Read all of JOY DODDS’ previous Mediterranean Musings – from Italy to Spain and France, and including gastronomic delights …Celebrity Coast – Oh So Nice!ANTIBES & JUAN-LES-PINSTo my mind, Antibes and co-town Juan-les-Pins are the gems of the Côte d’Azur. Picasso considered Antibes the “City of the Joy of Living”, Château de Juan-les-Pins was the Riviera home of screen lover Rudolf Valentino and Anatole France considered Cap d’Antibes to be “the most enchanting place to stay on earth”. Not a bad rap!Located only 20kms from the centre of Nice and 48kms from the Italian border, this lesser known coastal conurbation has managed to retain its individual Provençal character notwithstanding its flourishing artistic, cultural, natural and nautical fame. Pine groves and beaches create a tranquil beauty. Sprawling, crowded, yes, but certainly Excitement Central, especially after dark. Nice has a throbbing vitality heightened by its many festivities, with processions, bands, firework displays, horse racing and flower battles. Its Promenade des Anglais is one of the world’s most celebrated esplanades, lined on one side by glamorous hotels, including Le Negresco from the Belle Epoch era. At one end is Quai des Etats Unis, near which is a port full of fishing boats and luxury yachts, and Le Chateau. On the west side of the Paillon, Place Massena with its stucco buildings is more modern, and the site of the [email protected] Place GaribaldiPlace Garibaldi (named after the Italian unification hero born in Nice) is the height of “la vieille ville”, on the east bank of the River Paillon, with its high stone houses, steep paved streets and colourful alleys. Charming and not-to-be-missed are the morning produce and flower markets, held daily in the old quarter in Rue St François-de-Paule. The Cours Saleya market offers countless stands of local delicacies including socca (thin unleavened pancake or crepe of chickpeas), pissaladiere (dough topped with caramelised onions, Provençal herbs and anchovies) and pan bagnat snacks, as well as olives, organic honey, exotic spices and, of course, fresh local fish. There’s also an indoor market favoured by locals, known as Marche Liberation. Since the early 20th century, painters and writers have made the Riviera, particularly the peninsula of Antibes, a sinecure of modern art and culture – little wonder jazz flourished there! British writer Graham Greene opted to settle (and die!) there. However well before 1900, writers George Sand, Flaubert, Maupassant and Jules Verne withdrew here to work, while Impressionist masters, notably Monet, were inspired by the natural beauty of the coast and Alps backdrop. Post-WW2, the likes of Pablo Picasso and “Zorba the Greek” author Nikos Kazantakis became locals.The writer’s daughter, Cate, outside the Picasso MuseumThe walled harbour of Antibes is dominated by Fort Carrée and the castle which Henri IV acquired from the Grimaldi family in the 12th century, originally a Roman castrum. Also housed in the Grimaldi castle, which is built on the ancient Greek acropolis of Antipolis, is the Musée Picasso where the mind-boggling artworks – paintings, ceramics, lithographs, etc – of the master are on display. In July 2008 Picasso Museum in Château Grimaldi re-opened its doors after two years’ renovation work, offering visitors new exhibition spaces and a new itinerary.Nearby is an amazing collection of Greek archaeological finds from the 4th century settlement of Antipolis, meaning “the town opposite” the settlement now known as Nice.The boundaries of modern Antibes expanded in 1971 when Port Vauban was inaugurated, the largest yachting harbour in Europe for the tonnage of its boats – and yet more glitterati poured in!A year earlier, the Earl Roland de la Poype created Marineland, the biggest sea park in Europe, with more than 400 specimens, and well worth a visit.Joy Dodds (far right) with local restaurateursMy favourite Antibes’ experience is to stroll along Promenade Amiral de Grasse from where the Mediterranean panorama and old city unfold, stacked with ancient Greek and Roman history. The narrow streets of the old town are evocative and full of bistros. Cours Massena is the scene of bustling daily markets, surrounded by medieval buildings known as La Bourgade. The markets offer the infinite diversity of its local flavours and the spicy fragrances, roses featuring strongly among the fresh flowers grown in greenhouses outside Antibes.In an earlier visit to Antibes, I was fortunate enough to be present at Antibes’ Armistice ceremony held near the city’s cathedral, with its 12th century tower and magnificent sculptures of the crucifixion. That esprit de corps, that palpable union between France and Australia, was unforgettable and extremely moving, especially when “La Marseillaise” was played by the Orchestre d’Harmonie Antiboise.And what of co-town Juan-les-Pins? Equally enchanting, its luxuriant estates, home to celebrities, outlook to white sandy beaches and pine forests. Totally unforgettable. While my first inkling of the place was reference to its “carefully-designed topless swimsuits” in Peter Sarstedt’s 1960s hit “Where Do You Go To My Lovely”, I subsequently realised, once I’d visited, that this was a huge understatement!Juan-les-Pins was once no more than a fishing hamlet, founded in the 1870s, with a large pine grove, now a park. Today Billionaires’ Bay is lined with luxurious villas including Villa Eilenroc, designed by the architect of the Paris and Monte Carlo opera houses. The elegant resort’s tree-lined avenues include luxury hotels and a world-famous casino. On Boulevard Kennedy, Hôtel du Cap Éden-Roc is one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, inaugurated in 1870. It played host to such guests as Anatole France, Ernest Hemingway, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Charles de Gaulle and many others. American millionaires, the Fitzgeralds, settled there at Villa Saint-Louis, now Hôtel Belles Rives.Juan-les-Pins became a most prestigious destination for events as disparate as water-skiing and bridge! French pop idol Johnny Hallyday first performed here, while jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie lived it up big-time there. It was in the Casino of Juan and on Cap d’Antibes that the expression ‘Jazz Age’ was coined. The temple of international jazz, the pine grove known as Pinède Gould, is the La Scala to jazz enthusiasts. In the Swinging Sixties the fun continued in Juan-les-Pins, thanks to Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin of “Je t’Aime” fame.A great experience is to walk along Route des Sables to Cap d’Antibes with its beach, Plage du Salis, then follow the Tire-Poil footpath around Cap d’Antibes, one of the most famous on the Côte d’Azur, lined by sumptuous estates on the Billionaires’ Bay shoreline, estates and parks surrounded by luxuriant vegetation. It’s a vista adored by sun-worshippers and fishermen alike. AntibesJoy DoddsMediterranean MusingsNiceReviews In addition to numerous churches and museums in Nice, restaurants abound, with gastronomy and fine wines celebrated en force. In fact, like Lyon, gastronomy is part of Niçoise heritage and pride, with a strong Italian Ligurian influence.Rolle is the main white grape variety grown along the coast from Provence to Liguria (where it is known as Vermentino). A local Nice winery produces Bellet Blanc, which is perfect with a seafood lunch. Most menus feature bouillabaisse (seafood stew) and of course Salade Niçoise, with its anchovies, olives, lettuce and boiled eggs. Teamed with a glass of aniseed-flavoured Pastis with floating ice cubes, gazing leisurely seawards to the Mediterranean, life on the Côte d’Azur is extremely NICE! From the little port of La Salis, you can follow Chemin du Calvaire, or the Pilgrims’ Path, to the Sanctuary of La Garoupe where pilgrims worship in front of small oratories evoking the Way of the Cross. For centuries, thanks have been made to the gilt statue of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Port, the patron saint of fishermen at sea. Nearby is the lighthouse of La Garoupe, whose beam of light reaches 50kms over the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels).Nearby on Boulevard JF Kennedy the Napoleon Museum’s collection near Pointe du Graillon evokes the career of the Emperor who once lived in Antibes with his family when he was an aspiring General Bonaparte.Leaving Antibes, heading towards Cagnes-sur-Mer is a narrow pebbly beach leading to Villeneuve-Loubet-Plage and the modern complex of Marina Baie des Anges, surrounded by a yacht harbour with far less appeal because of its concrete construction. Far more appealing is the village of Vallauris with its traditional (and more affordable!) brasseries and beachside bistros.THE CITY OF NICEDifferent again is the city of Nice, the playground of the Côte d’Azur. Situated on the Baie des Anges, the city has Greek and even earlier Ligurian origins, the word “Nikaia” meaning Victory. Nice is where the mountains, marked by three parallel access roads, known as “Les Corniches”, almost reach the Mediterranean.