September 9th, 2013 – Sunny
CANNES + ANTIBES
We were never ones for the beach but since the French Riviera was famous for its beaches we thought we would spend half a day doing so. On principles, there were no way in hell we were going to pay any sum of money to have the right to lay on a beach, and we were still perplexed as to why Nice’s pebbly beaches were so famous… we headed to Cannes for its public SANDY beaches.
It was unbelievably easy to travel by regional train (called TER) between towns along the riviera (depending on distance and time of day, each trip usually cost ~5-9 euros). We arrived at the glamorous Cannes after a comfortable 30-minute train ride. Despite Cannes’ proximity to Nice, Cannes was vastly different and it was clear that Cannes was much wealthier when compared to Nice. We reached the seaside promenade called “La Croisette” where its sandy beach were littered with sunbathers. The public portion was at the western end of La Croisette (right next to “Palais des Festivals de Cannes”), and surprisingly it wasn’t crowded nor inferior to the private beaches next door! For the next 2 hours we baked under the sun and hopefully produced enough Vitamin Ds for our dark Canadian winters. We were approached by street vendors selling water and hats a couple of times while sunbathing, but in general we were undisturbed and it was an experience I don’t mind repeating. Eventually we got bored and the scorching midday sun encouraged us to explore Cannes instead.
On our walk down La Croisette we noticed numerous super cars that I have read about only in magazines, and helicopters transporting people to shore from their luxury yachts. After we stopped for a quick bite at a dumpy yet delicious pizza joint, we followed Rue d’Antibes westward. Rue d’Antibes was undoubtedly one of the premier shopping areas around Cote d’Azur as it was flanked by well maintained low-rise buildings with various immaculate high end boutiques at the street level. Unfortunately we neither had the funds nor the desire to linger around for too long, and instead we pressed forward to the “Le Suquet” district.
Le Suquet was the old quarter of Cannes and it resembled old Nice in many different levels (architecture style, street layout, etc). Considering its proximity to the beach and other high traffic areas, it remained a surprise to me why Le Suquet received such little tourist traffic. Old cobblestone lanes made our climb a little more difficult (I was wearing flip flop sandals), but in my opinion the district’s historic character was plenty to justify achy feet. At the top of the hill was an old church in a moderate state of disrepair, and a stunning view overlooking Cannes and its mega-yacht filled harbor (akin to Castle Hill in Nice). Le Suquet was my favorite memory of Cannes because it wasn’t superficial like the rest of the city and it was even quiet enough for various portrait photography mini sessions! (J is super camera shy and she wouldn’t take artistic photos when strangers are present). Hesitantly we left Le Suquet and we worked our way back to the train station: next stop – Antibes.
It was late afternoon when we arrived at Antibes. The walk from the train station to the city wall only took ~10 minutes, and the majority of the journey was along Antibe’s massive marina. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of marine vessels ranged from small rafts all the way to private luxury “ferries” (so large some had to be moored outside of the breakwater). Antibes was one of my favorite coastal towns along Cote d’Azur because it remained an intimate destination unlike much of Nice/Cannes. In fact, Antibes reminded me of Uzes in terms of its “countryside” character. One of the major attraction in Antibes was Musee Picasso but it was unfortunately closed for the day… we enjoyed the seaside hike nonetheless. Once again I put away my phone (Google Maps) and we explored aimlessly around this charismatic town… and stumbled upon a busy establishment “Gelateria del Porto” which served the most amazing mango sorbet I’ve had the honor of tasting (so far).
Regional trains were running infrequently at night and we caught the second last train of the night. J and I were waiting on the platform patiently and out of no where we heard a TER employee yelling across the platform at a group of drunk teens who ran across the tracks (instead of using the underground tunnel). The verbal exchange grew more aggressive until the train arrived… the same group of young adults went on to cause havoc in the train cabin (especially the bathrooms)… a fight almost broke out between a frustrated local in his sixties and one of the teens. As a tourist I was interested in the fantastic sightseeing, enjoyable cuisines, and rich histories that France had to offer, but I went to bed that night reflecting on some of France’s social issues (especially with the complete disregard of public properties I witnessed).