Sun Cure in the Côte d’Azur.
 

All beach towns are alike; each non-beach town is non-beachy in its own way.  That’s our overall impression anyway after spending a week in the Côte d’Azur.  It is also an unabashed homage to a great Russian writer whose fellow countrymen-aristocrats and their European peers used to prance around this part of France in search of a “sun cure.”  We, ourselves, were not in need of any kind of cure, really; isn’t living in Paris a cure-all?  We simply had a week off in-between classes and we wanted to go to a warm destination where we could pass lazy days on the beach. 

DAYS   
Day 1
 
Day 2
 
Day 3
 
 
Day 5
 
Day 6
 
Day 7
 
Day 8
 
 
 
Antibes & the Cap:  Put-puttering on two wheels.
 

4 July 2008.  We made a point of waking up early today to rent a scooter and visit a nearby town.  But first was a pit stop at the Monoprix store to get picnic supplies.  We chose Holiday Bikes at 44, boulevard de Lorraine simply because it was the closest to our hotel.  Without a license, we could only rent the sole remaining Yamaha Giggle — a 4-stroke, 50cc scooter in “California Yellow” (don’t laugh) — parked out front.  We said we would take it and after running a deposit charge of a few hundred euros the representative did a walk through with us and instructed us on a few simple operating procedures.  Then, off we went.

 
 
 
|   The wind in your face:  It may be small but this 50cc little beast put us closer to action than any intercity train could.
 

Well, first, it was figuring out how to get the kickstand to come up (you nudge the scooter forward while sitting on it, duh!).  Then, it was finding our balance and at the same time the right direction.  Riot claimed to have ridden a scooter once in Vietnam and, like riding a bike, it did come back, albeit slowly.  The chosen destination was Antibes, 7 miles northeast of Cannes.  With Nez as the navigator, we meandered through the streets of Cannes, keeping an eye out for the arrows that read “Antibes,” and hoping to hug the coast for the view and to avoid the four-wheeled traffic.  But suddenly we came upon a highway entrance and quickly found ourselves riding among the speeding cars on what appeared to be an expressway set high upon the hills.  Staying close to the right shoulder, Riot was relieved every time a car swerved to pass us only to see a line of more cars in the rear view mirrors.

It was thrilling in a slightly different way but before long the 50km/hour chase on the expressway was over as we rode into Antibes.  What we saw was not “one of the most romantic old towns on the Mediterranean coast” we had read about in Fodor’s.  Rather, it was another built-up modern-looking town.  We had to ride a bit more before we actually got to Old Antibes.  There, we found a charming quarter with irregular streets and small maze-like alleys that flowed unexpectedly into an open, shaded square.  It was also hot and a bit humid.

 
Old Antibes is painted pastel, where small shops line
the quaint, quiet streets
and buildings cast long shadows
to relieve the oppressive midafternoon heat
.
 
 

We looked for the shortest route to the beach and found ourselves at the Plage de la Gravette, just outside the town’s stone ramparts.  We sat among the shaded shrubs and had our picnic of baguette, pâté, mimolette, prosciutto, and rosé.  It was an excellent meal and an excellent view.  By then, we decided to join the crowd on the beach and managed to find some straw mats at a bargain.  Because we did not bring out bathing suits, we sat against the fortress wall and read.  The shade cast by the wall slowly crept toward the sea, engulfing us happily within its midst.  It was a perfect time for a nap and we slept until half of the beach was empty.

 
 
 
|   A beautiful day at the beach is even better in the shade; ideal conditions for reading and napping.  As the sign stated, good day, indeed.
 

Next, we secured a map of the area and rode to Cap d’Antibes, specifically in search of the Sentier Tirepoil, “the most spectacular footpath[] in the world,” again according to Fodor’s.  While we were sorting through the one-way streets of Old Antibes on our map a nice local asked if he could help us.  He said, or at least what we thought he said, to make a right from where we parked our scooter, go to the wall, and then follow it.  More easily said than done.  But eventually we found ourselves riding on top of the ramparts and passing the eastern length of the cape.  Near the tip of Cap d’Antibes, the road began to be lined with high walls, one after another, shielding the pricey villas from peering eyes.  After a few false turns we finally ended up at the Plage de la Garoupe and the start of the walk.

| |   The Sentier Tirepoil starts out gently and flat but builds up quickly to twisting turns over sharp drops.
 

As advertised, it was indeed a nice walk along a rocky lunar terrain that jutted violently into the tranquil sea.  The sun was setting and we wanted to make our way westward to catch its dying rays.  The Sentier Tirepoil was surprisingly built-up, with paved walkway and shiny, stainless steel handrail posts and cables.  We did see the Attention Mort sign but the 1.5 miles that we did walk didn’t exhibit a hint of danger.  After much ups and downs and an encounter with a lone diver practicing his craft (but also taking the time to acknowledge Riot’s thumbs-up encouragement), we found our own promontory on which to rest.  We were hungry and the sun must have already slipped beyond the horizon by then.  

 
 
 
  A lone diver along the way:  It looks like a belly flop but it's not.
  And then there were just the two of us, on a rock somewhere.
 

We had the entire path to ourselves.  The crashing waves provided a perfect backdrop to the start of a beautiful evening.  It was the Fourth of July and we were perched over the Mediterranean Sea.  We tried recalling what we did the last Fourth of July but failed, something we doubted would happen when it came time to recall this one.  The solid rocks beneath us were washed smooth by the centuries of seawater.  Riot recalled an overheard comment Nez’s brother-in-law had made to his son about the cobblestone street of Rothenburg in Germany:  “These rocks have been here for a long time and they will be here long after we’re gone.”  The same was true here on this sliver of land.  But for today, for this brief moment, we were there and Riot turned to watch the remaining glow of the sun bouncing off Nez’s face.

 
  Laughing all the way to the sea:  With a sight like this it’s hard not to be anything but happy.
 

On the way back to Cannes, we stopped by a random town, which turned out to be Juan-les-Pins, for food.  Our path happened upon a happening stretch of town and among the many nightspots and restaurants we decided upon one that served something that looked like bouillabaisse but didn’t have such a dish listed on its menu.  On inquiry, the hostess declared that what we saw was la marmite du pêcheur (literally, fisherman’s pot) and it was “the same thing” as bouillabaisse.  (It wasn’t quite, lacking, at the very least, the fancy way to present and consume a proper bouillabaisse.)  Dinner at Les Arcades was a nice cap to a fun day on the bike.  We even looked like locals with our helmets in tow.  We tried making conversation with the waiter in French, asking for the correct pronunciation of the “Juan” in the town’s name.  It’s pronounced like the French word juin (zhwang) and not the Spanish for Jean.  Interestingly, while les pins came from the pine trees that used to be found around here, no one really knows why the Spanish spelling was chosen for the other part of the town’s name.

 
 
 
  Two of us riding nowhere:  Motoring through the coast of Cap dAntibes.
(Catch a glimpse of Nez filming from the back.)
 
 

Afterward, we hugged the coast for as long as we could and hoped to see darkness when looking in the rear view mirrors for cars.  It was mostly just us for long stretches of the small seaside road, which we thought would take us straight onto La Croisette in Cannes.  But then the road ended and we quickly found ourselves on the expressway again with fast cars and, at this time of night, a constant, frontal cold breeze.  Yet, before too long we were back in Cannes and in front of our hotel.  We made sure to secure our scooter to a “fixed point” because of “many steals,” as the rental representative had repeatedly reminded us.  We also made sure to park it away from any storefront that would use the sidewalk for business in the morning to avoid the ire of its owner.  Having done so, we simply crashed on the welcoming bed.

 
DAYS   
Day 1
 
Day 2
 
Day 3
 
 
Day 5
 
Day 6
 
Day 7
 
Day 8
 
 
Dine Cote dAzur
 
Sleep Cote dAzur
 
A Matter of Numbers
 
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