Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Antibes - the French Connection

From the previous post: "...As I was sinking into sleep, I could feel my heart still beating out the message, "yes, yes, beautiful French Riviera, yes, yes"..."


I woke up to a glorious morning with mild sunlight and a nip in the air. It felt good to be in Antibes in summer. I actually had to take a moment to re-assure myself that this was not a dream and I was actually there.

Bernard my friend and the perfect host, had prepared breakfast already. An interesting thing at his house was that all the meals we had there, was while sitting on the patio, overlooking the lawn. In the morning it was beautiful, in the night exotic.

I found it so much more interesting. In India or the Gulf countries, chances are most meals are consumed inside the house. The weather usually does not permit otherwise. However, the nice, clean, crispy weather here makes it an absolute pleasure to be out rather that in the house.

Having had our breakfast, I set off with Bernard, to wander through the Antibes city centre. It was a small city located just perfectly in the middle of the French Riviera.

We first headed to the 'Mediatheque' as Bernard wanted to check his mail. I also took the opportunity to do the same. Additionally, I had a walk around inside the place. It was wonderful to see the attention to detail and impressive efforts put in creating a venue where both information and knowledge were available for all people. I think, it is only education and knowledge especially through reading, that can broaden our views on life and its challenges. Here, I could see from kids to adults of all ages using the facilities to know more.

It was also good to see the care, civic sense and efforts that had gone into beautifying the place, case in point was the random shooting fountain set up exactly in the centre of the town. We had walked here from the Mediatheque, as we were expecting to joined by another 'guest' who also has turned out to be a good friend. Jia, a girl from Beijing, who happens to be studying in Paris and had decided to couch surf with Bernard for that week. Just like me, this was her first visit to the south of France. After having received Jia, all of us went walking around town.

First place we reached was a Friday market. A temporary set up, it was a place and day on which people brought in art collectibles for sale. I saw some exquisite copper and brass artefacts as well as some pencil/charcoal sketches. I could see that people had the freedom to express their creativity and put it up for sale. Some were full time artists, whereas most of the sellers were hobbyists.

As we progressed walking through the small town, we came to a street which consisted of shops like the Charcuterie Lyonnaise and some local bakeries. Stepped into one, to pick up some French style baguette for lunch. The ladies running the bakery were very gracious with the bug eyed bloke busy photographing and eyeing all the goodies on display on the shelves. So nice were they, that I was even given gratis a bunch of rolls.

Having built up a good appetite, eventually we headed back home, where our gracious host prepared a lovely salad which we had with the fresh bread we had picked up at the patisserie.

Having lunch, accompanied with a lovely glass of Rose (pronounced ro-say) by the patio at noon was so out of the ordinary for me, that I was practically in raptures enjoying the moment. Of course to add further merriment, was some lively chatter.

When I had booked the tickets initially to come here, I had inadvertently and luckily picked a time when the famous Cannes Film Festival would be held. Imagine, for an avid cine watcher and advertising background chap like me, how wonderful it felt, when post-lunch we headed to, of course...(drum roll reaching a crescendo)...


It sure was filled with crowds, not all of whom had arrived there to partake in the Film Festival. There were a lot of people, where were enjoying the beach scene as well.

Walking on the path that went past the venerable Carlton Hotel, it was absolutely clear that it was indeed film festival time. Watching the Academy award winning creator of movies like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, etc. - Quentin Tarantino walking just a few feet away felt incredible. Following him were hordes of paparazzi, whom he was adroitly evading.

However, a few metres further I saw a sight that left me stumped, to say the least.

A eye searingly bright yellow mustang, which had clear undertones of Indian influence with the words 'Jodhpur' and what looked like 'Mahabharat' written in Hindi on it. Also printed on was the signature of Buzz Aldrin (the second human being to step foot on the moon), which I couldn't for the life of me, connect to whatever else was on the car.

A bit further, on the beach side I could see an enterprising soul had painstakingly created a sand sculpture and had even etched Merci or thank you for some Euros, hoped to be tossed his way.

I have to say, the sculpture was closely resembling the visual of the squirrel who wouldn't let go of the lone nut from the film Ice Age.

After viewing the huge crowds who had gathered by now to catch a glimpse of the 'stars' attending the festival, it began to feel a bit pressured to walk around in that area. So we decided to turn into a parallel lane and started walking. When it hit me. The one thing that so many of us find so difficult to resist. I think, I not only lost a few kilos in drooling, I probably developed nerves of steel to have been able to walk away from it.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Chocolaterie.

The beauty of this particular shop was the creative ways in which chocolate had been moulded into masks, baskets, etc. All of course, fully consumable. And if by now, you still haven't felt even a bit of chocolate craving, here is something that I had the toughest time resisting.

French macaroons and dark chocolate with hazel nuts stacked so lovingly and waiting to be deliciously consumed! Indeed, after all this excitement I was trying hard to notice the other sights, sounds and smells on the street. Had to work hard. Real hard.

Finally started noticing that there were flowers all over the place. All streets were full of flowers in so many colours. In pots, hanging from posts, sprouting from sills, you name it. Also distinctly noticeable was the fact that people in France love their four legged friends. Dogs of all sizes, shapes, colours, breeds were visible on leashes, in handbags, in car windows. Watching a dog enjoying the breeze as it was being driven in an open top Mercedes Benz CLK convertible, I thought, 'this dog does have an enchanted life'.

By now, it was evening and we headed back home in Bernard's cute little car. Jia and I helped our host in whatever way possible to cook and set up dinner. The result was simply, magnifique!

I realised that cheese and wine were essential components of any dinner in France. I have to admit some of my tastes, especially red wine, are quite influenced by this wonderful French experience.

Having finished the dinner, topped off with a simple but tasty dessert of crushed apple with cinnamon sprinkled on top, we spent some time chatting before retiring for the night. As I slept off, the next day's agenda brought a smile to my face. I could literally hear the high pitched whines of very powerful engines.

Continued in the next post.


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