By Katherine Harvey
The impossible has happened and hopes are that everyone is happy with the impossible happening: the ramparts of Antibes are pedestrian, a dream come true for many, a bad dream realized for others. Phase two of the three-phase project was completed in early June, two months late with phase three to begin in January 2024, just after Epiphany. The object is to remove all parking along the ramparts, beautify and make it pedestrian friendly which, judging by the masses of people who stroll along the ramparts enjoying a vehicle free sea view, the project is a roaring success. One parking lot was turned into the Poets’ Garden with the bust of Victor Hugo facing the sea as the centerpiece, another turned into a garden with elevated seating constructed across from it so the sea is in full view. An overgrown succulent garden next to the Picasso Museum blocking the sea view was removed and replaced by a cactus garden and the oddly named “Belvedere” which translates from the Italian as “a building with a view”. There is a view but no building. The dumpsters have been permanently removed from the square, making garbage disposal a bit inconvenient, but the beauty of the area is now not blemished by dumpsters and the errant empty Coke can, half full beer bottle or tattered pizza box. The ramparts are open to vehicular traffic and deliveries from 2:00 am til 1:30 pm, which seems to satisfy the people with stands in the market who were up in arms when it was revealed that the plan was to make the ramparts permanently closed to vehicular traffic except for deliveries. A dedication of the new road and gardens took place at the beginning of June with the mayor mainly praising the landscapers who, one has to admit, completely changed the former asphalt road into a pedestrian paradise and transformed the parking lots into lovely succulent/ cactus gardens. Large pots with trees have been strategically placed to keep cars from speeding down the road instead of the usual “dos d’ane” or donkey back traffic bumps which have been very effective and are most attractive. Souvenir fans were given to all attendees of the dedication ceremony and since we had not yet arrived for the summer, our dear neighbor asked for two so we also could have a souvenir. I have tried to understand how letting cars and trucks on the ramparts till the market closes at 1:30 helps the market but the reasoning fails me.
The downside to these strategically placed potted trees is that there is always someone who simply insists on driving along the sea instead of taking the highway where they belong, predictably an oversized truck, camper or trailer as has happened twice recently. Last week a flatbed truck hauling a car was stuck behind the Picasso Museum, causing a traffic jam that would have lasted for hours had the police not arrived to assist everyone in backing up, sending them merrily on their way, and finally getting the flatbed through. More recently an overly long Mercedes camper had trouble navigating among three pots, heaving a sigh of relief when they got past the pots without having to destroy one or two of them or crush one of the new plantings, only to become stuck at the right angle turn down the road, causing a now all too familiar traffic jam on the ramparts when it is open to vehicular traffic.
The Miranda/Lacan project in the center of town is practically finished, although there are still many apartments available and the flooding problem of the underground parking has yet to be fully resolved; ground floor shops and restaurants are opening, as has a much edited version of pretty much the French equivalent of Target, Monoprix, called Monop’ which does not carry the usual clothing, glassware, light bulbs, bedding and other household items, which the larger Monoprix does, and concentrates on food, stocking essentials including peanut butter, smoked salmon, Nutella and frozen tater tots. Monoprix, being French, naturally has its own line of gourmet foods which are prominently available at Monop’. The eight screen cinema might actually open this summer at an as yet unannounced date after a three year delay due to Covid and other unnamed mysterious obstacles. The big question is whether anyone will actually go to the movies, and only time will tell; opening the cinema will be the long awaited first step and the future of the rooftop garden/restaurant remains a question mark. Construction of the new living/shopping center is not without casualties: the charming restaurant, Don Camillo, named after the Fernandel film series in which he portrays a priest (Don Camillo) who comes up against the Italian town’s communist mayor and was dedicated to Fernandel’s iconic cinematic career, closed permanently after lunch service had to be abandoned altogether while the road the restaurant fronted was being resurfaced with paving stones and access to the restaurant for dinner was difficult to navigate due to ever changing blocked off areas.
The market is in full swing with some developments. Lucille and her husband, who have a stand on weekends except for July and August where they sell at least six different kinds of numbered but not named oysters plus shrimp, mussels, clams, whelks, periwinkles and more, are going to Japan for two weeks. Jean Paul and Marie, who have the largest flower stand in the market, are taking July off to visit family in the north. Jeanette, who for decades had the stand across from Eric’s huge popular stand for the restaurants and yachts who order cases of produce from him daily and to whose employees she was a grandmother figure, has retired but she continues to grow and supply basil for Eric to keep her hand in the game and stay in touch with Eric and his team. Marielle’s produce is still the most beautiful with every color of tomato imaginable on display: yellow, orange, brown, pink, green, striped and more. La Sirene has the largest fish selection in addition to crab claws as big as your fist, blue lobsters, spiny lobsters, mussels, clams, squid, octopus and just about anything else you might fancy. Nico, across from his former boss at La Sirene, has turned his fish stand into a gold mine, serving a glass of chardonnay with six Fine de Claire oysters or carpaccio of fish. It is not unusual to see people with heaping plates of both of these delicacies and a few shrimp thrown in at lunch time. Business is so good that Nico has had to hire two servers to keep the eager customers fed.
Patricia and David have the sprawling spice stand across from Alexandre’s enormous cheese stand, which has an endless selection for all tastes: triple cream, hard, goat, cow, sheep- you name it, he has it although he seems to specialize in tome, a hard cheese from the French Alps and Switzerland that ranges from pure one milk cheese to various blends of cow, goat and sheep milks. One of our favorites is the not too hard and creamy chevris, a goats milk/sheep milk mix. Along with every spice imaginable, the spice stand has 38 different kinds of salt including the familiar pink Himalayan and one special mix with sugar, plus a blend they call Antibois which they advertise as pretty much good with anything. The majority of the salt mixtures are concocted by Patricia with only a handful ready mixed. You can follow Patricia and David on INSTAGRAM @maison.forte. Their daughter, Sasha, was an au pair for two years with a family in Lincoln Park. More on that another time…
Michele’s stand at the end of the market across from the bike rental shop remains the most popular produce stand as he has top quality fruits and vegetables at the best prices. Michele and Eugenie have had their stand for almost 25 years across from Eugenie’s mother’s stand in the center row of the market where she sells her home grown vegetables. Michele’s older son has taken over some of the management of the stand and is now in charge of restaurant and yacht orders, while their beautiful daughter with her lovely smile helps out when needed.
Chicago may be the “ Windy City” because of long winded politicians, and strong winds off the lake only enforce the popular and usually misunderstood moniker, but they cannot compare to the winds off the Mediterranean which come up and can ruin a sunny day at the beach with white caps and wind that can easily blow over a small child, not to mention beach umbrellas that can become deadly projectiles. The regatta season is over and boats of all sizes fill the port, yet boats anchored in the bay are nonexistent due to the wind that would rock all but a good sized cruise ship. We await calm waters for the return of our non-military flotilla.
Igloo continues to boycott the cactus garden between the Belvedere and the Picasso museum, as it replaced his beloved overgrown succulent garden with all the shade and critters to stalk he desired, a favorite spot for his morning nap, but the removal of the dumpsters was the last straw, leaving him no shade in the entire square, only a magnificent uninterrupted view of the sea which seems to be of no interest whatsoever to our favorite feline.