“Nomade” by Jaume Plensa.
By Katherine Harvey
The first weekend in June marks the official opening of Mediterranean sailing events and the first leg of the “Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge” with “Les Voiles d’Antibes” (“The Sails of Antibes”). Events begin on the Wednesday and end on the Sunday with, as you would imagine, a very big party at the former Naval Shipyard (where Calypso, the famous ship of Jacques Cousteau was built) under the watchful eye of Jaume Plensa’s “Nomade,” the monumental and magnificent white bust of a man crafted in letters that welcomes all who enter Antibes from the sea.
Started in 1996, this sailboat weekend has become THE race to enter for serious yachtsmen. No Enigma (formerly the famous Phocea), Maltese Falcon or Sailing Yacht A in these races, just the real deal. Wander down to the port and when not in a regatta, the yachts are in the harbor: Yachts of the Epoch (pre-1950), Classic Yachts (pre-1976), Yachts in the Spirit of Tradition as well as Metric Class Yachts, some participants in the 1958 and 1987 America’s Cup. It is a spectacular sight to watch the boats in full sail as they round the Cap d’Antibes heading for the finish line. And don’t forget to bring home a commemorative polo shirt made by Gaastra, the 119–year-old sail maker that produces a new shirt design for the event every year; your inner fashionista will thank you.
The only fly in the ointment seems to be Saint-Tropez (whose regattas take place in September), which is suing both Antibes and Cassis for using the words “Voiles de” for their annual regattas. After a decision in a lower court, everyone had thought the matter was finished or as the organizer of “Les Voiles d’Antibes” said, “One had thought Saint-Tropez would change its rifle to the other shoulder.” If only. The organizer of the Cassis regattas sarcastically wonders if Saint-Tropez thinks it is not a well enough known town and that it would be thought that all of these races are under the same umbrella. Others wonder if the underlying motive is the fact that Saint-Tropez simply does not want Gaastra to have its name on the shirts. Gaastra has no economic stake in these events, yet it receives international visibility when people wear their shirts which have the Gaastra name on them … in multiple places. It will be interesting to follow this situation which is now headed back to court.
Every night, a different band entertains all who wish to come to the yachting village at the Bastion St-Jaume at the Chantier Naval to party, with food stands and, naturally, rosé wine. This year, 2,000 bottles of rosé were consumed as well as 200 kegs of beer.
On the other side of the archway that marks the entry through the walls of Antibes on the “Esplanade du pré au Pêcheurs” (“The Fishermans’ Meadow”) is “l’Italia a Table” or “Italy at Table” which hopes to become an annual event during the “Voiles d’Antibes.” Stand after stand celebrates Italian food and other products such as leather handbags, jackets and shoes (don’t expect Gucci, Fendi, Ferragamo or any other big name) with this year focusing on Sicily. Who knew that there was Italian craft beer? Or that Parma had so many different kinds of hams and sausages? Feel free to pick the age of your Parmigiano-Reggiano: 16, 24 or 36 months; I assure you they all are distinctly different. You can’t avoid the limoncello stands (the one from Sorrento was particularly attractive), and wine tastings are offered at every turn; consumption in moderation is not encouraged by the merchants. Gigantic displays of Italian pastries are tempting, and restraint is suggested as always.
After a long weekend of watching regattas, you wonder what the next weekend will bring, and this being Antibes, it will no doubt be longer than a normal two-day weekend. Next up was Déantibulations in its 13th season bringing performing artists from all regions of France and Spain for four days of mostly outdoor performances all over the Old Town, involving clowns, music, theatre, dance and more. The closest I can come to a translation is that it has something to do with ambling and Antibes. Acrobats rappel and perform daring feats from the cathedral bell tower and soar from their trampoline at the port; improv actors perform and amuse across from the Picasso Museum involving reluctant and unsuspecting audience members, adding to the fun; clowns contort themselves into unimaginable shapes not far from the port. And, if you always wanted to learn Afro-Brazilian dance and percussion, all you have to do is sign up for the Master Class.
From June 10 to July 10 is Euro 2016, which is the European Football (soccer) competition. “Le Foot” is taken VERY seriously here, and many restaurants bring in big screen televisions, because without them, they would not have customers. You get used to outdoor cafés with gigantic screens; not to be outdone, one restaurant in the market has two. The Tabacs sell flags and other patriotic items, and there is little vehicular traffic during the matches, especially if France is playing. France is the host country this year, and many large towns have set up “Fan Zones” and have special buses to take fans to the stadiums, where there are Jumbotrons showing the game of the evening. In spite of all efforts, traffic is tied up for hours before and after the matches. There was a long article in Nice-Matin describing the paralyzing traffic jams and what Nice hoped to do to rectify the situation starting with not closing down “fast lanes,” which they usually do during rush hour — don’t even ask! Many who work in Nice have decided to take a vacation, stay in a hotel or simply work from home on the days when the matches are projected on the Jumbotrons and/or take place in the stadium. In case you were wondering, Carlsberg is the official beer of Euro 2016.
June 21 may be the longest day of the year, but it also is the “Fête de la Musique” or “World Music Day,” which was the brainchild of former French Minister of Culture Jack Lang in 1982. This celebration of music, be it rock, pop, blues, electro, jazz or anything else musical is now a tradition in more than 120 countries and 700 cities. In France, all concerts must be free and all performers donate their time; noise restrictions apply, although I have seen little evidence of it, and all music must stop at midnight unless special permission is given; I suppose the group that merrily sang under our bedroom window at 3:30 a.m. had gotten that special permission.
As for Igloo, we haven’t seen him for a few days. He did learn that he could come into our house through the living room window, but after he was shown the back door, he decided it was too much trouble to walk all the way around the house just to be sent home. He can often be found in the square next to the Picasso Museum waiting for tourists to pay attention to him, which they inevitably do. Being loved and petted is, after all, his raison d’être.