Picasso's treacherous and sadistic behavior were highlighted in Creator and Destroyer, Arianna Huffington's 1988 biography of Pablo Picasso. Upon having read the book, rather than being turned off, I was made to become more intrigued with wanting to know more about the enigmatic artist. In all that I have read, there seemed to have been one common thread, which was, that some of his better days as a person, was during his years in Antibes.
The train hugged the coastline as we passed the luminary towns of St. Tropez and Cannes. Out the window were a sea of sunbathers and a smattering of divers jumping off the rocks that lined the coast. As we neared our stop, the terrain had turned less gray and more clayish red, and the rocks replaced by sand. As the train pulled into the station, it was smiles all around for the three of us. We were in Antibes!
There was a narrow street in front of our hotel which led us through the Old Town and onto the beach. Along the way, you had your boulangeries, patisseries, boucheries, fromageries and the Marche Provencal, which served as the town's Farmer's Market.
Cafe/Lobby at Hotel La Place D'Antibes | Dish Our Town
After an early evening swim, we took the same route back and noticed that at the market, vendors were replaced by rows of tables and chairs that belonged to eating establishments lined around the exterior of the market. A festive atmosphere was rising as the tables were beginning to fill with people and the light emanating from stringed bulbs starting to replace the sun. My daughter Bailey, only eight at the time, knew what a good time looked like and requested that we have dinner there that evening. So we did.
Boulangerie Patisserie in Antibes | Dish Our Town[/caption]
All the tables and chairs seemed to have melded into one, creating a feeling of being part of the largest family meal found anywhere. The wine flowed freely from unpretentious carafes into small tumbler glasses. I felt like we were characters out of F. Scott Fitzgerald's, Tender Is the Night. Antibes boasts the largest harbor in the Riviera and docked there are some of the most impressive and expensive yachts known to man. If you look hard enough, you'll still find humble boats, and in them, the men that make their wages fishing out of them. So when the waiter recommended the fish soup, we took it. The soup was so wonderful that I can't recollect what else I had eaten that evening. Dinner at the market was a wonderful way to end our first day.
"Bonjour, mademoiselle", The young man greeted Bailey.
"Bonjour monsieur", she replied, still a little hazy from a good nights rest.
He ran a lovely little shop near the harbor that sold beautiful postcards and trinkets. Bailey paying nothing else any mind, had her sights on a pinwheel. The young man took it off the display and handed it to her.
Hearing that we spoke English, he sold us by saying, "Perfect day for it, the sun is out and there is a little wind."
Bailey handed him two, one euro coins, and we were once again, off to the beach.
We found a spot on the narrow end of the beach and behind us was the promenade which was busy with people ranging from street performers, to beachcombers, to tourists and beautiful tanned people. Being a romantic, I also imagined an elderly Graham Greene, who spent his last days in Antibes, sitting on a bench, smiling, while pondering faith.
Also on the promenade was a family run food truck which sold great Pan Bagnats, which was best accompanied with beer or a cup of cold wine, which they also sold. It made for a perfect beach meal. There was also ice cream to boot, which pleased both Bailey and my wife, Brenda. That was an experience I would take over being in a beach club in Cannes any day. It's hard to think that anyone can ever experience depression or sadness here.
On our last day, the sky and sea were a glorious blue. The same blue one experiences when they first view Picasso's "La Joie de Vivre" at the Musee Picasso. It was here, after the war years, that the artist set up camp with his new lover Francoise and produced some of the most positive-themed art of his long career. As my family and I looked out the second floor porch, which sat outside his former studio, it was easy to imagine how this wretchedly flawed person found some semblance of joy. It was here, he was more a creator and less a destroyer.
I am not tortured, and certainly not a genius, but if ever I found myself to be, like Fitzgerald, Greene and Picasso, I would know where to find joy. Antibes.
This entry is taken from a larger work previously posted in Dish Our Town.