We finally broke ourselves away from the encircling arms of Villefranche-Sur-Mer and headed on west. The planned distance was short and once out of the rade we could make use of the light winds for a slow sail across Nice Bay. A couple of hours later we were off Cap D’Antibes where an adverse current took away too much of what little speed we had and we wallowed before firing up the engine to complete our journey.
The anchorage seemed busy with a mix of yachts and small boats but once up close, there was plenty of space. We anchored outside the pack, in 8m. Depths seemed variable, but we think this is down to the amount of weed.
We were sharing the place with some grand ladies of the superyacht world. As we anchored, a 83m sailing ship, Eos, dropped it’s hook too, further out into the bay. The second largest yacht in the world, Eclipse, did in fact eclipse us all at 163m long. It apparently has a submarine on board! And the very first superyacht we ever saw, ‘Le Grand Bleu’ was also there. We’d first seen this ship in Falmouth Roads and later off of the Isle of Wight back during our first summer adventure in 2009. Several other huge yachts would come and go over the next few days. Lofty company indeed.
Ashore the display of wealth is continued, with elegant villas and lofty pines spread generously around. We walked several of the roads on our way to places, and peered in through gaps in gates for a glimpse into another world.
The Tire-Poil Coastal Trail
As in Cap Ferrat, there is access provided to the coast via the sentier littoral. In this case, the trail runs right around the eastern end of Cap D’Antibes and is called the “Tire-Poil” or pull-hair because of the constant breeze that ruffles your hair. This time we learnt a little more of the history of the coastal trails from a notice board – Previously privatised land had to be given back by order of a French law dated back to Napoleon. Bad for a few, great for the many. Money is provided for the upkeep of these paths because of their attraction to visitors.
The trail had some stunning scenery, tiny coves and lots of steps. It took us past many grand houses, including Chateau de la Croe, where once Edward and Wallis Simpson had lived, and is now one of the homes of Roman Abramovich, the owner of Eclipse. Unfortunately, the fences here were too high for us to have a peak over, and they were covered with cameras and motion sensors. Best not try to climb up for a looky over then.
Antibes was a 45 minute walk from Marina Crouton (where we left the dinghy, see below), with a perfectly placed coffee and cake shop along the way. The town itself was pleasant for a wander with it’s pretty old town, crowded in the centre but wonderfully peaceful just a few streets back. A wide range of world cuisine was on offer in it’s restaurants, including our favourite, Thai. Artists studios had filled the arches under the town wall and public art was dotted here and there.
If that wasn’t enough art, there was the Picasso museum, to which we paid a visit. The modern art of blank squares and squiggly lines frankly baffles me, but Picasso’s surreal creations do interest me. The museum is in a former palace of the Grimaldi family, from whom the princes of Monaco are descended. Picasso spent a few months using the building as a studio in 1946 and his artworks from that time are on display. I loved that he rescued and nursed an injured owl which became a subject for both paintings and 3D work. We also enjoyed the doodles on dinner plates – a wall full of paintings using ceramic plates as a medium.
Villa Thuret Botanical Gardens
As well as art, we also squeezed in some nature learning with a visit to a free botanical gardens. Villa Thuret and it’s grounds were created by Gustave Thuret in 1857 a eminent algae scientist who wanted to study how plants adapted to different climates. Entry was free and a leaflet was available in different languages with trails to follow around the plants. The fact of the day was that when the parasol pines, which are common in this area, grow next to each other, their leaves won’t touch the neighbouring tree, a phenomenon called crown shyness. No one knows why they do it, but if you’re under those trees, look up and you might see the open channels between the leaves.
Chapelle de la Garoupe
At the highest point of the peninsula sits a light house and a chapel with great views down over Antibes. The chapel sits on a site long associated with religion – first as a pagan dedication to Selene, the moon goddess. It’s next incarnation paid homage to St. Helena. On the walls and hanging from the ceiling are many ex-votos: gifts from grateful sailors to Notre Dame for saving them from shipwrecks.
19th July: Villefranche-Sur-Mer to Juan-Les-Pins – 30nm (13nm sailed)
Anchored in weed/sand in 8m in position 43 33.217’N 7 07.066’E
The holding wasn’t great, but we experienced only light winds whilst we were there.
Ashore we found a welcoming marina where they had an area of quay set aside for visiting small boats. Once again, bravo France. With light winds and an easy place to get ashore, we felt comfortable heading off to explore by land.
There is some wash from passing boat traffic and the occasional water skier, but nothing overly annoying. However, if the wind is from the west, the swell will roll in and we found it enough to chase us away to a more sheltered location.