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Connoisseur's Guide · Europe · france · French Riviera · Three destination for intelligent sun lovers

Antibes

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Antibes

The particular Mediterranean light and Provençal colour palette at Antibes have inspired many famous artists, and continue to bewitch visitors of this resort town.

When Spanish artist Pablo Picasso arrived in Antibes together with his new lover Françoise Gilot in 1946, the beaches at the small fishing villages in the area were almost empty. No sunning chairs, no cafés, no billionaire yachts, no show business stars and their followers; just peace and the absolute beauty of nature. Picasso spent half a year at Antibes and created several legendary artworks during this time.
The most famous of these is La Joie de Vivre. The playful nymphs, satyrs, fauns and centaurs depicted within it embodied not only Antibes' Greco-Roman past, but also Picasso's frame of mind. At the time, the artist was 65 years old, while Gilot was only 23. Picasso was happy. Gilot served as his lover and as his muse, her image appearing in many of the artist's paintings from that period. In some works he painted her as a flower, in others as a fish, and in the centre of La Joie de Vivre as a dancing nymph with flowing hair. According to legend, shortly after the painting was completed, Gilot discovered that she was pregnant.
Soon after arriving in Antibes, Picasso learned about the Château Grimaldi from his friend and photographer Michel Sima. The castle had been built in the 12th century on the site of an ancient Roman fortress, which in turn had been erected on the ruins of the Ancient Greek town of Antipolis. During the Middle Ages, the castle served as a bishops' residence, and then as the home of the Grimaldi family until the 17th century.
It later became the seat of the town hall, before being transformed into the Musée Grimaldi in 1925. The museum director accorded a hall on the castle's second floor to Picasso, who used it as a studio during the six months that he spent at Antibes. Watching the play of sunlight and the glitter of the nearby Mediterranean Sea through the castle windows, it is not hard to imagine the inspirational moments that came over the artist. Today, the building is known as the Picasso Museum and houses 250 works by the artist, including some that Picasso donated to the museum himself.
Picasso wasn't the only artist to have been inspired by Antibes. To highlight this fact, the city has installed a kilometre-long "painter's trail" or walking route with reproductions of paintings along the way. These reveal some of the places where Claude Monet, Eugène Boudin, Marc Chagall, Raymond Peynet and, of course, Picasso painted their works. Although the scenery has changed a great deal since then, the spirit of the past remains very much alive, drawing visitors to enthusiastically exclaim like Claude Monet did in 1888, when he first arrived in Antibes: "How beautiful it is here, so clear, so bright! You swim in the blue air."
Monet felt that Antibes had a "magical air", and among the inspiring places that he painted is a stand of stone pines not far from the beach at Juan-les-Pins and La Salis. The town of Juan-les-Pins is about a 40-minute walk from Antibes, and although it is no longer a quiet fishing village (but rather an epicentre of nightlife and gourmet eating), the stone pines that Monet painted are still standing. Juan-les-Pins is also known for its annual Jazz à Juan jazz festival, where such famous artists as Miles Davis and Ray Charles made their debuts in Europe. This year, the festival will be taking place from July 11-20.

Foto: AntibesFoto: Antibes

About 17 kilometres north of Antibes is the medieval village of St-Paul-de-Vence, which has been a magnet and meeting point for artists since the early 20th century. One if its best-known establishments is La Colombe d'Or, a restaurant and hotel whose story began in 1920, when local entrepreneur Paul Roux opened a small café and restaurant named Chez Robinson. Its popularity spread quickly, drawing patrons from the nearby villages and towns, who were followed by aristocrats, royal family members and famous artists from all over Europe.

Unfortunately, the renowned restaurant also became a popular hangout for gangsters and had to shut down for awhile. Roux later reopened it under a new name as La Colombe d'Or, together with a three-room guest house that artists began to frequent, exchanging their paintings for the opportunity to spend a few nights and eat a few meals at the establishment. Today, the walls of the restaurant, vestibule and guest rooms are still adorned with works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia and other artists.

Foto: AntibesFoto: AntibesFoto: Antibes

Just a short drive away from La Colombe d'Or is the Fondation Marguerite et Aimé Maeght, one of the most beautiful museums of modern art in the world. As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations this year, the museum is holding an exhibition devoted to Josep Lluís Sert, the building's architect, and to the unique dialogue between the edifice and the works that are displayed within it. The exhibition can be viewed until June 9. Located at a magnificent spot atop a small hill and shaded by pine trees, the museum boasts one of the most outstanding collections of 20th-century art. Walking through its territory, one gets the impression that the art, the landscape and the architecture have fused together into a unified whole, with the colours, moods and emotions changing in accordance with the time of day and the seasons.

Not far away is the town of Vence, home to the Chapelle du Rosaire, a small chapel for Dominican sisters and one of the last works by Henri Matisse. "Despite some imperfections, I think that this is my best work...the result of a life that has been devoted to seeking the truth," the artist said in 1951 upon its completion. If one didn't know otherwise, then it would be easy to walk past and pay little notice to this small and unobtrusive white edifice, which Matisse spent four years planning and building. The walls, ceiling and floors are white, with the daylight shining in through greenish-blue glass windows. Although the chapel is only 15 metres long and six metres wide, with a ceiling that is only five metres high, it conveys an unbelievable feeling of spaciousness. The Chapelle du Rosaire also houses three black-and-white murals by Matisse, as well as masterfully designed stained glass windows in blue, green and yellow.

Where to stay. La Jabotte is only 60 metres from the beach and is one of those small and charming hotels that make you feel right at home. The interior is a veritable explosion of Provençal colours. (13 avenue Max Maurey, Cap d'Antibes; www.jabotte.com)

Hôtel du Clos can be found in a mountain village just above Antibes. Surrounded by olive trees, this small hotel has been set up in a 17th-century house and former granary, with a contemporary French interior that generates a warm and peaceful feeling. (3 chemin des Écoles, Rouret; www.hotel-du-clos.com)

Where to eat. Some say that if you have not dined at the legendary La Colombe d'Or, then you have not really been to the French Riviera. Start your dinner there with the restaurant's famous plate of appetisers, which includes a basket of fresh garden vegetables like artichokes, tomatoes, celery, red onions and chicory root, all presented together with artichoke sauce - along with 14 different hors d'oeuvres placed upon a separate table beside you. (Place du Général de Gaulle, Saint-Paul-de-Vence; www.la-colombe-dor.com)

L'Armoise. Located only a few steps away from the market, this small family restaurant offers the freshest and the best food available, including the catch of the day. (2 rue de la Tourraque, Antibes)

Foto: Antibes

La Petite Plage. A good option amid the countless restaurants and cafés that line the municipal beach along the boulevard Guillaumont at Juan-les-Pins. Choose a table on the terrace or right on the beach and feel the white sand under your bare feet. Fresh and fantastic salad, big servings and reasonable prices. (Boulevard Guillaumont, Juan-les-Pins)

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