Since my first visit in south of France I saw this place again but only from the train’s window during my even more epic train journey from Portugal to Poland in 2005 (that one took me a month). But a while ago the idea of going back there, even if just for the weekend, to explore the French Rivera again came to my head and I actually liked it so much I started following good deals on the flights to Nice. The fact that my friend was about to study there for couple of months this winter was even a bigger motivation to go there. So when last August (a day before my birthday;)) I finally found really cheap tickets for January I didn’t hesitate too much and booked them right away.
I knew that of all the places around Nice the most I wanted to go back to Antibes. And I did. The weather was really awful that day, it was raining big time when I first visited Cannes that morning. The train journey from one town to another was way too short for me to take a rest and dry up for a little while and when I had to use a lot of strong will to actually leave the train in Antibes. My hopes weren’t too high, all I wanted to do was to curl up under the blanket with a cup of hot tea and the book. But that’s not why I came to France after all…
I had a small map with me but, as always I didn’t have any specific route in my mind, I just wanted to walk around and see what the town has to offer. At least it wasn’t raining anymore but instead the wind was so strong it made almost impossible to walk at some points. Very quickly, after a short walk from the train station, I found myself in the huge marina, the biggest one in Europe, full of luxury boats, some of which were the fanciest I’ve ever seen. There were probably thousands of them lined neatly there. In the background I could see a great fortress, Fort Carree, proudly located on the hill surrounded by the see. If not the weather I’d most likely have gone to explore it better but instead I decided to go straight to the old town.
Right after crossing the splendid town gate I felt like I stepped back in time. The maze of narrow streets, totally empty made a huge impression on me and I fall in love with the old town of Antibes right away! I accidentally found abandoned stairs that led me to the most beautiful street in the whole town – Promenade Amiral de Grasse – a small street, enough only for one car, but with the best view of the town, the sea and the rock with huge waves crashing into them. The street circle the old town, showing the best views of the narrow streets full of colorful houses and passing by the Picaso Museum (that I remember I visited back in 1999). The deafening sound of the huge waves accompanied me in that walk and made the whole atmosphere even more haunted. At that point I understood perfectly well why artists such as Picasso found their inspiration in Antibes.
I could have walked up and down the promenade for hours but not in such weather so after a while I’ve decided its time to explore the old town a little bit more. And it was the most charming ever! Narrow streets, the laundry up in the air between two houses (I still don’t get it, with that weather!), closed shutters, flowers next to the doors… and no one around! I felt like I had place just to myself but at the same time I missed some local people around so I could chat with them a little bit. I walked aimlessly around for a longer while, crossing the same streets couple of times (on purpose!).
Suddenly I arrived to the main square where the food market I remembered so well took place. But since it was a later afternoon already there were only sad reminders of rotten vegetables on the ground. Old guys were siting in the nearby cafes, sipping drinks over the card games. Finally some people appeared and Antibes didn’t feel that forlorn anymore. The shopping street that lead from the market didn’t attract too many people either as most of the shops were focused on tourists that couldn’t be found in the town at this time of the year.
When I returned back to the train station it turned out that the last train to Nice left 30 minutes before and the next one will be next day in the afternoon. They were repairing tracks and no trains were going. There was no bus replacement, people at the train station didn’t care at all that I’m a foreigner and I have no idea how to get back to Nice. Fortunately the people in the tourist office (that I somehow managed to find) were much friendlier and explained me which bus I should take etc.
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But even with this downside at the end of my visit in Antibes I loved this place. It was incredibly charming and so beautiful. But I’m not that sure I’d have liked it that much if it I had visited it in the summer time… My time there just reminded me why I enjoy off season travels so much ;)
Have you ever visited seaside resorts off season? Did you enjoy them?
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