Monday, 1 October 2012

From Riviera to Rioja

For the second time this year, we have been invited to Spain – now to spend some time in the Rioja region – and we are tempted. That is, I wouldn’t have any hesitation but my husband is uncertain whether he could fit one more ‘holiday’ into his (practically empty) calendar. Those retirees... I will continue working on it. In fact, I believe I’m almost there.

Meanwhile, this is how it was in Antibes on the French Riviera two months ago. We paid a visit from our holiday base Nice to this historic town dating back to almost 2500 years when the Greeks founded there a colony they called Antipolis. (It’s my niece in the photo above. Aren’t they stunning at 17 these days!) 

Once again we were starving upon arrival to a destination and started our afternoon with a nice lunch in one of the restaurants at Place Nationale (Restaurant Le Jardin my son had tipped us about would have opened only in the evening). Thereafter we were even more tired than when we first sat at the table in the shade.

I know, I know, you should avoid heavy lunches in hot weather. Even without a heavy lunch, so much of the potential goes wasted when you are travelling during the hottest season. The heat will exhaust you and distract you from your intentions so you will end up making far less moves than you had expected. Not that he expects many but here is an argument anyway: an autumn trip to Rioja would be so much more functional, rewarding if you like, than a summer one to Côte d’Azur!

In Antibes, we did manage to take a stroll in the old town as everyone and visit the Musée Picasso at the Château Grimaldi as almost everyone. However, I am not a great fan of Picasso’s and found at least some of the ceramic works he had made in the nearby pottery village Vallauris rather whipped up. He was such a star I can easily imagine he may have sometimes made fun of his devotees by cutting a few corners here and there and hastily crafting piles of creations in no time.

Works of a few other modern artists were also presented inside the museum and on the terrace of the castle. What I loved most in the lovely château were the abstract landscape paintings by Nicolas de Staël. The little I may have heard of him before had all been long forgotten but his works really impressed me. In the odd event I would have the means one day I will chase a painting of his at an auction somewhere. He was a Russian-born artist, one of the great abstract impressionists of the 1950s, who lived his last year or two in Antibes and committed suicide there at the age of 41 in 1955, a couple of months earlier than I was born. (I didn’t take any photos inside the museum; I believe it wasn’t allowed.)

Sculpture by Joan Miró
Sculpture by Germaine Richier

It is amazing that even in the highest season you only have to take a few steps away from the main attractions and the crowds disappear, only to reappear as soon as you return to the most obvious streets. I wish there would come a time in our lives when we are no longer in a constant hurry from A to B when travelling so that we could really devote some time to the most important aspects of the places we visit and not only the most obvious ones. I do realize the best things often come to you as a surprise. Nevertheless, I wish I would learn to plan the choreography of our comings and goings better. Hey, I found another argument here: someone will have done it for us if we now agree to travel to Rioja!

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