Antibes est pour toi en France un de tes points de chute. –Françoise Nicolai
Graham Greene, who moved to Antibes in 1966, wrote a dozen books there . . . –BBC Culture
I landed in Antibes ten years ago and, as a French friend suggested, j’y réside [à Antibes] une bonne partie de l’année. During that time, I have often wandered the many streets of Vieil Antibes.
I think of Antibes as having three parts to the medieval village, le vieil village. The division is not official.
Above the Marché Provençal (the local market), between it and the Mediterranean Sea, is one quartier and possibly my favorite. It is small and can be explored in a short time.
The Mediterranean Sea is to the east of the medieval quartier of Antibes. The wall to the right is for the Picasso Museum.
The two other quartiers are flat, but the one above the Marché Provençal rests on a small knoll. One must walk up from the Marché and into it. Continuing through it, one descends slightly to the ramparts and the Promenade Amiral de Grasse and then one meets the Mediterranean Sea. But wait, there’s more!
When one wanders and meanders along the southern coast of France, in particular along the Côte d’Azur, visiting the medieval villages perched on hills, one need only look over the shoulder to see another one not far away from the village you are exploring at the moment.
I am exaggerating a bit but not too much. The villages are sprinkled every where; and when you think you have seen them all, another one, hidden away, comes into view.
During the Middle Ages, they were small fortresses, built to keep people protected from the forces of evil. The hills, where they were often built, provided the vantage point of the surrounding area for observing who might be considering making mischief.
(The word mischief is from the Old French: “meschief, from the verb meschever, from mes- ‘adversely’ + chever ‘come to an end’ (from chef ‘head’).”)
Inland, far from the coast, and northwest of Saint Tropez is a small village, not perched really, but nestled instead against a large rock—the French call it le Rocher de Cotignac. The village is called Cotignac, of course. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
But wait, there’s more!
Some people seemed to get all sunshine, and some all shadow . . . ―Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
There is strong shadow where there is much light. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Götz von Berlichingen
Renoir. Picasso. Matisse. Chagall. (I am dropping names now.) Monet. Degas. (Shall I continue?)
Those painters and many others painted in southern France because of the intense, clean light and the shades and shadows.
To catch that light, to observe it, one must know where to go and when.
On the Côte d’Azur—the French Riviera—the pristine light on clear, full sunny days can be experienced anywhere. It blankets everything. The ISO on your camera plummets, the f-stop increases, and the camera fires more quickly. The reds, blues, and yellows on buildings and cars and clothing become more intense. Trees look more green. The blues in the sky reflect the blues of the water and the blues in the water reflect the sky and sometimes they seem like the same blue.
Some say that “Golden Hour” in the morning and evening is best. It is impractical for me. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
In open spaces, one notices easily the light but not the shadows that appear and move and disappear.
But wait, there’s more!
I live 6 months in Oregon and 6 months in France. When I am in Portland, I eat lunch occasionally in restaurants; I prefer to cook. On the other hand, in France I will eat lunch in a restaurant every day.
In Portland, a city celebrated for its food and where James beard was born after all, lunches consist of fast-food, such as pizzas, hamburgers, tacos, and so forth, plus food carts, and some good ethnic restaurants that might have started as food carts.
In my neighborhood in NW Porttland, called the Alphabet District, I have several favorites: Bhuna (Kashmir), Rice & Fish (Japanese), Fish Sauce (Vietnamese), Kim Jong Smokehouse (Korean), and Matador (Mexican). They are acclaimed, and I am lucky to live within easy walking distance to them.
Portland does have some restaurants where one can sit down and order two and three courses for lunch. Little Bird Bistro (French) comes to mind, and Bistro Agnes (French), Nostrana (Italian), and Piazza Italia (Italian). Notice they are European in style. There are other restaurants, but the two and three course meal is unusual for lunch.
Portland really excels during the dinner hours. The most acclaimed restaurants serve only dinner; they are never open for lunch.
Huitres Marennes-Oléron, Crème d’avocat, émulsion de concombre et vinaigre “Original le Beaume de Bouteville”
Punta de Lomo, cochon “Duroc”, mousseline de carotte à l’orange
Entremet chocolat orange et sorbet orange menthe fraiche
That offers a segue to the French desire to sit down and eat a proper two or three course meal for lunch. It is one of the classic differences between the two cultures. On another occasion I have defined those meals. In short the French do eat fast food, and they like a main dish and a dessert. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
But wait, there’s more!