One of the things I love about France, and Europe for that matter, is that you can be walking around what seems like a modern town, turn the corner and WHAM run into something way old. For example, the apartment building where we lived when I was in high school dated from the mid 19th century – which by Paris standards is not really all that old because there is always something much older nearby; I didn’t really notice that our building was old because it was smack dab smooshed up between two modern buildings. You’d think that the combination of old and contemporary would be visually crazy, but just look at how Rome makes it work. And that’s how Antibes is.
Antibes has a medieval wall along the coast and a very small old village full of wee little streets one can barely fit a car through, the whole surrounded by new growth. The villas on the Cap d’Antibes, which is like a jut of land, a finger separating Antibes and the newer, louder, much more crowded Juan-les-Pins, are all contemporary; but even they lead up to the top of the hill where a medieval church sits complete with a very rocky and steep Stations of the Cross (Chemin du Calvaire) that pilgrims still use to crawl up on their knees and bare feet ( I walked up part of it, and even in Tevas I had a hard time in some areas). History is everywhere; you breathe it in and mixed with the salt air from the sea, the chant of the cicadas, it’s wonderful.
All around Antibes are these tiny little medieval and Renaissance towns perched on hilltops, whose buildings look as though they can barely hang on lest they crumble down the hill; but clearly these ancient builders and architects knew what they were doing. The town of Mougins, for example, settled way up on a high hilltop has buildings that are older than dirt and apparently some of the best restaurants around (although I didn’t get a chance to eat there, but I’ll take my mom’s word for it). My mom, my uncle Guy, and I wandered Mougins’ serpentine streets a few days before their annual Festival de la Gastronomie began, so we watched as workers were setting up tents and chairs, peeked into several of the many art galleries, meandered into the church to light a candle for my aunt Suzanne. I found myself taking pictures of everyone’s front doors. Each one was different; in shape, size, texture. Some were huge, and some looked as though a human being could barely fit through the opening. They all seem surreal and magical; a few intricately carved, others bare and whitewashed.
I wonder who lives behind these doors? Are the insides of these homes just as miniscule and magical as I imagine them to be? These little towns resting and suspended high above are all full of quiet mystery.