes, Cannes Lions, escaping Cannes, Eze, Grasse, hauts de cagnes, Juan les Pins, Lerin Islands, St. Honorat, St. Marguerite, the Cannes advertising festival, The international festival of Creativity, Villefranche sur mer | Leave a Comment »
Today I’m eating for me of course, but I’m also eating for Wayne. Wayne is…was my often partner at the San Francisco company where I do a lot of freelance remotely. His last day is Friday. Since I just can’t bring myself to fly 6000 miles to attend his going away lunch, Wayne and I decide I’ll eat a bunch of French stuff for him over here and chronicle the deliciousness. So I take a stroll through the Antibes Marche Provencal to find some goodies.
Wayne is experiencing a bit of a sugar rush so I race past all the gorgeous fruit and vegetables (you can get them anywhere) towards the Socca oven that’s up and burning at the other end of the Marche. Yes, Wayne must have a socca. It’s distinctly from this part of the world! Socca is basically a crepe made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt and it’s much better than it has a right to be, especially with a healthy shot of black pepper. It’s a specialty of Southeast France and the Ligurian Coast of Italy. It’s like a tidy falafel. It’s a particularly good choice if Wayne happens to be on a gluten-free diet.
Next up, the Grande Aioli lunch. Very South of France. Very traditional. It’s basically boiled cod and vegetables with an aoili dipping sauce. It would be very healthy if Wayne didn’t insist on slathering it with the aioli.
Now I figure Wayne could go for something sweet, so I pick up a pack of the nougat that is popular here and in Provence. I get the multi-flavored assortment to try all the nougaty essences. It’s sort of a sophisticated version of Turkish taffy. While there’s a similarity, it’s not as sweet and much more, as the package says, “tendre”. Also, the flavors are more subtle and natural tasting. The roasted almonds are a nice touch. I get another pack for Wayne to enjoy later.
As I make my way out of the marche, all the people selling cheeses, olives and tapenades invite me to sample their wares. I’m kind of full, but it’s a good opportunity for Wayne to try a lot of delicious Provencal products for free. He particularly enjoys the the sundried tomato,caper, anchovies, basil, garlic tapenade and the brebis cheese.
As I stagger food-drunk through the old town, I make my customary stop at the window of the bakery and ogle the michettes. Only today, I go inside and order an assortment. For Wayne. They’re yeasty little rolls filled with all kinds of savory things. Onions, saucisses, chorizo, tuna, spinach, ratatouille, several varieties of cheese, etc, etc. You could definitely make a well-balanced meal out of them. The chorizo and chevre ones are particularly good.
I’m not sure if it’s me or Wayne, but one of us is starting to feel a little sick and needs to lie down. On the way home, I can’t help noticing a beautiful little cake in the window of another bakery.
I start thinking that we really haven’t had any fruit and this cake is full of fresh strawberries. On the other hand, it’s a little pricey, I’m pretty stuffed, and I think I’ve fulfilled my going away lunch commitment. But it looks so delicious.
Then it hits me. I think Wayne’s birthday is coming up. So I buy it. Anything for Wayne.
Filed under: Antibes, fine dining, food, dining, fine dining, french cuisine, local merchant, macaron, pastry, patisserie, Provence, tourism | Tagged: Antibes, food, marche provencal, michette, mojito macaron, nougat, socca | 6 Comments »
Never in a million years did I imagine I’d wind up living on the French Riviera (or any Riviera for that matter). I figured I would have to be rich and fabulous. But here I am.
I live in Antibes now, which is smack dab in between Nice and Cannes. The population is about 75,000 which may seem small by urban US standards, but is huge compared to Vidauban (population 8,000), which is where I was originally.
The vibe in Antibes isn’t in the least bit fancy schmancy. Where Cannes is leathery skin squeezed into tight, trendy, un-age-appropriate clothes, trout pout and faces that aren’t quite human, Antibes is leathery skin in shorts and flip flops. Well, that’s not exactly true. There are a lot of Brits here, so there’s a lot of pasty skin as well.
Here are a few other reasons I love Antibes:
Mostly sunny. Not too hot, not too cold. It’s like living in California without the Californians.
The train station Every train stops here, so I can get to a lot of places quickly and easily. No car necessary. It’s 20 minutes to Nice, 12 minutes to Cannes, 35 minutes to Monaco, 40 minutes to St. Paul de Vence (with a bus transfer), 5 minutes to Biot or Cagnes sur Mer, 1 hour 15 minutes to Italy, and so on.
Most villages have a market once or twice a week. Antibes has one every day except Monday, plus a bunch of antique, clothes, crafts and flea markets.
One of the best ancient medieval villages ever
The new part ain’t bad either
Ten minute walk to the beach
Art, culture, history
Antibes has been around for millennia. It used to be called Antiopolis. They’re not sure if the “anti” means opposite from Nice or Corsica. Ligurians, Ionians, Phoenicians, Etruscans frequented the place before the Greeks settled in 5th century BC. It fell into obscurity in the 1400′s, and was rediscovered in the early 1900′s (the jazz age). Napoleon, Monet, Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, all hung out here at one point or another. And now me.
There are museums, theaters, concerts (the Jazz festival in July is pretty famous). There must be hundreds of paintings by dozens of famous artists of the place. No wonder.
I may not be living in a lavish villa with a view of the sea (try a one bedroom apartment with a view of another apartment building, lots of sky and palm trees), have no yacht, Rolls Royce or even a car, but to me, living somewhere this awesome is a luxury in itself.
More pictures of Antibes
Filed under: Alps, Antibes, art history, Cote d'azur, culture, expat in france, history, Impressionists, tourism, trains, transportation, travel, travel humor, Vidauban | Tagged: Antibes, Antibes juan les pins, beach, French Riviera, Jazz, marche provencal, Monet, old town, Picasso museum, Riviera, vielle ville | 11 Comments »