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rage against the machine (and the jerks who drive them)

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jackass on loud motorcycle

I have a terrible confession.   I entertain dark thoughts.   Violent fantasies.

It usually happens when I’m sitting on my balcony and one of those motorcycles with the cranked up mufflers comes thundering down the hill at 9 million decibels.   I imagine that, with perfect timing, I pour a bucket of water down, drenching the motorcyclist and the street.   It makes me feel good, no great, to see the shocked driver spin out of control.

The daydream continues as the driver, with the motorcycle on top of him skids out, violently ricocheting between the parked cars and buildings lining the narrow street.   He is smashed.   Bloody.   Most probably dead.   I am now a murderer and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

On one hand, the guilt is a heavy burden.  But something had to be done.   Not just for me, but for all of mankind.   Well, at least whoever falls in the audio range of the bike, which I’m fairly certain includes Northern Italy and Switzerland.  But murder…Can I live with that?

Now that I’m confessing, I might as well also cop to the fact that the other day I heard a skid and a crash followed by anguished yelps.   I ran to the balcony to see what happened and saw it was a downed motorcycle and driver.   I did a happy dance before calling emergency services.

Before you label me a terrible person (which I probably am), you have no idea how obnoxious and annoying they are until you’ve lived in a fairly popular French village.   Mere de Dieu!

I can block out a lot of noises, but that particular din pierces through everything.   It’s like a jackhammer to the head.  I don’t know what the decibel level is, but I do know it’s the worst form of noise pollution, probably qualifies as torture and offenders should be prosecuted.   No tortured.   No, executed.   No, tortured AND executed.

I mean seriously, only a dangerously insane person wants to make THAT much noise.   Who else would want to inflict that kind of suffering on innocent people who are just trying to have a thought, conversation or watch a movie?   Clearly they must be  card-carrying sociopats.   Either that or they’re recklessly overcompensating for something.   Some shame or deficiency.   Small ears, perhaps? A high squeaky voice? A complete lack of physical presence?  Whatever,  they’re a danger.

Worse, these mother effing a-holes, use their size to muscle their way through pedestrian zones and quaint ancient villages.   It’s disturbing the peace at the very least.  And illegal.   I guess the French legal system deals with loud vehicles in pedestrian zones the same way America’s deals with assault weapons (which are also very loud, I’m told).

Lets not forget that the insufferable noise itself poses a threat, and not just to eardrums   I’ve come precariously close to injury when the sound exploded through my windows, shattering my focus, which left me unable to maintain my balance during a yoga pose.

IMG_20140913_185645921_HDRI read somewhere that there are some enthusiasts who argue that the horrific noise they inflict on humanity makes their lives safer from accidents because the noise forces other drivers to notice them.   To them I say, bull hickey!   You chose to ride that infernal machine.  Don’t inflict your goddamn choice on the rest of us.   Drive defensively, wear a helmet and put a cork in your goddamn exhaust pipe, you goddamn self centered sociopath with small ears and a squeaky voice and zero physical presence!

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.   I’ve seen people shake their fists and middle fingers at them as they roar past. Some people grow red with rage when discussing them. Some peoples’ blood pressure rises precipitously at their mere mention.   We hate them with a white hot passion.

Someday, we’ll all rise up against them.   In the meantime, I’ll be sitting on my balcony.   Watching. Waiting. Dreaming.

finding something to fear in marseille

view from train station

view from train station

Marseille isn’t a city for tourists. There’s nothing to see. Its beauty can’t be photographed. It can only be shared. It’s a place where you have to take sides, be passionately for or against. Only then can you see what there is to see. And you realize, too late, that you’re in the middle of a tragedy. An ancient tragedy in which the hero is death. In Marseilles, even to lose you have to know how to fight.”

Jean-Claude Izzo, Total Chaos

 When people talk about Marseille, there’s no grey area, it’s either black or white.

On the “love” side you hear things like: “one of the great cities of the world!”; ”a beautiful Mediterranean melting pot”;   “it’s becoming an art and design center on par with Barcelona”.   On the hate side we’ve got:   “I would rather watch every episode of the Kardashians than go back to that God forsaken place”; “Filthy” (ironic for a place famous for its soap); “It’s like the middle east without the charm”; It doesn’t feel safe!(this from a guy who feels comfortable in downtown Beirut). And we’ve also got good old Jean-Claude Izzo up there, scaring the crap out of me.

I visited Marseille once about a gazillion years ago (I’m avoiding telltale numbers).   I was with my parents and we drove from Aix to Marseille to go to Galleries Lafayette to find a certain tablecloth that my mom had to have. Construction was going on near the port and they had just dug up an ancient boat. We had lunch somewhere along the port.   I remember my mother felt sorry for the multitude of African guys trying to sell carved wood animals . My memory sees it then as being a little run down, but I didn’t really form an opinion one way or another except to watch my purse.   And while I survived, a vague sense of foreboding rises inside of me when I think of it.   But that could have been the fact I was a teenager on a family vacation.

Since I’ve lived in the South of France, the closest I’ve been to Marseille is looking down on it from the relative safety of the Marseille St. Charles train station.   It’s a pretty great view and it has made me long to venture down the hill and into the heart of it, however dirty and dangerous it may be.  But then fear takes over and I decide to go back later when I have more time and a flak jacket.   Which of course, I never have on me.

It’s a bit of a slog for a day trip (2:15), but hell, that’s a one way commute in the Bay Area.   And since I’m taking the train, the stress level is very low.   Well, as long as I don’t think about the danger I may encounter in Marseille.   Dirt.   Disenfranchised North Africans.  Germs.  Ebola.  Did you know the plague probably entered France here?  Racial unrest. Violence.   It seems the only thing I fear that isn’t here in Marseille is the IRS.

I’ve got to say, Marseille is beautiful.   I visit the old port, Fort Saint Jean, the brand new MuCEM (MUsee des Civilizations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée) and its phenomenal building and public space designed by Rudy Ricciotti in collaboration with Roland Carta, and the old town, which is called “le Panier” (the basket). I’m tempted to ascend to the omnipresent Notre Dam de la Garde perched on top of the hill, but it wasn’t long ago I was downed by a cathedral and I’m already pressing my luck by even being here, so I skip it.

Except for the prospect of climbing the cathedral, I feel no fear.   I have a perfectly lovely day puttering around aimlessly smelling soaps, admiring views, looking at art, taking pictures, eating lunch…   I don’t get food poisoning.   No one mugs or murders me (that I know of).   No terrorists attack. There are no race riots and by the end of the day, I’m still not convulsing with fever and bleeding from every orifice.   I made it!

I board the train home triumphantly.   I plop down into my seat with relief.   I made it!   I congratulate myself in between looking at the scenery and the photographs I took of Marseille on my phone. Jean-Claude Izzo was wrong!   Beautiful pictures.   Nothing terrible happened.IMG_20140909_175111324

But when I get up at the Antibes stop, I realize something is wrong. I feel a slight pull, look down and realize tragedy has indeed struck.   Goddamn merde de putain, somebody left gum on my seat!   My cute skirt is ruined!

***

While Izzo was right about Marseille-related tragedy, he was still wrong about Marseille not having beauty that can be photographed.   As you’ll see in the pictures below.  Fortunately, he was also wrong about the death thing.

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i’ve always depended on the kindness of cab drivers

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Where we left off: God just pushed me down the final step of the Strasbourg Cathedral stairwell and did something mauvais to my foot.  I’m in the lobby of the Hotel Gutenberg waiting for the doctor.

The doctor arrives.   He only speaks French so we communicate in the language of pain.   He taps my foot, moves it around and I yelp when it hurts.   He tells me he thinks it’s broken (casse) and I’ll need to go for “radio”.    He gives me a couple of pills, makes a few calls and escorts me (okay, drags me), downstairs to get a cab.

After a brief conference with the doctor, receptionist and cab driver, the doctor passes me off to the driver who pretty much holds me upright as I hop to the cab muttering “merde, merde, merde.”  He compliments me on my French.

Somewhere along the way, the pills kick in and I start to enjoy the chauffeured tour of the outer reaches of Strasbourg.   Woah, full moon.  We arrive at the Clinique St. Anne Urgences entrance and the driver gets me a wheelchair.

In the back of my mind, I believe that once I sit in the wheelchair, all is lost.   So it’s either that, dumb pride or that all-powerful feeling you get when floating on a schedule 3 narcotic that makes me refuse the chair.

I hop bravely up the ramp to the door…well, half way to the door.  Fortunately, the cab driver has the foresight to follow me with the wheelchair, providing a comfortable place to collapse.   He wheels me the rest of the way in.

off to get an X-ray

being chauffeured to my X-ray

I sign in, give them my insurance card, fill in a form and somebody pushes me to the waiting room.  I’m not sure, mais je pense I’ve been parle-ing fluent Francais and understanding tout ce qu ils disent.   Yaaaay!

There are a few people already ahead of me, so I fear a long wait.  Five minutes later, my name is called and I’m wheeled into x-ray.   An intern takes a picture of my foot and tells me to wait for the doctor.   Gotta love French healthcare.

In another few minutes, the doctor comes in and introduces himself as David.   Not Doctor David, just David.   Maybe he’s a night janitor.  I don’t care.  He’s cute.  He confirms that oui, my foot is broken and I will be getting a cast up to my knee.  Honey, you can put that cast as high as you want.

Then a horrible realization hits me.   I’m wearing skinny jeans.  There’s no way I can fit a cast under them.  I’ll have to take them off (well, at least one leg).   I haven’t shaved my legs.   I need a pedicure.   Dear God, what underwear am I wearing?   What will I wear back to the hotel?   What will I wear home?

After the cast is put on, the intern devises a lovely outfit by jauntily throwing the empty pant-leg over my shoulder.   She cuts some gauze as a belt and fashions a skirt out of a paper scrub top.   I feel like I’m on Project Runway. Fortunately, I have no photographic evidence of my one-of-a-kind look.   I’m pretty sure Tim Gunn would be mortified.

My cab is waiting, and I’m faced with a new dilemma.   In France, the hospitals don’t give out crutches, they’re prescribed.   It’s 8pm and god knows how I’ll deal with it.  It’s times like this I wish I was married.   Not that my husband would be of any use to me.   He’s probably back at the hotel watching football. Bastard!

bad

evil crutches

The cab driver, lady at the registration/incoming wounded desk and I discuss the problem and the next thing you know, the taxi driver makes a few calls, finds an open pharmacy and we’re on our way.

The pharmacy is in a huge complex set back about 30 meters from the sidewalk.   Both the driver and I know there’s no way I’ll be able to hop up there without taking several naps along the way, so he goes in and gets my crutches.

I had envisioned myself swinging breezily from the kind of crutches that rest under your arms, but in France these forearm wrapped ones are de rigueur.   I hate them.   The design forces users to rely on balance and core strength, neither of which I seem to have.   I’m more of a leaner.

I attempt a graceful exit from the cab.   The driver’s arms are out, ready to catch me as I stand up shakily and freeze like a dog on an escalator, trying to figure out what goes first, the crutch or the foot.

The trip to the hospital and pharmacy took an hour and a half.   It takes another hour and a half to get to my room.

I immediately start to pack (well, after a short rest).   My plane leaves at 7:30 AM and I have a lot to figure out before then. I’m happy to discover that I did pack pajamas.   I can wear the bottoms to the airport.   A thrill rushes through me knowing that for the first time ever, I will have worn everything I packed.  I’m also pleased to discover that I’ll save a lot of time in the morning because I can’t take a shower.

The next morning, I get to the airport (by cab) without a hitch.   The driver passes me off to the wheelchair and attendant he wrangled for me inside the airport.   I feel like a rolling baton being passed from person to person.

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At first, I’m a little embarrassed.   Yes, I’m that unkempt person in pajama pants being wheeled through the airport.   But as they whisk me through security, keeping close track of my passport, purse, coat and even wheel me over to the cash machine on the way to the gate.  I even get a whole row to myself on a packed plane (could this be because I can’t take a shower?).  They even fasten my seat belt. I could get used to this.  Maybe I’ll save the cast and crutches for all future travel.

Another wheelchair and attendant await me in Nice as well as my checked bag.  Once I’m comfortably in the cab, I realize a new set of obstacles await me.   Have I mentioned that I live in a third floor walk-up?

I’m pretty sure  I can get the driver to carry up my bag, which despite being small is way too much for me to handle with these godforsaken crutches.   But what about me?   I just fell down a stair.   The thought of three flights fills me with terror..   Maybe I can crawl?   Slither up on my belly like a snake?

In the foyer of my apartment building, the cab driver assesses the situation and has an idea.  First he carries my bag up the three flights.   Then he carries me,  piggy back.   He sets me down and holds me upright, while I open the door.   He carries my baggage in and helps me inside.   I pay him (HUUUUUGE tip).

I close the door and lean against the wall feeling an enormous sense of triumph and relief.   I made it!   I’m home!

A half hour later, once I’ve rested from the exertion of being carried up the stairs, I make the ½ hour trek to my couch   I begin to realize that getting home was the easy part.   How the hell am I going to get out of here?  How will I bathe?   How will I cook?  How will I get groceries?  How will I clean the apartment? How will I hang up my goddamn coat?   I’m alone now.  I have nobody to love and care for me. I’ll probably starve to death and my cat will have to eat me until someone discovers my remains.

Or, I can call a cab.

 ***

Postscript:   Don’t feel too sorry for me.   My niece, Alex came down from Switzerland and waited on me.   I’m so glad my sister had the foresight to breed!

looking down on the masses

“Mur des amoureux” by Raymond Peynet

I’ve been wanting to visit Le Cannet for awhile now, but have put it off because it’s not directly on the train line.  It’s a small artists’ village in the hills above Cannes.   Its selling points as far as I’m concerned are the Peynet painting on the side of a building I’ve seen in pictures, a vieux ville (an old town), the Musee Bonnard and the fact that it isn’t Cannes.

It’s a simple 10 minute bus ride up the hill from the Cannes train station (#1 Le Cannet bus).  I get off at the Town Hall/Musee Bonnard stop.   It’s not the old town, but I suspect this is the closest the bus can get.

The quiet up here is a little disquieting   Nobody is brushing against me.   I don’t have to maneuver walking down the street.  It’s practically deserted.   Maybe the rapture happened on the bus ride up and all the good Christians were up here in Le Cannet.    I’m feeling positively light-headed and I don’t think it’s the altitude.   It’s probably some form of culture shock from having just been in the frenzy of Cannes 10 minutes ago.  Well, either that or I’m hungry.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of food options.  There are several cafes and restaurants with varying degrees of expensiveness.   But before I eat, I have to scope out the village and make myself so hungry I don’t have to choose which restaurant to dine at, but rather eat at the one whose entrance  I pass out in front of.

How can nobody be here?   Granted, there’s not a preponderance of little shops.   There are some storefronts where artists show and sell their work, but I’m a little afraid of them.   I can’t imagine anything is in my price range and don’t want to insult some up and coming artist.   Or break something.   I feel the same way I used to feel about designer stores on Madison Avenue (which I got over, but it cost me dearly).   But I digress.

The village is lovely.   The Peynet “mur des amoureux” (lovers’ wall) is all I dreamed it would be.   And there’s a funky tiny ancient church restored by Theo Tobiasse with the theme life is a party (an interesting choice for a church).  The musee Bonnard is..pleasant, kind of like Bonnard’s work.   I like it, would probably put one or two on my wall, but nothing screams “genius”.

Now I’ve passed from light headed to shaky and vicious.

Fortunately, I collapse in front of a small restaurant called Arts & Assiettes which is low on the price scale with a simple menu that doesn’t muddle my little brain with options.   It’s not really a menu…it’s a plat du jour which today is a combination of daurade (some kind of fish), ratatouille, smashed blue (actually a vibrant violet that the photograph doesn’t capture) potatoes with persillade (a parsley pesto popular in these parts — the green and purple together are stunning! and a couple of cheese raviolis.   Despite the fact that something on the menu lead me to believe I was getting veal, it’s pretty damn good and the colors are beautiful — a vision in Fauve.  It’s all fresh, organic and grown locally.    I just wish the daurade wasn’t staring up at me while I devour it, but I’m going to have to get over that.   The French clearly don’t mind looking their food in the eye.

In all, I got a little culture and had a delicious typical provencal lunch in a quiet, charming medieval village overlooking the Mediterranean for a mere 12 Euro.  If I were among the masses down the hill in Cannes, I probably would have paid 40 Euro for the same lunch (sans culture).

Suckers!

congratulations, you’re in Cannes! how to get the hell out.

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

Cannes  

Suquet district

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  

View from St. Marguerite

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” .

Boat info:   St. Marguerite,  St. Honorat

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.

Antibes

View of old town Antibes from ramparts

Nothing to see here, move along.

Biot

A pretty corner of Biot

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

Haut de Cagnes

 A wonderful medieval village with a castle and small museum.   The hill is a bit steep, but manageable.   It’s not heavily touristed and has some nice restaurants with lovely outlooks.   Even a couple of shops!!!   It’s about a 20 minute train ride, get off at the Cagnes sur Mer stop and head west when you leave the train station.  You can also catch the 400 bus from here to St. Paul de Vence and Vence, if you’re really bold.

Nice

View of old Nice

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.

Grasse

Grasse

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

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.

Eze 

View from the exotic plant garden of Eze

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.

Train schedule information

MISCELLANEOUS TIPS:

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

living a life of luxury on the french riviera. well, the riviera part is true.

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:

The weather 

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.

The daily market (marche provencal)

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

Or 10 minutes to a morning cup of coffee on the ramparts overlooking the Mediterranean with the alps looming in the background..

Little shops

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.

Killer views


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

2000 leagues over the sea


According to the Ville de Eze Tourism website), Eze is 3.66 square miles.   I’m pretty sure most of that is vertical.

It’s located between Nice and Monaco–about a 15 minute train ride from both (from opposite directions) on the Cote d’Azur TER line.    The train stops at seaside Eze, which is pretty much a residential area for rich people (Bono has a villa about 500 meters from the train station).   There’s a pebbly public beach, a couple of cafes and a small tourism office.  As lovely as it is, the main attraction, the charming medieval village with shops, is about 2000 feet above sea level.   It’s up there somewhere behind the cliffs looming overheadSome insane people like my sister or my father might want to make the 3 kilometer hike to the village, I’m perfectly happy to take a bus.   In fact, when I consider the alternatives (walking or driving myself) I’m thrilled to take a bus.  This road is so windy, the lanes so narrow, there’s no way I could have managed this, even if I was driving a car with an automatic.   The mere thought makes me want to abandon all hope, park on a hairpin turn, weep and wait to die.

Being “chauffeured”, makes the journey both less and more hair-raising.   Less because I don’t have the responsibility of driving but more because some stranger who may have had a bottle of Rose for breakfast holds my life in their hands.   And shit, this bus is big.   It’s probably a matter of centimeters between here and oblivion.  Which isn’t to say oblivion isn’t breath-taking.

At one point I notice the man sitting next to me is laughing at me.   I’m outraged until I realize that all the screams, groans, gasps, prayers and “oh my gods” raging through my head during this ride, are also leaking from my mouth.  I’d be laughing at me too if I wasn’t looking down at a gazillion meter chasm of death two inches to my left.  The ride takes an eternity (15 minutes).

When we finally get up high enough in the cliffs, I see Eze.   I wouldn’t even call that a hilltop it’s perched on, this is more like a jagged shard of rock.   Jutting up from a cliff.   The bus drops me off at “base camp,” the bottom of the jagged shard, where there’s a few real estate companies, restaurants, tourist shops, banks and the requisite pharmacy and tabac shops.    I climb the road leading to the entrance of the old town.

Tiny little streets that barely accommodate one average person, cute ancient stone buildings, balconies and rooftops dripping with flowers, tiny shops (tres cher), beautiful, charming hotels where one night costs more than my monthly rent and finally, a killer view.   No, make that a million killer views.

Part of me is thinking this is the most beautiful place on the face of this earth and I must live here.   The other part is thinking what a pain in the ass it would be to lug groceries up all these tiny steps on a regular basis.  And how the hell would I get my armoire up here?

Whenever I reach a plateau, I stop and admire the view which I don’t think could get any more beautiful until I reach the next plateau.

The streets get narrower and more maze-like, until I reach a clearing, which is the entrance to Le Jardins d’Eze, which is essentially a hanging garden with a path leading to the castle ruins at the top through exotic cactus plants, statues, sitting areas and views to die for.   I almost do die for the view when a stumble on a cobble feels like I’m about to fall off the face of the earth.   At this point I’m practically crawling, but I make my final push to the summit.
Holy crap.  I can see past Cap Ferrat, Nice, Cap d’Antibes to San Tropez and all the way to Italy on the other side!   I’ve got the Cote d’Azur at my feet.   I take a moment to savor my accomplishment and the views before tackling the descent back to base camp.   More tourists have arrived,   I believe they are the “boat people” (people from huge cruise ships), because they are constantly looking at their watches.   The narrow streets are getting backed up.  If I don’t start my descent now, I could be stuck here all afternoon.  I’m hungry and thirsty.  I could perish up here!

Down at base camp I find a reasonably priced restaurant and have the recommended lunch (three courses for a set price).    The meal is unmemorable, but fine (fine meaning it’s edible and it doesn’t poison me).   Over dessert, I ponder my next move.   I can actually ascend even further upwards to the Haute Corniche d’Eze.  Imagine the views!   Imagine the horror of getting there!  Or I can go back down to the beach part of Eze.   Imagine the views!  Imagine the horror of getting there!

I order a second cappuccino.   Maybe I’ll just sit here and enjoy this particular view a little while longer.

Click here for more pictures of Eze.

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