Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Romance of the Riviera - Antibes

By Leo Babauta

July 4, 2012

Antibes, a tiny town on the French Riviera known for its vacationing sunbathers, in some ways was built by F. Scott Fitzgerald and his group of hip, bohemian friends in the 1920s.

With the sun beating down on you, the Mediterranean Sea a heartbreaking deep azure, cool after the heat of the white-sand beach, you think of this group of friends that included Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Coco Chanel and others. They lounged on these same beaches, before anyone else thought it was fashionable to come to the French Riviera to sunbathe. They raked the seaweed from these shores before anyone cared whether the beaches were beautiful. They wore fashionable beach clothes with sailor stripes, drank cocktails and listened to jazz, when this was only a sleepy fishing town.

It's easy to fall in love with Antibes and the Riviera. It's all day with nothing but sun, an occasional cloud giving you the mercy of its shade, lying on the beach getting a tan, taking a dip in the cooling clear waters or going for a longer, tiring swim if you're feeling the need for exercise. It's French food for lunch and dinner, crepes and gelato and wine from Cote de Provence. It's strolls in the moonlight in front of expansive beachfront villas that belong to the famous and wealthy, beach parties at night, dancing into the early morning hours, jazz musicians playing on the street while everywhere around you is the seductive sounds of the French language floating through the air.

This is how I feel as we lounge on a beach filled with laughing, playing, relaxed people, mostly from France but also from the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. There are young women in bikinis, young men with lithe bodies and lean stomachs, older ladies without tops on, older gentlemen proudly strutting around in Speedos, toddlers splashing in the shallows while others make sandcastles or play paddleball.

Earlier today, Noelle was sick so we stayed in, going out for a quick quiche for the kids, while I bought fresh fruit and veggies at the open-air market along with some wine and a baguette, Provencal style. I made some pasta with wine and bread for me and Eva for lunch.

When Noelle felt better, we headed for the beach, trying out a new one (Plage de Salis) just one beach over from yesterday's beach. It was just as popular, just as beautiful, but today there was a bit of cloud cover so it wasn't as mercilessly hot. I took a long swim in the lovely waters, in between tanning sessions and reading Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (brilliant, by the way). Noelle and Seth played in the sand and enjoyed the shallow waters, while Maia swam in the deeper parts practically the whole time we were there. Eva read and swam while the boys swam and dug huge holes in the sand.

The kids were craving pizza so we stopped at a nearby pizzeria and they ate while Eva and I had some wine. Later, Eva and I had a date: some delicious vegetarian Indian food at a quiet little spot in the old Medieval part of town, then a walk around the cape (Cap d'Antibes) with some fantastic views of the Mediterranean and the boats and lit-up sea towns. The moon was heavy and full, and a spectacular shade of deep reddish orange that we'd never seen before -- it had us stunned.

That was our day, and one I'll never forget. I'm in love with the Mediterranean and the French beaches, and the romance of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Picasso on these very sands.

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