Sunday, August 14, 2005


Ten years ago today - Antibes and Cannes

7:15 pm, 14 August 1995
Antibes Youth Hostel, France

Je suis ici! Je suis en France, à la côte d'azur. Et la côte, c'est trés belle ici!

I spent the day wandering today. First I checked out Antibes, beginning my day with a 1/2 hour walk along the coast into town. It was the most beautiful view. Having seen it in pictures and on TV and knowing it isn't called the "azure coast" for nothing still did not prepare me for the beauty, the breathtaking blue colour, the stunning clarity of the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the coast is rocky, big lava-rock igneous type boulders. The locals sun themselves on the boulders, the sandy stretches in between, the promenades, the piers, whereever and everywhere.

While walking toward town, I felt like I should be hearing a 'lifestyles of the rich and famous' narrative. Holy opulent housing, Batman! Huge pastel 'cottages' (read: mansions large enough to house several small nations) set back from the sea and separated from the peons (read: me) wandering down the road by winding driveways footed by automatic gates and monitored by intercoms and closed-circuit cameras. It was so Beverly Hills, with all the opulence and the palm trees and the massive pastel stucco haciendas. Someday when I'm *really* rich...

But back to reality. It was a really nice walk. The morning wasn't too warm (not even Hades would seem too warm after Rome) and the view - well, I already prattled on about the view.

9:30 pm, same day
still at the hostel

Sorry, I was interrupted by dinner. As institutional affair, but food is food regardless of aesthetic value. I had dinner with basically the only 'adults' (i.e. over 21) at the hostel. This particular hostel seems overrun by screaming adolescents. Anyway, I dined with Nino, a big biker-looking but extremely personable Aussie, his sidekick the hardly-English-speaking German Dom, and a bunch of Spanish Italians. Nino invited me into town with them for some fun and mischief, but I declined. I've decided to be a little more adventerous, but I have a feeling that my buddy Nino has a different tolerance for trouble than me.

So I'm here on my bed with the dorm room all to myself, trying not to feel like too much of a woosie.

Tomorrow, however, I will be adventurous. Tomorow... but I'm getting ahead of my story. So I wandered around vielle Antibes for a bit, but was pretty disappointed. The beach and marina were cool, but the downtown core left something to be desired. I had figured the Riviera would be like Grand Bend times a thousand, but it was pretty lame. Mostly real estate and insurance offices. Even the Picasso museum is closed on Mondays. So, I hopped on a train rode 15 minutes west, to Cannes.

Cannes did not let me down. Cannes is the embodiment of what the Riviera should be: great beach, expensive shops with seedy shops around the corner; haute coiture and haute cuisine and hot dog stands on the beach. Cannes was cool!

Again I found myself near the beach, as I had been during my morning walk in Antibes, but not ready to allow myself to indulge in the long-awaited pleasure of the beach of all beaches. Then, I noticed them. In the air, being pulled by waterski boats. As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to -- parasail!! So I walked down to the pier they seemed to be originating from for details. No experience required, no need for upper body strength (memories of being dragged face-first around the Niagara River in waterski gear) and the completely outrageous cost of 300 francs. I'm not even going to convert that figure. But regardless of cost, I knew I had to do it. It was either that or scuba diving, and I think the view would be better from above!

I decided to wait until tomorrow because tomorrow is a national holiday of some sort, and a lot of other things will be closed. I'm going to the Picasso museum in the morning and this should be enough of an event for the afternoon. Of course, I'm on the Riviera, who needs events to fill the day? Sun, sun, sun!

On with the day's events - are you bored to tears yet? I got back into Antibes around 3 pm and finally allowed myself the pleasure of the beach. I bought myself one of those funky woven mats everyone has and headed for the sand. Unlike what I saw in Venice, the nicest beaches here seem to be the public ones. So I found myself a tiny stretch of sand (an accomplishment in itself) and claimed my territory. And yes, they are topless beaches, and yes I did! Not everyone was topless; maybe 1/3 to 1/4 of the females were. So with a liberal application of sunscreen, I stretched out to soak up the sun. After I had baked myself for a bit, the water looked especially appealling. After a moment's consideration, I put my bikini top back on (there's a limit to my bravado) and headed for the surf. To my surprise, it was cool and salty. For some reason, I thought the Mediterranean was freshwater. I didn't stop to think out what exactly would be filtering out all the ocean salt - just never really thought about it at all.

Anyway, I had a nice splash-about, went back to the beach and baked for a bit, back to the water again - nirvana! I was being really brave in the open water by Dani-standards, even swimming out to depths over my head. I could see bottom, so I was quite content. Then, as I waded back into shore with a careful eye open for land sharks, I saw a jellyfish floating in front of me. I immediately levitated to a height of two feet above the water and zoomed into shore, or so it seemed. I was pretty psyched out by it, but these kids came up with a net and scooped it up and dropped it into a garbage can on the beach. I saw it happen a few more times during the afternoon. So now I wade in to the water carefully, with eagle eyes, only as far as necessary to cool off. I guess they can't be too poisonous or people would be more freaked out about them, but considering my personal intolerance for such minor afflications as mosquito bites, I don't think I want to be dealing with jellyfish stings. And no, I don't have a sunburn in any unmentionable areas.

I realize looking back that I've only had my passport stamped twice - once on arrival in Schipol in Amsterdam, and once in Italy coming from Austria. I had to present my passport at the station in Austria coming from Germany, but no stamp. No one even going into Germany from Holland or France from Italy. I guess the whole EC thing has really loosened the borders. It hasn't done much to merge the cultures, though.

The Dutch and the Austrians were the nicest people, and the Dutch the most likely to speak English. The Germans seem the most uptight, and there are police everywhere in Italy. The Germans bring their dogs everywhere, and most have tiny frou-frou dogs like Yorkshire Terriers or bichon frieze that they carry in bags (stores, restaurants, ferries, everywhere.) Amsterdam, Venice and Rome were filled with cats - maybe the dogs have a problem with canals?

In Rome, I had tried to get to see a museum with a bunch of Bernini sculptures, including a David I had read about, but after walking for 20 minutes to get to the museum I found it closed an hour before it was supposed to be with no explanation. Disappointed and dragging my feet on the 45 minute walk home, I noticed a fountain in a park. Some of the fountains in Rome you can drink from, so I went in for a closer look. I noticed two or three cats near the fountain and made that "here kitty" psssss-wssss sound. Before I knew it, cats were coming out of the woodwork! Maybe 15 or 20 cats altogether of varying breeds and ages. Most were not too tame, but some were brave and friendly. I have no idea where they all came from (and they kept coming!) but it was a bizaare experience. I felt like the pied piper of cats.