It was the first day of the new year. I'm slightly, though not overly, wedded to the idea that this is somehow an important day in the calendar which has a potential to set the tone for the whole year. I really must give this up as a bad joke.
The day dawned bright and sunny - a good beginning. We had nothing to deal with, no sore heads, no ugly behaviours as we had been at home for most of the time. The kids were keen to sleep late though as they had been up after twelve, and some of them had been running around the neighbourhood lighting fireworks.
I wanted to see if the world was up and about in Antibes - if we would be able to feed the hungry hordes or if we were in serious trouble. It was relatively sleepy, but certainly it was open, and there was bread to eat, and fish to buy. Even the market was open - though it was not as busy as it had been the day before. But there was enough to buy - vegetables, and fruit, pastries, deli stuff (no meat, but who cares?).
We shopped for breakfast - bread and pastries and, for me, a slice of pissaladiere (which I CANNOT pronounce no matter how often the person serving me tells me). Onions and anchoives early in the morning - it is surprisingly wonderful.
The sun was really up and shining - the day actually felt quite hot.
We decided on the walk that we would revisit a little town (really, an extension of Antibes) that we had driven through when we had returned from La Plage de la Garoupe called Juan les Pins. I knew nothing about it except it looked rather lovely as we drove through and the beach looked great. And as it was the new year, and a Sunday to boot, the beach might just be the place to be (if you see what I mean). Paris tested the weather on our terrace and decided it was hot, and he would wear shorts. He ducked out of this decision at the last moment and would come to regret it.
Off we went. We drove past a building that I think read 'Medical Albert Camus' (obviously the 'medical' bit is wrong, but it did seem to have something medical about it). What an extraordinary thing! Perhaps a institute to explore body dysmorphic disorder or something. Hmmm.
Juan les Pins is a little beach with a couple of eight or nine story beach front apartments and little houses behind it, and a couple of ricketty little restaurants scattered around the place. The day was warm, people (crazy people, addmittedly) were swimming, but we were all in tee shirts and the kids were paddling in the water (hence the regret about shorts - they all got soaking wet). The sand was warm and we walked up and down the beach while the kids built castles and had sand fights and got wet and built dams. The water was dark and clear, and I would have swum had I had the guts (I did put my foot in, and it was cold; very, very cold).
We forgot the camera, and I'm sad about that.
There is a quite interesting theory about World War One, and the amazing flowering of writing that happened in the trenches (quite unlike most wars). The theory is that the men in the trenches in 1914 to 1918 were more literate than any generation before them, and were no yet dependant upon the new medium of film. So they were literate and keen to record what they saw, and they had to do it in words. It is not surprising, given this theory, that lots of these men chose to use poetry. It is short and can be both direct and emotional, as well as oblique and metaphorical. You could write it between battles, unlike a novel, and on small pieces of paper. Poetry aside, the theory here is that film (and still film like photos) have changed the way we record our experiences; we are more likely to take a photo of something we see or experience rather than record it in words. I guess it is because it take longer, and photos can give detail that perhaps words cannot (or do not).
Why am I banging on about this? Because I didn't take any photos (because we forgot the camera) of one of the happiest two hours of my life. I would like photos to tell the story, but it is not possible.
But words are pretty good back ups - warm sun pouring down your front, and stamping on your back, and the kids laughing - shouting with laughter - and running between sand and sea. There is something about a beach that provides entertainment for all; it is an amazing thing.
If this is the beginning of 2012; it bodes well.
Once the kids were really wet, we decided to go back to the apartment and get them dry. We had considered eating at the restaurant that is not only right on the beach, it is in the beach, with the tables and chairs balanced on the sand and banana lounges right on the water's edge, as waiting room for those who seek a table. But everyone was too wet.
Back at home, we showered and cleaned and then headed into Antibes for lunch. It was, by now, three o'clock, but this is a tourist town and there is 'service non-stop' here. We stopped at Square Sud, a restaurant right on the square that gets the afternoon sun beautifully. The waiter was hilarous (or we were in terrific moods). We ordered half a litre of white wine, and steak or whatever we so desired, and soaked up the sun. At the table down the way, there was an old woman with her drink, chatting away to herself in the sunshine and occasionally getting up to dance a bit and chat. What I loved about this was that she was completely part of the scene. Other diners chatted to her, she was not moved on by the wait staff, and the kids who were running around the tables (not ours, but others), we charmed by her.
After lunch, we walked to the rides, and Niccolo had a turn on the chair swings - we now had a camera so I could record this. The others ate churros. Then a turn around the town and down to the sea. On the way, we bought a loaf of bread, and I thought that, considering we had not really had a celebratory drink on new year's eve, we should on new year's day. So we went into an unlikely establishment - an Irish pub that advertised a Cave d'Vin. I figured that this might be like 'le bottleshop' and that if anyone understood the concept of the takeway, the Irish did. Of course, there were not Irishmen in the pub, but the young man I spoke to had a little bit of English and completely understood what I was all about. He offered us a bottle of white wine for ten euros and then had to search around his bar for a cork in about a dozen tiny drawers (what were in them?).
We went to the beach. It was still quite warm, though the sun was sinking. On the beach were a couple parallel eating nuts with that quiet intensity that makes you really want to eat what they are eating. They were rugged up like they were off to the snow. Beside them were a group of young people who had a guitar and decided to go swimming. When they went in, the rugged up couple and us clapped. It was pretty impressive.
We wandered back home (noting as we went that yacht clothing - as advertised in a shop - involves grey jumpsuits; sign me up).
It was our last night here is this little paradise and we were sad. I had some wine and bread and enjoyed it immensely.
And then we began to pack. It was all too much like real life.