06/12/2012, Menton, France
Although the locals are complaining that summer is late coming, its not being reflected by the large number of boats starting to zip in and out of the marinas, competing for increasingly scarce visitors berths. After our Antibes experience we decided to start calling ahead to book a berth. Our plan, after leaving Antibes, was to ease our way to the Italian border by overnighting at Villefranche, Monaco and Menton (where we planned to clear out of France) before crossing into Italy and clearing in at San Remo.
In the event Villefranche was full, as was the marina just out side Monaco. And we were too small for Monaco itself. So we settled for an overnight stay at Beaulieu and quick cruise around the Port of Monaco enroute to Menton. Monaco from the sea looks like a rather ugly concrete jungle, but the vessels in the port were beautiful. (Susan subsequently caught the bus back to do a nostalgia return and said Monaco was much more attractive from the land.)
Our arrival in Menton was marked by the arrival of customs officials who seemed to be under the impression we had just arrived from Australia. Quick clarification and checking of our boat's papers, that we had no cigarettes or alcohol (or not much) and less than Eu10000 in cash (as if) - everything ok and they departed with apologies about the lousy summer weather!
Menton itself is a charming Italian looking (and feeling) village right on the French/Italian border. The border itself is about a kilometre from the marina - we will pass into Italy while hoisting our sails as we leave Menton. The cuisine is Italian but menus are in French - with "provencale" tacked on for cover. French and Italian are heard equally and the road signs are in both languages.
Menton has been inhabited since the paleolithic period and is the site of the "Grimaldi Man" find of modern early humans. It has been Roman and part of the Principality of Monaco, the Republic of Genoa and then later the Kingdom of Sardinia before electing in an 1860's plebescite to be French (apparently much to Garibaldi's disgust).
It was popularised by the Brits and Russians in the Victorian and Edwardian era (and still has hotels such as the Royal Westminster, Balmoral, Regency and Victoria along the waterfront). It is now mainly famous for a number of large gardens established during the Victorian period but recently staked another claim- a very large and impressive museum celebrating the life and work of the French poet, writer, artist, dramatist and film maker Jean Cocteau which opened in late 2011.
Our departure for Italy has been delayed by strong south westerlies (feels like a strong Perth sea breeze) which started to blow as we arrived and hasn't eased much for two days. But when it does we are off to San Remo (about 12 miles away) to clear into Italy.
06/09/2012, Port de Beaulieu
We have been in Antibes for 12 days. As Antibes is a major yachting port we decided to stay longer than usual for Trilogy to have her first service and maintenance attended to before exiting France.
We also used the waiting time to take a day trip by bus to Nice (and home by train). Nice is the heart of the French Riviera and after Marseille it is the second largest city on the French Mediterranean coast and the fifth largest in France. We wandered around the impressive new city centre, the old town and inside a 17th century palais. We strolled along the Anglais Promenade, where we puzzled how the sunbathers could possibly be comfortable on the stony beach (no sand in sight), climbed the high point (once a fort) and looked down on a quaint old working harbour that somehow coexists with the tourist yachts and ocean liners. Nice certainly was nice!
We also continued exploring the old town of Antibes. You will see in the photo gallery an ancient lavarie where the women gathered to wash clothes, old 17th century towers and many tiny alleys that ooze with character.
In one of the old streets I discovered the meeting place for the local Rotary Club, which I attended last Monday. Once behind the big old door I stepped into a beautiful courtyard where the dinner meeting was held under the stairs. The entree was a slice of black pudding pizza, followed by veal liver steak plus mash and an apricot tart for dessert. Before and during the meal, wine was served and they finished the night with a shot of limioni.
We have also enjoyed the work of sculptor designer Sylvain Subervie who had many of his pieces displayed around the Port of Antibes for the Classic yacht regatta. It was interesting for me to become familiar with the different classes for old yachts; vintage (built before 1950), Classic (built before 1976) and Spirit of Tradition and Metre Classes.
While in Antibes we spent half the time berthed in the marina and the other half anchoring in a gorgeous bay that had old Antibes as the backdrop (fabulous when lit at night) and a sandy beach with pontoon where we could safely secure the dinghy when going ashore. I particularly enjoyed the anchoring off shore, as it meant several swims off the back of the yacht. It was a pleasure to give Trilogy a clean around the waterline. A good workout and lots of fun.
Also in Antibes Rick purchased a folding bike (plus basket) which is an Orbea made in Finland with 20-inch wheels and six speed gears. It folds up quite easily and fits in our huge bow locker.
Finally, finally, finally, the Beneteau maintenance and repairs are completed and we are ready to depart for Beaulieu-sur-Mer which is not far from Monaco.
06/03/2012, Antibes, France
We arrived at Antibes after a short motor sail from Cannes and listened to the Antibes Capitainerie (Harbour Master) tell each yacht that radioed to request a berth in the marina, that it was full. As we needed urgent repairs to our bowthruster and generator we decided to approach them personally to seek assistance. This was met with staunch resistance as the biggest regatta in Antibes for classic yachts was due to start and all available space was committed.
However we eventually persuaded a kindly mature age gentleman in the Harbour Police to let us raft up beside another yacht for a short time while we had the repairs carried out. This arrangement was quite short-lived however as a neighbouring yacht complained to the Capitainerie and we were told to leave. So we motored out to anchor in the bay which was actually very pleasant. We also got practiced at setting up the dinghy and outboard motor for transport to and from shore.
Sailing is a very big sport in France and we saw several groups of school children learning to sail in Optomist Class dinghies and in small catamarans. One group sailed close by our stern and they were laughing and singing and obviously thoroughly enjoying the 3 hours of sailing per week that they have as part of the school curriculum.
The regatta is called Les Voiles d'Antibes and it certainly attracts an amazing collection of beautifully restored classic yachts from the late 19th century through to a pair of Australian 12 metre yachts (South Australia and Kookaburra 111). Amongst the classics I spotted Cambria (a 40 metre J boat from around 1928), Altair (1931), Moonbeam 111 (1903) and Moonbeam 1V (1914), and at least 50 other large classic yachts dating back to 1892. This regatta is not for the impoverished.
While waiting for parts to arrive to repair the generator we watched the two 12 metre yachts conducting short match races which was quite a buzz as it reminded me of the heady days of the Americas Cup in Fremantle 1987.
There are some seriously large super yachts in Antibes, presumably for the regatta, including Le Grand Bleu, which was one of the largest private vessels in the world at 370 ft, previously owned by Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, before he gifted it to his friend Eugene Shvidler.
On board it carries 50 crew, two 3600 HP engines plus a 74 ft sailing yacht and a 67 ft motor cruiser for those hard to access places. Inconveniently for M. Shvidler an even larger mega yacht was anchored nearby complete with helicopter.
We have now had the generator repaired by replacing the raw water impeller, and by clearing out the remains of the old impeller, but we are waiting for a relay for the bowthruster which has been promised for Monday. We have also managed to get a berth in the marina until Tuesday so we are hopeful that we can get most of the repairs completed before we have to leave.
Antibes does have some interesting places to see including a fabulous collection of Picasso paintings, sculptures and ceramics beautifully displayed in the Pucasso Museum in what was once the Grimaldi Chateau (1608) but was subsequently the town hall of Antibes before becoming the first museum to be dedicated to Picasso. He donated many of the paintings and art works to the museum and in 1990 Jacqueline Picasso donated another 22 items. I was particularly taken by a photograph of Pablo with hime holding a small owl. The two pair of eyes appeared almost identical.
06/01/2012, Antibes, France
Following Cannes our plan was to go to Antibes where arrangements were being made to fix the bow thruster and service the engine and gen set. We hadn't counted on Antibes also hosting the opening regatta of the classic yachts at the same time. The harbour was fully committed to the large number of old yachts and there was no room at the inn. So we have anchored off, in a beautiful bay outside old town Antibes, waiting for a berth. It could be another day or another week, but a great time to be hanging around taking in the classic yachts' regatta.
We were a touch anxious when Trilogy entered the Port de Cannes, as the Captainairie took longer than usual to respond to John's radio call requesting a berth. While we waited Rick was very focused as he brilliantly held Trilogy's position (no thanks to Trilogy's unreliable bow-thruster) in a confined space, while mega yachts entered and departed the harbour by the minute. Cannes appeared to be a very busy place. Unbeknown to us, we had timed our arrived for the last 3 days of the Cannes Film Festival, according to the tour guide, the second biggest media event in the World after the Olympics! WOW ...
Not sure how we scored a berth within a 5min walk of THE red carpet. With such an invitation waiting, we ventured forth and saw Nicole Kidman walking up the red carpet surrounded by officials, paparazzi and adoring fans. WOW again...
Towering above our berth was a summit with a 17th century Gothic Church (used as a hospital during WWII) perched on the top. At night it was superbly lit and reminded me of a small Edinburgh castle. Fifty metres to the other side of Trilogy are mega motor yachts, one with a strange sun canopy on the bow, that looked like an Arabian tent. The centre for the Film Festival is immediately behind these mega yachts. Directly in front of Trilogy are rows of white function tents that require an official pass to gain entry. Rick and John seem to have no trouble sitting in Trilogy's cockpit, watching the passing parade with a G&T plus cheese from the local market.
From the top of the summit we gained a splendid view of the harbour and the Festival Centre, the long swooping beach and la Croisette, where many movies have been made. This grand parade is also the location for amazing hotels that cater to the rich and famous. One was where Prince Rainier of Monaco first met Grace Kelly. John made the comment, that you know when you are mixing with the rich and famous when the tourist brochure lists helicopters under public transport along side taxis and buses!
The area of narrow streets that weave their way to the summit, was once a medieval village and now makes a perfect setting for many sweet little cafes. On Saturday night we dinned out at 'Gavroche', and my sardine pate followed by the breast of duck with blackberry sauce was superb. Further into the town the retail shopping was equally good and John was seen returning to the yacht with a TBS bag.
While on my morning walk, I spotted people queuing to see a film. People in the queue appeared to have passes, which I did not. However, when I explained to the ticket collector that I came from the same country as Nicole Kidman, they laughed, threw up their hands and allowed me entry to see a terrific Scottish film, called 'The Angel's Share'.... a good movie to watch out for !
Tonight is the closing ceremony for the Cannes Film Festival and I believe the rich and famous will be arriving at the red carpet within 30 mins. As this could my last chance to brush with fame, I need to put on my Gill wet weather gear (it's raining) and jostle my way through the crowds.
Oh... I can't finish the blog without pointing out that the tour guide also, made the comment 'some of the best yachts in the World berth at Port De Cannes'. These words put a smile to my face as I looked across at Trilogy!
Ahhhh! At last its starting to look like the Med of the brochures.
The rain cleared, the sun came out, the sky and the Med turned blue just in time for our entrance. St Tropez sparkled in the sun while snow covered alps glittered in the distance.
St Tropez, colonised and painted by many French impressionists was eventually put on the map by Bridget Bardot following the filming of "Et Dieu Crea la Femme " (And God Created Woman) in 1956.
Its largely a tourist town to be seen in. Dress to the nines and wear lots of bling if going out at night. Not a place to be seen in shorts and thongs - although we did see some models who had been body painted ready for a cocktail hour who only had the thongs.
Plenty of fashion shops(the chandlery and nautical clothing boutiques were ok too), restaurants and really, really large motor yachts . Nice place to visit for a short while. Not much of historical importance survived WWII although the citadel was built in 1620 and is currently being restored.
There is a good art gallery (Annonciade Museum) with a fine collection of the impressionists who painted here - Matisse, Bonnard, Braque, Denis, Seurat and Signat among many. Its located in a chapel from the 1500's which was converted in the 1950's to house the collection donated by M. Georges Grammont. An excellent retrospective of the French artist Charles Dufresne's Algiers and Africa works was also showing at the museum.
We all had a good day wandering, shopping and oggling super yachts (noting one super yacht flying both the Cayman Islands and the Aussie flags).
Settled down late afternoon on the back of Trilogy for the passigeatta with a G&T and some excellent French cheeses before taking ourselves out to dinner - along with everyone else in St Tropez doing the same.
After St-Tropez we are off to Cannes for the tail end of the famous French film festival.