I follow the WordPress daily prompts, and occasionally come across one that sparks a light in my mind. Yesterday’s prompt was ‘Never Again’, and the brief was: Have you ever gone to a new place or tried a new experience and thought to yourself, “I’m never doing that again!” And my mind went into ‘yikes’ mode : talk to any of my family and friends and they will probably know the ‘never again’ moment of my travels as Antibes (sorry, Antibes, I’m sure you are lovely to everyone else – except me, and my partner and my son…..)
So, what happened you ask curiously? Well, I was on an artist residency in Vallauris, France in 2010 for six weeks with my partner and son, and it was fantastic! As part of the research for the residency, but also ‘fun’, we did alot of travelling around to towns surrounding the Vallauris area., and one of these towns was Antibies.
Antibes is a town on the coast of Italy, about an hours (maybe less) bus ride from Vallauris. Picasso lived there (as well as in Vallauris) for quite some time in the Chateau Grimaldi, a castle owned by the Grimaldi family for many centuries, or at least I think it was owned – you will have to Google that for yourself! (see my reluctance below). The building is now a Picasso museum, and was perhaps the one thing that went right while visiting Antibes.
The places and location details in this post are all from memory, because I am too scared to Google any information (again, you can do that) in case I download a black hole of the universe virus on my computer. AND, when looking back through all the brochures and maps and tourist paraphernalia I collected while in France I found NOTHING for Antibes – obviously I threw it all away in case it caused the plane to implode on the way home… or something…
So memory it is…
We went ‘there’ three times…
The first time I wanted to see an 11th century church (I can’t remember , you google it) which housed a unique wooden cross which had been hidden by local priests during World War Two from the Nazis – and had survived (I guess thats a ‘good’ Antibes thing). I wanted to see this cross, not because I am religious, but because I love art and history and art history… but no. The church was closed for cleaning!
So, we went for a walk around the wall that boundaries the coast, because at the end of it was going to be an aquarium (I think, again, not game to Google it), but it was closed for renovations!
Sheez… we decided to wander back to the town centre, via the stone wall, to indulge in a wine. Now I live in a rural town where everything closes early- but this is France, right? Wrong! No sooner had we sat down and paid our money that we were being ‘encouraged’ to leave…. oh so frustrated, we skulled (an Aussie word for necking it…. hhmmm, another Aussie word for drinking it really fast all in one go) and caught the bus home.
We thought we would give a viewing of the church a second chance – it is on the tourist ‘to do’ list afterall with no time restrictions… Hmmmm…. NO, sorry, closed for choir rehearsals – Easter was looming. UUmmm…. since when are churches ‘closed’ during choir rehearsals, or anything for that matter? What if I was a devout catholic in need of God time? I was raised catholic, so know about this sort of stuff…..
But do not fear…. We had been clever and tied this trip into the Saturday morning produce market… where – surprise, surprise – we got massively ripped off by an opportunistic pate vendor! We were, to him, an easy (ignorant, he thought) target. So after tempting us with tasting yummy dips, and us politely not asking how much, (because we had not yet been ‘ripped off’ in France) he charged us exorbitantly. So we ended up being polite targets (rather than ignorant targets), because we knew what he was charging us but didn’t say anything – though of course I wish we did!
Being persistent, however, we did have an afternoon plan: visiting the local castle – every town in France has one of those! Fort Carre is so called because it is shaped like a star and has five points – so ‘carre’, I think, is star (I can’t remember if that is the translation, so, again, you will have to look it up).
Walking to the castle was quite a journey, and upon arriving we discovered we had approached it from the wrong side, and couldn’t for the life of us find the entrance. So, we did what most desperate insane people would do, and jumped the fence – I had a skirt on and was not very happy! Once inside we found our way to the ‘office’ where were hoping to book into a tour. BUT, and by now we were used to ‘buts’, tours were only offered in Chinese and French!! This was not on the tourist brochure!!
Third Attempt (and perhaps the worse).
So, third time lucky, we thought… in actual fact it was third time the most unluckiest!!
Again, the church was closed – I can’t even remember why now, the trauma has pushed it from my mind!
Our plan for the afternoon (after visiting the church) had been to catch the bus to Eden Rock, a town on the outskirts of Antibes, where there was (apparently) a Napoleon museum… couldn’t find it for the life of us…. so we just soaked up the ambience.
Once ambienced out we decided to walk a little further into the town for a coffee or wine. It was a pleasant walk, the weather was nice, the scenery was lovely, but after a forty five minute walk we were a bit thirsty. What did we discover about Eden Rock – lots of hotels with fancy smanshy bars and restaurants – no average bars, coffee shops or pubs to just sit and relax.
And so the unsated trek back to the bus stop. Upon arrival we were in time to catch 6pm bus, luckily because that was the last bus. Guess what? 6pm came and went, and we waited and waited. After about forty five minutes a couple of locals walk past and asked why we were at the bus stop. Uumm, our answer, waiting for the bus. Their reply, but the last bus was over an hour ago. our reply, but the last bus was 6pm. Their reply, yes which was almost two hours ago. The conversation was becoming very confusing. Our reply, what time is it? Their reply, almost 8pm.
Anyway…. after much ‘he said’ ‘she said’ we figured out that it was day light savings the night before and the clocks had been put forward (or back, I can’t remember, and I am too angst ridden to figure out) so we had actually missed the bus. Arrgghhh!! there was no other solution than to walk back to Antibes. I am not sure of the kilometeres involved, but it took us about 1.5 hours of fast walking. Why fast walking? because we had to get back to Antibes in time to catch the last bus back to Vallauris. As well as power walking we also attempted hitch hiking – but apparently that is a bit frowned upon in France. So we had no chance of being picked up. Did we make it back in time to catch the bus? Of course not! After walking our hearts out we missed the bus by FIVE minutes! OK, don’t panic, catch a taxi. Where are the taxi ranks? Near the station, in the town centre…. uummm, no! Actually nowhere!
Finally, after much scrounging around in shops and telephone booths we find a taxi phone number, and successfully manage to order a taxi despite the language barriers.
The taxi does deliver us safely home, but we are a little suspicious that we have been overcharged – again ignorant tourists. But, we are too tired to care!
I would love to visit you again Antibes, but fear I cannot!
This post was written in response to the WordPress daily prompt “Never Again”
More responses can be seen here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/daily-prompt-never-2/
This post was enjoyable in a fun way, but for such a negative experience – you came away with such lovely photos! That 11th C. church looks incredible. What a total mess to experience – but at least you can say ‘I’ve seen it there!’
Thanks Patricia…. our nickname for Antibes is ‘black hole of the universe’! 🙂
wow!! nice place but not too friendly to tourists huh? I enjoyed this post thanks for the heads up lol 🙂
hehe…. hopefully it is better for others!!
Wow. This is amazing, Dawn.
Thanks Derek 🙂
It was quite the experience!!