My last excursion in France meant I travelled four hours by train to Antibes, where I met my dad’s cousin, Terry. I had stayed with her in Biot for three weeks back in 2001, my only previous experience in France, so I felt it was only right I should see her again since I was so close.
I arrived Thursday afternoon, and after having a quick lunch at her home, she took me to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, a perched village overlooking the river known for its abundance of violets. The town was very medieval, and quite gorgeous. We tried the local specialty of violet flavoured ice cream, which was surprisingly good – I’ve never really thought about flowers as flavours before, but I suppose it makes as much sense as fruits or things like vanilla!
Later that evening we went with her son Derek (who is about my age) to an Indian restaurant in Antibes. I’d never really had Indian food before, excepting anglicized and Japanese curries. I was pleasantly surprised by my tandoori lamb seasoned with creme and saffron – quite delicious. This is quickly turning into an ode to food!
8 Mai is a holiday in France marking the end of World War II—known as V-E day back home. It’s obviously much more important here, since even after it ended in Europe the US was still fighting in Japan, while France could finally celebrate its true liberation and the end of several years of struggle. I guess the closest equivalent in America is Memorial Day—the stores here closed early, and most people had the day off which they used to barbecue or go to the beach. We had to go to Valbonne to get groceries in the morning, since they would be closed by the time we got back in the evening. It also meant veteran’s ceremonies as well, which we passed by whilst driving along the coast.
We had decided to spend the afternoon in Saint Tropez, which is generally considered the western end of the French Riviera (Menton being the eastern), so we took the coastal route to get there. This meant passing through Cannes, where they had begun setting up for the film festival which begins next week. The setup was impressive, the red carpet was already out, and many of the movies being shown had posters around the town and on the fancy hotels where celebrities would be staying throughout the festival. I can’t even begin to imagine how crowded it must get—even just for the beach holiday it was full of people.
As we got further west, we noticed a large number of police vehicles. Turns out they were escorting coach buses of diplomats and veterans returning from a 8 Mai ceremony in Sainte Maxime. This caused a slight diversion in our route, where we noticed yet another anomaly: motorcycles. Dozens. Hundreds. Eventually we passed the reason: a Harley Davidson euro festival, some sort of rally I could only assume. The licence plates came from all over Europe, so I guess this was perhaps one of the big meetups, Europe’s equivalent of Sturgis or Daytona bike week. Apparently there was to be some sort of Parade in the city centre on Saturday as well… Very interesting. This mass of cycles continued all the way to Saint Tropez, where many of the restaurants had Harley-themed banners and were full of bikers. We ended up stopping at a pizzeria for lunch and wandering around the city, climbing up to the citadel and getting a spectacular view of the city.
Friday evening was dinner and a movie, staying up too late but there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the morning. My train was just before two, so we spent the morning in the village of Biot, touring the old city and the glass blower for which Biot is famous. They make a special kind of glass here that is infused with soda, so that the glass has small bubbles in it. Apparently many famous people have gotten their glass here; they even had a special colour that was commissioned by Jackie Kennedy.
We had lunch afterwards, and then Terry took me back to the station in Antibes. I have only one evening left in Montpellier, which of course will be consumed by packing and cleaning. I can’t believe it’s almost over!