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Provence Antibes, on the Côte d'Azur


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A quick post to say we arrived yesterday and already we love it here. Today we just wandered about, dodging rain showers. The sun and temps in the high 60s to 70 is forecast for this week, starting tomorrow.

This is where the car service from the airport dropped us off at 6:30. Took a quick photo before we walked a block to the vacation rental and checked in.


It rained today. This is our street in the wet. The house we rented is lovely! Beautiful, very old, comfortable.

Today was sunny and 70F - lovely. We walked out this morning and our part of town, the old town near the market, was empty. Everything closed! But 10 minutes of walking towards the more central part of Antibes, around Place du Charles de Galle, and the shops and cafes were open, people were out and about.

We sat in a cafe and had coffee and croissant - one of the things I was looking forward to doing. Then we found the tourist office and the train station.

Yesterday we found a good naturals foods store near us, but today we found a very good larger one near the tourist office. They have everything I need for cooking - we picked up some of our staples. We usually do most of our own cooking. We walked by a nice looking Moroccan restaurant and will go there on night for a vegetable tagine. We will go to fish restaurant one night (Steve eats fish).

After lunch at "home" we took the bus to the Cap d'Antibes to do the walk there. The bus runs once an hour and the stop is just 10 mins from us. The local buses all cost 1 euro! Shockingly cheap to someone living in the UK where a 15 min ride can cost £4! From the Fountaine bus stop we walked to Plage de la Garoupe where the trail around the top of the Cap d'Antibes starts.

There were a lot of people walking the trail. It is school holidays in the UK and here too I think. The trail was fabulous, right along the sea, below the villas that fill this area. The first half of the trail is stone and concrete with railings. The sea water splashes onto the trail in spots. Some people were dressed for walking but we saw many groups wearing city clothes and clutching fashionable handbags.

Half way along the trail became easier, going through trees. It took us an hour and a half from leaving the bus stop to get back to the bus stop. A beautiful walk!

View from the trail.


This group walked ahead of us for awhile, dawdling along, tapping on their phones, taking up the whole path. We finally passed them here when they stopped to admire the view.


We came to an area where people were swimming.

I'd love that walk! It would probably take me 2.5 hours though. My legs are so much shorter than yours that I can never keep up with your pace!
I think you could have kept up with me. We are much slower these days.

We will do another one or two of these "Cap" walks and I will keep track of which is best.

Tomorrow the plan is to drive to Le Thoronet, one of the Three Sisters Cistercian abbeys. I've only seen one of them, with you @Chris - when it was closed and we could only peak at it! Since @Janie wrote that article about them for ST I've wanted to see them.

On a less peaceful topic, we have twice seen groups of military with big guns walking or driving around Antibes. Also armed guards in the train station. Our taxi driver said tourism is down 15% since the Nice attack. But Antibes was very busy over the weekend and lots of people about today.
That bit of sea where people were swimming looks nicely sheltered (in contrast to those other pics). Any plans to go swimming yourself?!
I didn't get to do any of the Cap walks while in Villefranche so I'm looking forward to hearing more about them. I used the bus system a lot while there. It was easy and more frequent than the trains albeit more crowded. Sometimes it was a crazy pushing crowd to get on the bus at the main terminus in Nice - especially with your hands full of goods from the market. It is amazing that the cost hasn't gone up.
Overcast and drizzling today with real rain only in the morning while we were walking to the train station to pick up our rental car. Warm - high 60s.

We drove to Frejus and got a parking spot on the street beside the Roman Amphitheater - but it had just closed (noon). We walked around it and could see enough from outside the fence. Not as wonderful as the amphitheaters at Nimes or Arles and they had built modern bits in it.

Drove to the other side of town to see the remains of the Roman aqueduct that came from the mountains near Mons to Frejus, which was a large Roman port town. Much of the aqueduct was underground but as it came into Frejus it was on the top of large arches. We saw some a few miles out of town, then some in a park closer to the center, and more as we drove to the center.

Aqueduct remains in the park.


For lunch we had peanut butter sandwiches sitting on a bench by the aqueduct. Yes, food capital of the world and we make our own sandwiches :) but we used great French bread!

Walked around the historic center of Frejus. Not that interesting. Outside of Frejus is a huge shopping mall. Not a pretty area, but those aqueduct remains were great. We will seek out the start of it near Mons.

Drove further west on the autoroute, then up into the mountains to Le Thoronet Abbey, a Cistercian Abbey built in the 1100 - 1200s. This is one of the Tree Sisters, three Cistercian abbeys in Provence. It was misty up there, but it made it look magical. The layout was similar to other Cistercian abbeys we have seen. A large church, cloisters - no longer in use but the buildings in very good repair.



It took an hour to drive back to Antibes and we were home by 5:30. These were good things to do on a wet day.

No more rain in the forecast. Overcast and warm tomorrow then several sunny days. We like Antibes!
Sunny, with a thin layer of cloud, and warm today. We started by driving to nearby Mougins, a foodie hilltop village, which I hated. A perfect village, everything remodelled, lined with restaurants and art galleries. Not even a nice cafe to sit at. I am bored with these perfect towns that are all for tourists. Yesterday Steve said that while we love France, if we drank wine and ate dead animals, we would love it more. I think if you were going to Mougins to have a long lunch you would like it. I was warned that I wouldn't like it, but I wanted to see it.

We walked around it then changed our plans for the day. We decided we needed a hike so we drove further inland to Mons. It was only 30 minutes in the car to Mougins and then another 50 minutes to Mons, but in that drive we went way up in altitude and it changed to windy and cold fall weather.

The first part of the drive, off the autoroute towards Feyance, was extended suburb. Then the GPS decided to take a shortcut and we drove on narrow lanes right into the town of Tourettes, where we had to squeeze between stone buildings almost driving over doorsteps to get through. Well done GPS you saved us 5 minutes of driving but took a few years off my life. Luckily Steve was driving.

Finally back on a "main" road heading north that got narrower and more winding as we climbed towards Mons. Suburbs and villages gone now, just woods and rock mountains. There was not much traffic but what there was came hurtling towards us pretending the road was wide enough (it wasn't).

At last we reached Mons, a cute but not too cute village perched on the edge of a deep gorge. The wind was howling. The only people about were a couple of guys doing roadworks, an older woman leaning out her window to watch us and two other visitors as we realised there was nothing open here. One restaurant looked like it might open someday. The other had a sign saying it would re-open April 2017. We sat on a bench, in the park on the edge of the gorge, in a wind so strong that it blew my purse off the bench, and ate peanut butter sandwiches.

This was the view.


We walked around the town which had some lovely bits and a blasting wind.


I have had Mons on my list for years because there are four vacation rentals there that have interested me. I almost rented one a couple of years ago when we instead went to Forcalquier (great town, hideous vacation rental). I didn't even bother looking for the building. We won't be staying there. You could see it might be nice there in the summer but it is a long drive to anything.

The hike, walk 21 Gorges de la Siagne from the Sunflower guide, starts 6.8 kilometres from Mons, down an even more narrow lane into the gorge. I wanted to see the start of the Frejus aqueduct and Roche Talliers, a passage cut into the rock by the Romans. But there was no way we were going to drive on more narrow roads.

We didn't want to go back the way we came, so drove north, climbing higher, until we reached a main road that goes from Sisteron to Grasse - the Route d'Napoleon. This drive was incredible! The road went along the edge of Rocky Mountains and a big gorge. Big views - very dramatic.

When reached Grasse we were back in the more populated area. We ended up driving through the center of Grasse which was nothing like I had pictured it. It sprawls down the side of a steep hill. The center looks interesting but the signs for all the perfume factories and outlets unnerved me so we drove through. (Grasse is a center of perfume production where they take a tiny amount of natural flowers and mix them with toxic chemicals, including a lot of parabens, to create products that make me feel sick when I smell them.)

We got back to Antibes around 4pm and it was overcast and drizzling just a bit. Too much driving! And bad trip planning. But we got to see an area I have been curious about.

We have the car for two more days and I think we will concentrate on more coastal areas. Next up is Menton!
I always love your descriptions, but they always make me laugh when you're a bit grumpy about what you're seeing... I'm pretty sure Frank and I were on that road from Sisteron to Grasse many years ago.
Sunny and 72F! Summer!

The plan was to spend a few hours in Menton but we didn't make it. We drove to the train station at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and walked the trail around Cap Martin with views first to Monaco and later to Menton and Italy. This was an out and back walk for us, 40 minutes each way, but I think you could continue on to the next train station or to Menton. You would be walking on roads. A local hiking guide shows a way of doing a circular walk in two hours. The trail was different from the Cap d'Antibes trail. It was paved, like a wide sidewalk, but went up and down, just short ascents, as it made its way around the Cap. The Antibes trail was more uneven and rocky, and closer to the water. It was an easy walk and there were a lot of people out. Great views of the cluster of high rises that makes up Monaco and, in the other direction, of Menton with its long beach. We had our sandwiches sitting on a bench along the trail.

The walk is named for the architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, who drowned while swimming there in 1965. Apparently the currents are strong, so no swimming for us, but it was hot enough to!

If you want to do this walk, take the train. Driving wasn't the best way to get there and parking at the train station, while free, is limited.

View from the trail to Monaco.


The trail.


Another photo of the trail.


We had a late start to the day so it was 2:30 when we finished the walk and it was hot, so we decided to skip Menton and head back to Antibes. We had to drive above Monaco to get back to the autoroute and just as we were about to make the turn, I saw a sign for Eze and headed towards it (Steve drives out, I drive back, so I was driving). I remembered @Chris visiting Eze on her recent trip.

Eze is a perfectly preserved medieval village perched high on a rocky hilltop. The modern part is below on the main road that cuts across the middle of the mountains (Moyenne Corniche). There is another part of Eze way below by the train station nearly at water level. There is a popular trail that climbs from the train station to Eze, named after the philosopher Nietzsche who walked the trail regularly. It is a 60 - 90 minute walk straight up. I can't find the different altitudes but I think it is about a 500 meter ascent and that is to the base of the village. Another 200 meters up to the viewpoint in the gardens at the top. You have to pay 6 euro to see the view but it is worth it.

From the top of Eze looking down to the village and the coast far below. Cap Ferrat in the distance. The plan is to walk that Cap on the weekend.


Now Eze was just as made for tourists as Mougins, or many other French villages in popular areas, but I liked it for its setting and the views. The streets are cute, but filled with shops.

An easy drive back to Antibes on the autoroute. The traffic is a bit fast and thick here, but it is manageable. I don't really like driving east from Antibes as we did today. It feels like solid city from Cannes to Menton. At least Antibes is near the edge.

Dinner tonight from a nice deli near the market - fresh pasta, sauce, vegetables.

What is it about the dog shit in this country? I read that people don't feel they need to pick it up because the street cleaners deal with it, but they don't get to it immediately and you have to watch your step all the time. I haven't stepped in any - yet.

Pretty flowers along the trail.

The views from the very top of Eze are so amazing! It looks like it was hazier for you than when Sharon and I were there. We could see the ferry crossing to Corsica and see Corsica (just a gray bump on the horizon), and all the way to St. Tropez to the west.

When we were walking back down to the middle village, we met a funeral procession carrying a coffin up the hill to the church. I don't think there was a cemetery up there, so they were probably going to have to carry it back down after the services.
Fabulous view from Èze! I'm sure it's in your plans already, but absolutely don't miss the Villa Ephrussi Rothschild on Cap Ferrat: wonderfully over-the-top architecture and furnishings, and some very gorgeous gardens.
Today was our last day with the car. There are so many things we didn't get to - Menton, Vence and St Paul du Vence, Gordon, hiking at Peillion - all on my to do with car list. We decided to do a hike in the Esterel, the mountain area between Cannes and Frejus.

Today was sunny and warm, high of 66F.

We drove to Theoule-Sur-Mer. I had imagined this area, on the coast around the Esterel, to be mostly uninhabited but, of course, it isn't. The area between the autoroute and Theoule is very modern and suburban. No tacky malls here like surround Antibes, this was upscale boating and golfing. The town of Theoule is on the coast, with a beach and port. The hike starts from the Marie (city hall, also called the Hotel de Ville - are these the same?), so we drove to it and found free parking.

A side note on parking. In Antibes we parked in a modern new car park beside the gate through the walls into old Antibes (Vieux Antibes). The car park is easy to get to and 5 minutes walk from our rental. Plus it has wide spots, there is always space and it has that lighting system that lets you easily see the empty spots (green lights). The cost is €34 for 24 hours!!! Or €61 for the week. It is a bit tricky to purchase the weekly pass but the owners of our rental had provided detail directions.

We had no trouble finding parking anywhere we went. We paid in Eze and a Frejus, but the other places were free. In Frejus we even drove around town to park close to each thing we wanted to see. I don't think it is like this in the summer.

The hike we did was from the Sinflower guide, Walk 6. Easy, 100 meter ascent, 2 1/2 hours. It started out with a gentle clim through the woods to Col Theoule. At that point there were many trails. A French couple who lived nearby convinced us to walk up to a church built by Algerians living in France so we continued uphill for about 20 minutes then gave up and walked that. I thought why not add a bit on since it was an easy, short hike. By the end of the three hours I wished we had skipped that extra bit!

From the Col we had nice views West along the coast. The area reminded us of hiking near Santa Fe with small trees and red dirt.

Views along the coast.


We continued along on a nice trail. It was great to be wearing our hiking boots (first time) and walking on dirt instead of asphalt, concrete or stone. Eventually we were walking above very nice residential areas, then back into the woods climbing higher with nice views. We had lunch (peanut butter sandwiches!!!) at the highest point with views to Cannes.

View from lunch spot.


Then it was a gentle downhill to the sea and a short walk back to town.

The trail comes out to the beach. It was 3pm and the sun was not hitting this area.


Walking back to town.


It was a quick drive back to Antibes and we returned the car at the train station. It was very easy renting from the train station office. No waiting picking up or dropping off. It would have been okay to have the car the whole time. The car service from the airport was €50, and will be the same going back. We didn't want to deal with driving when we arrived.

The next three days we will use buses and trains. We probably won't get to everything I have planned. The forecast is for sunny and 70F for the weekend and just a touch cooler on Monday. We have been very lucky with the weather! Tomorrow I think we will just wander around Antibes some more.
I am happy to hear the Sunflower Guide was useful. I was thinking what would I do with 3 days. Biot is a very easy bus ride from Antibes. http://www.envibus.fr/toutes-les-lignes-urbaines/ligne-10.html. You can do an easy trip to Biot - walk around or have lunch and then return in 3 hours. The tourism office is at 46 Rue Saint-Sebastien. The bus stop is near where D4 curves just above the Tourism Office. I labeled the areas I visited on this Album. If you google map the Tourism Office and then zoom in you'll see the Place des Arcades, Engles de Biot and Rue des Tines. You may be able to follow this historical trail from the Tourism Office. The old town area had a good feel.

Menton may still be an option. All the trains from Nice stop at the main Menton station. From Antibes, you may need to transfer in Nice. You can so bus to Nice and transfer to Bus 100 which will end at Menton. The negative is the train station is in a modern kinda depressing area of the town. You will need to walk down Avenue Boyer toward the Casino. The tourism office is along the way. You can get off Bus 100 near the Casino.

You will then want to head toward Rue Saint Michel (towards Italy) probably via Avenue Felix Faure or the sea front. Your first goal would be Basilique Saint Michel. Our apartment was on Rue Longue which is part of the Roman salt route. You can then explore the old town up from the church with the goal being the Russian Cemetery at the top of the old town. You can also find the grave of Webb Ellis who created the modern sport of Rugby. If you have enough energy, you can also walk beyond the old town to Garavan. Lots of interesting old homes. Katherine Anne Porter author of Ship of Fools stayed a while in this area. Val Rahmeh Garden is also in this area. There is a train station here also but it is infrequent and not manned.

Vence and St Paul de Vence would be a little more difficult. You need to get to Cagnes sur Mer or Nice to get the bus. St. Paul De Vence is one of those villages that are both charming and touristy. The Maeght Foundation is outstanding but a ways from the where the bus stops - not impossible. I think there is a village path to the Foundation from the bus area.

Or you could just relax in Antibes. :)
Thanks Marta! My plan was one day of nothing, train to Cap Ferrat and do the walk, bus or train to Cannes then ferry to island and walk. But I think the Biot day trip you recommend is more likely than Cap Ferrat.

Today we explored Antibes a bit more and had a rest day.

68F and sunny. This house is a bit dark as @Cameron warned but at least we are across from a sunny bit. By midday the sun was coming into the house. The whole old town hides from the sun. One morning we had coffee at cafe by the market and while it was sunny, there was no sun there. Even the cafes closer to the port aren't in the sun. We had to walk more to the center of town, near Place de Galle, to find sun. On hot summer days this shade is probably welcome.

This morning we walked along the water to the main beach in Antibes and beyond. There is a nice promonade along the water, and two long beaches. Plus benches along the promonade.

Home for lunch, then a nap :). Late afternoon we walked on the ramparts around the port. There are some big yachts there!

Antibes is a lovely town. We will come back here, I think.

On the start of the promonade looking back to the old town.


At the main beach looking towards town.


From the end of the second beach, on the edge of town, looking to the promonade and old town.

I'd seen your posts on FaceBook, but like reading the details and seeing more photos here.

I was last in Mougins in 2008. It sounds as though it has gone the way of many other villages--catering to tourism in a way as to no longer feel authentic. That's unfortunate.

I take it you liked the Cap d'Antibes trail? I love walking it. Looking forward to your Cap Ferrat trail report, as I also loved it. I haven't taken the Cap Martin trail, so it's great to see your photos and comments.
I'd love that walk! It would probably take me 2.5 hours though. My legs are so much shorter than yours that I can never keep up with your pace!
Chris: there are actually quite a few walks like that on the French Riviera, a breathtaking one in Roquebrune-Cap Martin, another in St Jean Cap Ferrat, both in these "caps" that jut out into the azur sea.
Sunny and warm (68F) again and the clocks went back last night so we got an earlier start. First we took the train to Cannes. We have never been there. It is very different from Antibes. Lots of designer shops, big hotels line the street along the water and most of the beach is private - for use by hotel guests I think. There are a couple of public beaches and they looked nice.

We had planned to take the ferry to the island of Ste Marguerite, a nature reserve with walking trails (as recommended by @Cameron ) but when we got to the dock area we could see that the ferries were packed to the gills, so decided to skip that. It is a long weekend, plus was school holidays last week, so places are crowded. Probably not as crowded as summer!

Instead we had a good walk on the promenade then took the train back to Antibes. I was happy to see Cannes, but I didn't like it. Antibes is a better town.

The public beach in Cannes with the street of hotels and private beaches beyond.


Looking from the beach in Cannes to the Esterel mountains.


It was still early (12:30) and the bus terminal is behind the train station so we took the bus to Biot (recommended by @Marta and on FB by @Parigi so I knew we would like it).

We were very lucky with transportation today. The train to Cannes was due 8 minutes after we got there giving us enough time to get our ticket from a person instead of the machine and to figure out where the track was, but not enough to run back to the entrance where the only ticket stamping machine was. We got away with it because no one checked our ticket. Coming back from Cannes we waited only a minute or so. And the bus to Biot was pulling in as we got to the station. The bus to Biot was only 1 euro. The train to Cannes was under 6 euro return. The public transportation is very good here. I wish it were that good in England.

We loved Biot! It is different from Mougins and Eze - not as perfect, looks like people live there. It was just as beautiful though. People were sitting out having lunch. We walked all around town which took under an hour.

At the tourist office (where we got the map of the Historic trail for our walk) we asked about the park. It opens again in a couple of weeks (closed because of the damage done by floods a year ago). If it had been open we could easily have walked from the village to the river where the trail takes you through the park area. Next time! That is two good walks that we missed today.

In the historic village of Biot.


One of the old gates to the town.


One more day left! Either Menton or walking Cap Ferrat I think.

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