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kitesurfing on the bays of antibes

April arrives and the wind blows. It is the weekend. It is Easter. The Med Sea is nearby. And the lunch hour(s) in France can be two hours long. It is a perfect confluence of events for kitesurfing.

Antibes has three beaches, and two of them are wide and open and one in the middle is the most popular for kitesurfing. I believe there is a kitesurfing school and club in Antibes.

I have yet to see a woman kitesurfing in Antibes.

On a good day, the word has spread and dozens will be on the water at the same time. How they manage to avoid one another and not tangle their lines and chutes is unclear.

Crowds gather along the beach. Cameras are ready. Kids play in the sand and make sand castles. Some are there for the holiday weekend and want to catch as much sun as they can.

However, the stars of the day are the kitesurfers.

Because the surfers prefer the bays, croissant-shaped, and not the open water, spectators can watch from various points. They like to glide toward the shore, dramatically turn or launch into the air before circling around again and leaving. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

les calanques and 3 hours from marseille

If given the choice—either, or—where would you choose to live? Paris or Marseille? Some might balk at choosing from those cities.

Paris, for some, would be crossed off the list because 1) everyone wants to live there, so why go there; 2) one has visited Paris enough to know that other cities and villages are a better choice—Peter Mayle settled in Provence, for example; 3) one has Paris, the city, and then what?

Marseille for others would be a ridiculous choice: 1) too many people live there of African and Middle Eastern descent; 2) it is too dangerous; 3) the mafia controls everything; 4) it is not Paris; 5) ?.

I have often wondered where I would live. For a long time both cities, Paris and Marseille, have thrilled me. I have spent long periods of time in Toulouse, Lyon, and Montpellier as well. The number of villages where I have explored are countless.

« J’adore Marseille. » I say that to my landlord in Marseille all the time. Something has surprised me and my response is often, « J’adore Marseille. » I am seldom surprised in Paris. I don’t say to my Paris landlord, « J’adore Paris. » I am not sure she would appreciate the comment. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

where the eagles nest–gourdon

Have you wondered what it would be like to fly a paraglider? Have you watched a hawk making circles and imagined what it was seeing? When I was younger, I wanted to be Superman so I could plunge from the sky and then dart up, here and there, high above the ground.

I am not sure I would want to skydive. I don’t want to jump from a plane and then depend on the chute to carry me safely back to earth. But that crazy decision would permit a descent that I could control, somewhat. I would be high in the sky, and I could watch the toy houses and the Hot Wheels cars become too big. I could learn to manipulate the parachute cords, so I could move about, somewhat.

Another possibility would be more simple and less dangerous and, I am sure, would be less expensive. I might drive a car up a long, windy road to a village perché, high high in the mountains, park it, walk a short way to a wall that would keep me from plunging to my death should I become a bit woozy from a tad bit of vertigo. From the edge of the wall, I could then gaze down and far away and not worry about flying anything or pulling the wrong cords.

Gourdon is a village perché that offers extra-ordinary views from high up. It sits on a promontory about 760 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. From the edge of the village, one can look out over the valley of the Loup River, but gaze down as well, straight down, a precipitous drop, without fearing of losing ones way.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

part 2: 1 friday, 2 villages perchés–fayence

The road seemed to mimic les ruelles in a medieval village: it wound here and there and twisted up a hill. On a Friday morning I pretended to practice Les 24 Heures du Mans and drove up to Fayence, a perched village that is not far from the Mediterranean coast.

Fayence is different from other villages: it does not really sit on a hill that overlooks other hills and valleys. The terrain that surrounds it is flat. From the top one can get a wonderful 360° view of the countryside, but one sees homes and farm plots instead of the vast reaches experienced from the heights of Cabris and Gourdon, for example.

In order to see the views, one walks up to the Tour de l’Horloge, and from here you will have a 360° breathtaking view. The French would say, à couper le souffle.

Standing in the viewing area, one can look down onto the nearby rooftops and further out to see toy-sized homes before gazing on the mountains in the far distances, l’Estérel, les Maures, and le Lachens(Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!