A little map challenged, we started our day-trip tour of Antibes, France, on the outskirts of the historic town center. We were just happy to find a parking garage after navigating our way from Cannes – not an entirely easy feat in itself - but pulled the trigger prematurely still blocks away from our destination.
We purchased a cup of joe and a helpful waiter’s orienting skills to pinpoint our location on a city map. It was a fortunate mistake because it gave us a better feel for new and old. Otherwise, we would have missed the courtyard in front of the Grand Hotel with water fountains percolating at varying heights from its pavement.
I had visited Antibes with my siblings for my dad’s 60th birthday celebration 16 years prior, so some of it was coming back to me as we meandered the streets Picasso and Hemingway once covered.
We grabbed lunch at Le Michelangelo in its sunlit, but hot annex building. While the appetizer focaccia bread with caramelized onions, spaghetti pomodoro and mushroom ravioli were good, the stuffy sunroom was not. If you go on a warm windless day, be sure to sit in the much more cool, romantic and cave-like restaurant.
The yacht scene in Antibes’ harbor rivaled that of Cannes, especially the sand-colored vessel with a helicopter sitting atop it.
It’s worth a walk around the ancient naval fortress wall to take it in and peek through its lookouts to watch the sunbathers and swimmers on the beaches below.
Not sure what words to form to describe this white letter-filled statue of a man overlooking the Mediterranean. I couldn’t help but think of my next Words With Friends’ play with my dad. Called “Nomade,” Catalan artist Jaume Plensa installed the knee-hugging figure in 2007.
One source I found online describes the letters as representing living cells. It shows how our skin is permanently tattooed with our life and experiences – invisible until a friend or lover is able to decipher these tattoos.
Stepping back from 21st to 20th century modernism, we worked our way through the heart of Antibes’ historic area to find the Picasso Museum. We were spoiled having seen his more impressive museum and masterpiece, Guernica, in Barcelona and Madrid a few months before our visit.
Black-and-white photographs offered a unique glimpse into Picasso’s six-month stint in 1946 working at Chateau Grimaldi, where the museum now resides along with its signature piece, La Joie di Vivre. It also was fun seeing a sample of his prolific collection of ceramics.
Unfortunately, no photos allowed inside, but I did capture a piece outside by Joan Miro. The museum’s exterior terrace facing the sea includes several sculptures by Picasso, too.
The best part of exploring the patchwork towns along the Cote d’Azur is noticing the everyday with childlike wonder. That’s why I sometimes like to leave the guidebook behind, as difficult as that can be for the planner in me.
With my nose out of the book, I begin to see more – the fishtail pattern of a narrow cobblestone path, the detailed wood carving on a church door, the shadows of bougainvillea against a bright orange-yellow wall, the curvy grate covering a shutter and the iron spigots of a centuries-old watering hole.
What I like about day-tripping is how it heightens your senses. The short journey makes you pay attention. And while parting may bring such sweet sorrow, it’s a reminder to not look past and take for granted the beautiful details in our own lives back home.