Leaving Edinburgh on a cold, grey November day it was wonderful to arrive at Nice airport in full sunshine just 3 hours later. A further 20 minute by taxi, with Javier my driver regaling me with stories about his latest rondonee hiking route in the nearby Alpes Maritimes, I was dropped off in the heart of Old Antibes. The main purpose of my trip was to visit the French school we have worked with in Antibes for many years, but also to reacquaint myself with just what makes this picturesque area so special.
So what to do in Antibes? Here are our top 5 activities:
Learn French – we offer courses for adults and adolescents all year round in our lovely school located in a quiet residential area of the town. A large landscaped garden surrounds the main building, a spacious stone built villa with plenty of balconies and windows to let the light pour in (air conditioning in the summer months when it is too hot to leave the windows open). Courses for more mature learners are held in the Spring and Autumn months and are a popular way to brush up your French in a more relaxed way. School groups are very well suited to Antibes too as it is small enough to explore everywhere on foot. Accommodation is within easy walking distance of the school in both homestay and residential accommodation too. For more details , see this link to school group trips in Antibes.
Visit the Picasso museum – An absolute must do when in Antibes. Housed in what used to be the bishops palace in the middle ages, then taken over as Grimaldi castle, this historic building overlooking the Mediterranean now houses the impressive Picasso museum. This connection started when Picasso was offered space in the castle as his studio in 1946. During the next two months he was highly prolific in his artwork and when he left Antibes he left the city many of his now famous works including La femme aux oursins which are on show. The permanent exhibition of his work takes around 90 minutes to visit, and is just a 3 minute walk from the heart of the old town.
Explore the local markets – A large centrally located colourful street market selling fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, oils and herbs including huge heads of local garlic and thick sprigs of rosemary and thyme was at the end of the street where I was staying. The aroma of lavendar – a local speciality – was in the air everywhere, with little bags to put under your pillow to help you sleep on sale in many shops, along with lavendar massage oils. In an adjacent square there was an extensive bric-a-brac and antiques market, selling everything from antique glassware, china, paintings, silverware, clothes and shoes. A couple of buskers entertained us all with catchy songs from the 50s, and there was a relaxed and convivial atmosphere all around. A fabulous way to spend an afternoon in the sunshine.
Visit Valbonne – this charming hillside town is reached by a winding mountain road with olive groves, large villas and stunning views all the way. A popular weekly market is held each Friday in the narrow pedestrianised streets criss-crossing the town. Stalls sell quality Italian linen and knitwear, leather goods and jewellery at very competitive prices. At a cheese stall I sampled some of the best sheeps cheese I have ever tasted, produced by the same family for four generations in a nearby farm. Local preserves, honey and other delicacies were too tempting to leave behind. The central Place des Arcades is a large open square with arcades on all sides and cafes serving local produce, and we loved walking around this picturesque town with its stone and pretty pastel coloured houses.
Hike along the Cap d’Antibes coastal trail – to really get a feel for nature and the Mediterranean sea, take the time to hike along the coastal route. This trail is just under 5kms long and it relatively flat, climbing just 30m in total. The rocky coves and wild maquis vegetation give you the impression of being far away from the city, and the turquoise blue Mediterranean sea is always in sight. For a gentler walk you could simply head west from Antibes port, one of the largest recreational yacht harbours in the Mediterranean, and follow the wide paved route skirting along the Old Town, past the Picasso Museum and heading for Juan les Pins, with many beautiful beaches and bars along the way. Take your swimming gear with you!
For more information on learning French in Antibes for adults, just email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to send you details. Bon voyage!