Abbydog Trip Report: Antibes and Cassis

Old Jun 11th, 2005, 08:48 AM
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Abbydog Trip Report: Antibes and Cassis

Antibes: In Antibes we stayed at La Bastide du Bosquet, a beautiful restored mansion in a residential neighborhood between old Antibes and Juan les Pins. It is just a gorgeous oasis, set in a peaceful garden full of birds (and two cats). Our hostess, Sylvie Aussel, presented us with a city map, helpful directions, and a slew of restaurant recommendations, and after a much-needed nap we were off.

We were just a five-minute walk from the gorgeous beach and coastal walkway of Antibes, and about 15 minutes from the market and museums. A highlight for me was the Musee Picasso, which is unique in that you can see the artist’s work in the very place where he produced it, at a very special time when clearly he was almost euphoric over the end of World War II and being in love. We also had a fascinating hike to Plateau de la Garoupe, the highest point in the city where you can see Cannes to the west and Nice to the East. We even managed to stumble on the Commune Libre du Safronier, a famously beautiful little stone road tucked in the middle of the old city.

Strangely, we didn’t eat out much in Antibes. The first night we arrived very late at a lovely place called Le Romantic and the waitress could offer us only one plat before closing; based on what we had I’m sure it would have been a fantastic dinner! During our day in the city, we had lunch at Le Café Jardin, a place recommended by our hostess that we would never have noticed on our own – it looked like a simple storefront, but behind the restaurant is a delightful garden. Another night we walked to the Hotel Belles Rives, where we couldn’t afford dinner but drank Kir at a prime table on the deck overlooking the bay at Juan les Pins. We listened to the pianist playing in the bar while watching the sunset and nibbling olives and bread sticks, and the staff could not have been more gracious. Then we walked into Juan les Pins – full of neon and nightlife and not our cup of tea, but with a park that offered a perfect view of a spectacular pink and purple sky.

Our day trip from Antibes was, again, a bit insane. Our first stop was La Verrerie de Biot, and I could have spent an entire day watching the glassblowers in their studio. It was like watching a dance or listening to jazz, with each of about ten men going about their various tasks and then stepping in, silently, to assist one another at the precise moment when two or three people were needed to finish a piece. Amazing! Next we stopped in Grasse, where we enjoyed the view and I visited some shops, the cathedral (which I enjoyed for its massive, craggy pillars), and hotel de ville while Tommy searched for a newspaper.

We then proceeded to Gourdon, where for once I had perfectly timed our arrival for lunch, this time at Nid D’Aigle (a Stu Dudley favorite). It WAS incredible, perched on the side of a cliff, but alas the Monday Curse struck again. Closed. There was a perfectly good place across the road, but I persevered, taking us along the winding road over an enormous gorge down to Tourettes sur Loup to Auberge La Tourette. Also closed! Still, we liked the town and decided to stop in the local bar on the main drag – no view, lots of noise, and a good dose of diesel exhaust, but one of my favorite experiences. The place was full of locals, and we had fun watching them and eating enormous omelets until Hugo of Burma, a British expatriate, joined us to relate his life story and share a glass of rose.

We walked around town and took in the panoramic view before getting on the 2210 to Vence, where we visited the Matisse chapel. Tremendous. From there I forced poor Tommy, who was fading fast, to stop in St. Paul de Vence, which was en route to Antibes. It’s everything we expected – very cute, very touristy, great views. After some arduous walking up and down its hills, we were relieved to get home and sip some wine in our quiet garden, with the cats.

When we left Antibes, we drove around Cap d’Antibes and through Cannes (by somewhat happy accident – it was fun to check out the architecture and shops on the main street) en route to the Esterel, where we took in the magnificent views before getting a bit stuck in traffic at St. Raphael. I read somewhere that Roquebrune provides a nice respite from the coast, and so we drove up there for an excellent lunch at Les Templiers, a very good restaurant in the middle of this quiet village.

Next, Cassis! We loved this place on an afternoon visit three years ago and couldn’t wait to return for two nights at the Mahogany Hotel. It was everything we imagined – we loved sitting on our balcony overlooking the beach and across from a calanque that changed color in the light from dawn to dusk. We had a fantastic boat tour of eight calanques on a perfect day, and we just enjoyed walking around the harbor and the shops, and dipping our feet into the sea (I have no idea how French seniors actually do laps in that frigid water every morning, but I watched them with interest).

For our first dinner, Chez Gilbert (a Fodorite favorite) was closed (!), and we argued about having moules and frites at a bar (Tommy’s choice) or a fancy dinner at Nino (my idea). So we compromised on Restaurant El Sol, a less expensive restaurant that was fine but unexceptional (although I was impressed when the owner stepped forward to shake our hands as we departed).

So the next day I decided to put my fate in Tommy’s hands, and when lunchtime rolled around he said we should get away from the harbor to find a restaurant that was good enough to survive off the beaten path. Voila!! He spotted a bunch of people eating at tables set up in the middle of a tiny street, and there we found Restaurant Le Bonaparte. This was the real deal – three men bustling around a tiny restaurant, where a stream of regulars stopped in for lunch. Tommy had delicious moules and frites and I had a fantastic salade Nicoise and a plat du jour of fresh fish, plus wine and a couple of Dilbert Napoleon brandies (apparently an offering because my main course arrived late) – all for about 21 Euro.

Our final dinner was under the stars and beautiful trees of Le Jardin d’Emile, right next to our hotel. The food here is phenomenal, although we might slightly regret our choice of the special – some fish we never identified with a price tag of 45 Euro for two. When I inquired about it, a raw fish was brought out to me on a platter with some fanfare so I could see how wonderful it was, and so we took the plunge. Indeed, once cooked it was light and fresh and with a nice texture, but very plain, served with some potatoes (in a place that otherwise produces magnificent concoctions of exotic ingredients). The entrees and desserts were more complex. . . All in all it was a lovely end to a wonderful time.

abbydog is offline  
Old Jun 11th, 2005, 09:20 AM
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Hi abby,

It is much, much better to keep your whole report as a single thread. That way the pieces don't become separated and people can read the whole thing.

May I suggest that you copy this post to your first one?

ira is offline  
Old Jun 11th, 2005, 10:01 AM
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Thanks Ira! I have a new report (sooo loooonngg!!) posted under Abbydog: South of France.
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 08:27 PM
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Fascinating report--thanks very much. I think I'll look at the Bastide du Bosquet for our next trip.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 07:34 AM
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OH thanks for the wonderful report. I love that area and I really miss going there now that I go to Italy so often.

I'll go look at the rest of your reports now. Actually in the future if someone puts these places in the search they will come up easily so don't worry about separating them. Love this report!
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