Yacht filled harbors, fields of lavender, fragrance of fresh pine, Provence a' la marches, hip art galleries, vintage jewelry shops, rural mountainous hiking spots. bohemian sophistication, artists legacies breed, Art Deco architecture, volavents with fresh espressos on Juliet Balconets, David Sedaris' witty novels digested avec du vin rouge a' la fine fromage, sunglasses and flipflops whilst overlooking the seaside, sunset and glamorous beaches.
Try to convince me how the Riviera cannot be my heaven on earth...
2.30am! Ring the alarm!
"Bonjour Hen" I utter in a croaky French accent.
Henry replied, "Non, June, Bonsoir"
I giggled. "Ha! Very funny. Get up Hen, we have a cab booked for 3 for a 4.30 coach to Victoria with a 7.00am flight to catch".
"Err, ok, can I buy a little bit of sleep and some cuddles"? He adds.
"No, sorry, we haven't got time for that, we can cuddle lots when we arrive the Provence but up, now!"
Cab, Coach, Gatwick North Terminal, Security Gates, Board, Air Bound, Land.
Just as we had taxied into the terminal, I whispered "Hen, we are in my most favorite place in the world". He nods in approval at the beauty of the Cote d’Azur.
The view from the window seat as we hovered round the Riviera before touch down was enriched with hues of blue between the sky and the sea. It was absolutely stunning.
We arrive Nice at about 8.30am. It's 26 degrees with a lovely sea breeze blowing our faces as we walk out through the airport exit.
We wander for a bit, get lost and then opt for google maps to walk to Saint Laurent du-var to get the train to our hotel in Juan Les Pins.
A bit about Juan Les Pins (JLP)
JLP is one on my southern France list I have long desired to go to. It's a town in the commune of Antibes on the Cote d’Azur. Its between Nice and Cannes, two of my most fave cities in the world. The lovely Antibes has stolen mine and the hearts of so many artists and writers: including Graham Greene, Max Ernst and obviously Picasso, who featured the town in many of his paintings and now has a museum dedicated to him, which of course we visited.
Nearby Cap d'Antibes, is a wooded cap studded with seaside mansions. The 2km beach resort of Juan-les-Pins, was famously the home of F Scott Fitzgerald, who lived there with his wife Zelda and daughter Scottie until 1927 (their house is now a posh hotel). I read Great Gatsby as part of my core literature module in 3rd Year. The movie was a bit of a joke though. My connection with this town and Fitzgerald was a reality.
Anyway, seeing as we couldn't afford the daily rate at 'Fitzgerald's 'former-home-turned posh- hotel', we opted for a family owned, chic French boutique hotel. Eden.
Really my style!
Locals claim that only Antibes' attractive old town would be recognisable to any of its famous former residents. That's an amazing fact. The modern town, like many along the Riviera, has sprawled rather unbecomingly along the coast and inland, so the best vantage point is from the sea – ideally in one of the many posh yachts that pull into the port throughout summer.
Considering how knackered and sleep deprived we were, we agree to get some lunch after check-in and have a nice Provence early afternoon nap, errr just like the rest of the French.
2hrs later, We head to the Le Promenade resturant recommended by the hotel as one of the best for lunch. A family owned business as well. I noticed how the owners of Eden hotel were quick at recommending family owned local restaurants and businesses to their guests. I almost could have interpreted it as a genuine way of supporting fellow small businesses such as theirs.
Everytime I walked into those recommended businesses, I always mentioned that Eden directed us here! Just in case they are meant to be paid commission.
Le Promenade was just about to close for lunch, managed to get in quickly to grub some original charcuterie with some quality French fromage, fresh sea bream and salmon caught on the day. We stayed away from wine for lunch...
The sun was so intense at 2pm, we had to run back to our air-conditioned room. Not of course after a lovely walk on a'la plage to cool off!
I love the French Juliet Balconets. It's one my little favorite quirks. Ours overlooked the sea from the south of the hotel and was absolute pure therapy for my soul every evening.
After a lovely little siesta, we head to one the poshest restaurants in Antibes for dinner, Cap Riveria. We order top class French cuisine and classic Provence du vin as we absorb the fantastic view overlooking the beach while the sun set. This was heaven on earth.
Hen and I noticed the fact that we were the only young couple in Cap Riveria but to add to that, I was the only black person in the restaurant. We laughed about it. It's never strange to me to often be the only young black female in many places I find myself in Europe or even other parts of the world. I am conditioned to enjoy doing things a lot of African/black young women may not necessarily be interested in and that, my friends is a fact of life tens of people have eluded to. The down side is I do get 'the stares'. Hen thinks it's because "I am stunning". I honestly don't know about that!!
But anyway back to my evening before I totally digress.
After dinner, we take a lovely walk in town and spot the cocktail Bar, PamPam with full blown entertainment, red lights and music sprawling into the night. We go in to watch the Brazilians dance in this hippy cocktail bar as drummers lead the rhythm and direction of the natives.
The name of the bar reminded me of my sister-inlaw, Pamela. 'PamPamPam' is her pet-name at home. I told Henry and we laughed at the coincidence.
To end off such a fantastic first day, we, of course head for a swim in the private beach of Garden Hotel, just across our hotel.
And that's day 1 of my 2016's Summer Riveria jaunt.
Anyway, without writing a novel about my stay in Juan Les Pins, (because I just can't help myself!) these are some of the beautiful things we did in this beautiful town in no particular order:
Musee Picasso. You need a bit of Pablo inspiration please! The man was beyond genius. Musee de Raymond Peynet. Not everyone's cup of tea. However a little bit of satirical comedy translating in art was refreshing :)
Jardin Botanique de la villa thuret (if you love nature/parks & exotic gardens)
The historic Fort Carre was worth a view!
Bastion St Jaume- Promenade des Arts walkway to the harbour/yachts (sea side)
Beach time - we had lots of it!
Visited Hotel Belles Rives- Home to Fitzgerald and got a feel for what his home looked like.
Wandered around Vieil Antibes ( the old town)
Lit a candle in the Cathedral Notre Dame and said a prayer or two.
But we also checked out the historic pilgrimage chapel, Notre Dame de bon port la Garoupe. It was an intimate and spiritual experience for us both! Mind your head if you are as tall as us when entering and exiting the chapel.
Checked out the Nomade at the Bastion Saint-Jaume and took a sneak peek and of course a few photographs.
A few of the local French Restaurants we ate could pass for Michelin starred. I don't know whether it's my obsession for French cuisine but Hen did think the same.
Restaurant Le J - for the food enthusiasts, talk about culinary inspiration. My highlight here was the octopus salad with this fresh summer organic Provence wine called Domaine de la fouquette, cuvee aurora, cote de Provence. Please make sure you try it if you ever visit the Provence.
Le Promenade - bistro style and great for life lunches.
Cap Riveria - fancy pants for fine dinning or romantic date nights. Be ready in £££!!! and make sure you make a reservation at least 24 hrs before.
Didn't lift my purse for this one :)
Eat the freshest mussels and escargot in Le Capitole another quality and intimate family-owned restaurant.
L'horizon is another fab one for lunches.
PamPam serve the most exotic cocktails I have ever tasted ever (and I have tasted quite a few!) plus they serve complimentary and unlimited nibbles, the best salted chilly popcorn and tasty organic peanuts.
And because I am a sucker for Provence flea markets, I obviously got some Provence lavender, cooking herbs, amongst other bits and bobs from Marche Provencal.
Make new friends with the locals. We did. We met this lovely local couple at dinner at the Le Capitole Restaurant.
And of course Je' parle' Francais un peu!
Upon conversations with them, I realised they were actually Sicilian born French locals in their 50s. We drank and got to know each other but I had to translate to Hen as he cannot speak or understand basic French for the life of him!
As I finished off the last of my mussels, they double kissed me on the cheeks and hugged me goodbye. We got more tips of amazing places to visit in Antibes.
I get to make friends for life too when I meet people on trips. My travel stories are beyond me...
We ate breakfast in random local patisseries consisting of freshly baked basket of pastries - croissants, volauvents, madeleine, pain au raisins, pain au chocolat, palmiers and fresh baked coffees.
So when I count the towns in Southern France that I have been to, I am somewhat content at my travel pace and I suppose as one of my favourite places in the world, I haven't done too badly with 'whoring' across geographical boundaries in my ambitious quest not just to travel the world before I am 40 but to know the ins and outs of SoF as it may be an option amongst a few more to where I plan to go back to for a few life milestones.
To date I have covered: Antibes
Juan Le Pins
Uzes (my heart is here)
Avignon (oh the Pont du Avignon over the River Rhone was worth my highlights in 2012!)
Saint Laurent du-var
Monaco (well, kinda borders east from the Cote d' azur so ideally should count)
Aix en Provence
St Remy de Provence
And that ladies and gentlemen was how I spent a small part of my summer.
In short, J'aime le sud de la France avec tout mon coeur 💗
Written in September 2016