Let’s get real. Eating at Michelin restaurants is not fun, sometimes: they cost too much money for the formule of three courses, one must order three courses because à la carte is way way way–did I write “way” enough times–too much money, the ambiance is sometimes stuffy and formal and everyone knows the dishes will be refined and beautifully presented.
But . . . give me une dorade royale entière rôti any day. It is one of my favorite preparations for a freshly caught whole fish; and make it à la provençale, I will believe to have died and gone to heaven.
I want now to spend a few minutes describing some meals and dishes that can appear in ordinary, typical French restaurants.
une daurade royale rôti
deux boules de glace: menthe chocolat et pistache
At the end of La Plage de la Salis in Antibes is a small restaurant Casa Gianni that faces the Mediterranean Sea. I like the restaurant for its simple, good meals and for its terrace and large windows. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
The black slate outside of Casa Gianni, which are commonly seen at other French restaurants, is called an ardoise. It lists the dishes and suggestions for that day.
When I see a dorade (daurade) royale entière on the menu, I cannot resist it. Often it is served with rice and some vegetables. My favorite vegetable accompaniment is à la provençale, or a Provençal-style preparation, usually with tomatoes.
Ice cream is a wonderful dessert and after a meal of fish or meat it is an excellent palette cleanser. Many refined restaurants will make their own ice cream and sorbet. But wait, there’s more!
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!