The French Riviera has long been a wishlist destination for me, and this summer I was determined to get there. Choosing where to stay was the tricky part. Should I get lost in the sprawling art deco metropolis that is Nice? Could I keep up with the great and the glamorous of Cannes or St Tropez?
In the end, we found a quaint little apartment in the ancient town of Antibes. Curling out of the coastline midway between Nice and Cannes, it was the perfect base from which to explore the Côte d’Azur. Or so we thought … As it turned out, we fell in love with Antibes to the point that we hardly left.
Boasting as rich a history as Nice and just as many mega-yachts as Cannes, Antibes somehow manages to be more relaxed than either of its larger neighbours. The narrow cobbled streets are lined with tempting ice cream parlours, charming boutiques and tucked-away galleries, and the squares are a maze of bistro tables where tanned yacht owners take up residence for half a day’s worth of Aperol spritz and French cigarettes.
Of course, with Antibes being the home of the so-called Billionaire’s Quay (as Port Vauban is one of only a few docks deep enough for the superyachts of the ultra-wealthy), it’s impossible to resist taking a stroll along the harbour to ogle row upon row of sleek motor boats and polished sailing ships. The Emir of Qatar was in town with his almost absurdly vast floating palace, Katara – complete with a sun deck the size of most people’s houses and its very own matching helicopter. It’s quite a sight to see dozens of smartly-dressed (and rather attractive) young men scrambling to ready this gleaming behemoth for the return of its owner …
I made my way to the edge of the harbour to see if I could spot my own superyacht coming in …
… but it seemed as though I was going to have rather a long wait (long enough to let my hair down, apparently).
So we wandered back along the harbour, past the forest of masts gently waving to and fro in the sea breeze, the big wheel making its languorous rotations above the rooftops and the ever-present Fort Carré.
And then somehow we found ourselves at one of the many, many gelaterias that line the cobbled streets of Antibes. Seriously, it’s hard to avoid them.
And, well … I failed. But they say that the only true failure is when you stop trying – so I was sure to try a different flavour every day.
Refreshed and re-energised, we wound our way through the labyrinthine streets of the old town towards the ancient ramparts, pausing only to snap the bicycles that Instagram dreams are made of …
… and a few of the utterly gorgeous Provençal-style houses.
The majestic ramparts of Antibes date back to early medieval times, and were originally built to protect the strategically-important settlement from invaders. These days the only invaders come armed with sunscreen and selfie sticks, so the walls serve a rather more peaceable purpose as a pretty spectacular viewpoint. Make the gentle climb to the top and you’ll be rewarded with a picture-postcard scene of the Baie des Anges curving away to either side of you, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to your left and the Cap d’Antibes to your right.
In fact, the only thing that might disturb your serenity as you gaze across the turquoise waters is the sound of a kamikaze scooter passing mere inches from your backside. Tranquil it may not be, but its beauty is undeniable.
A walk along the ramparts affords you another angle on the higgledy-piggledy rooftops of Old Antibes, and a peek at the decidedly more modern part of town and its sandy beaches, complete with windsurfers and kayakers.
You might even find some secret steps down to the sea, and be compelled to embrace your inner mermaid.
Although if you really want to have an Ariel moment, make sure you dress accordingly. Just in case this happens …
… because then you’re all wet and you have to go home.
But on the walk back to our apartment through the streets of old Antibes, I stopped to take photos of so many adorable houses that I was almost completely dry by the time we reached the front door.
So all that was left to do was to pour a glass of local rosé and decide where to go tomorrow.
(All photos of me shot by my lovely mum, who can be found here.)