Trip to Antibes: Part III

A vibrant and cultural Mediterranean seaside town with both a rich history and an active yachting community, Antibes has a lot to offer. With a range of festivities throughout the winter and summer seasons, this town is a bustling mixture of quaint cobbled old town and beach resort.

It’s on the beautiful Bay of Angels, and is an inviting place to wander around. Take your time to stroll along its narrow, winding cobblestone streets filled with charming bistros and little boutiques.

Start your stroll by the harbour, divided into the Old Port and the New Port Vauban, where the yachts of the rich and famous bob between the jetties. This is where Guy de Maupassant moored his boat in 1866 and allowed himself to be inspired by this unique part of Antibes. From here, streets take the most curious turns through an old arch towards the covered market. But first, turn left to walk along the ramparts on the Promenade Amiral de Grasse, where you can catch some magnificent views of the sea.

The town’s skyline is dominated by the picturesque Chateau Grimaldi. Originally the stronghold of the Grimaldi family, the chateau also served as the town hall of Antibes from 1702 until 1925. Today, it houses the Musée Picasso, a delightful museum with a small, but very important collection of paintings – well worth a visit.

Beside the museum, you’ll find the medieval Cathedrale Notre Dame de l’Immaculee Conception,  Antibes’ largest church which has a pleasing rose-colored façade that’s typical of Provencal Baroque architecture. The doors are a delight, sculpted by Jacques Dolle during 18th century and artwork inside includes pieces such as Louis Brea’s Vierge du Rosaire painting depicting Mary holding the Christ.

South of the cathedral, along the town’s ramparts, you will chance upon Place du Safranier, the heart of the independent commune of Safranier which was created in 1966. The square is popular for two reasons: as the place where Nikos Kazantzakis wrote the famous Zorba the Greek, and the fantastic bistro, La Taverne du Safranier. Various festivals and fetes take place here all year round.

If you’ve time, pop into Antibes’ Museum of Archaeology which covers 4,000 years of history relating to Antibes and the surrounding area. The museum’s excellent collection of archeological findings features pieces dating back to Antibes‘ origins as an ancient Greek settlement and then a city of the Roman Empire.

Of equal interest, and located in view of a battery that Napoleon himself actually had restored, the Naval and Napoleonic museum has a fine display of all things Napoleonic – including a rather vast, if obscure, display of his hats. There are also many different artifacts related to the Napoleon family which help piece together the interesting and adventure-filled life of the French emperor.

Close to the museum, you can wander through to the Bastion Shipyard from where the Calypso, Captain Cousteau’s famous ship, set out. The shipyard closed in 1985, and today the site features the impressive Nomade sculpture, depicting a man staring out at the sea, evoking a sense of adventure and mystery. After that stroll you deserve refreshment in one of the many bars or bistros in the town.

Trip to Antibes: Part II

In Part I of my trip to Antibes, I mentioned Monsieur Picasso. We’ve visited the Picasso museum in Paris, seen an exhibition of his blue and rose periods at the Musee d’Orsay, I’ve visited his ceramics museum in nearby Vallauris but until recently had never visited his museum in Antibes, housed in the former Grimaldi Chateau.

The chateau is on the ramparts of Antibes’ Old Town and was built on the former Greek Acropolis of Antipolis, which was then a Roman castrum and finally a Medieval bishopric. The castle was owned until 1608 by the Grimaldi family (of Monaco), hence its name. You may recall there’s also a Chateau Grimaldi in Le Hauts de Cagnes.

In 1925 the chateau was acquired by the City of Antibes. In 1946, Picasso, who was living nearby in Golfe-Juan with Françoise Gilot, accepted an offer from curator Dor de la Souchère’s to set up his studio in the Castle. Picasso worked from mid-September through mid-November of 1946, creating many works, sketches and paintings, including Les Clés d’Antibes (The Keys of Antibes), covering an entire wall surface. When the artist decided to move back to Paris, he left 23 paintings and 44 sketches in the Chateau’s custody.

Subsequently, apart from the 78 ceramic works created between 1947 and 1948 at the Madoura de Vallauris’ workshop, various donations and purchases spanning from 1952 until the present day, as well as the custody pieces conferred by Jacqueline Picasso en 1991, have significantly enriched the Picasso collection of the Museum.

But it’s not just about Picasso, Nicolas de Staël’s works presented at the Museum bear testimony to the artist’s stay in Antibes from September 1954 to March 1955. On 27 December 1966, the Grimaldi Chateau was turned into the « Picasso Museum ». The Modern Art collection, begun in 1951 by Dor de la Souchère, had grown thanks to exceptional gifts from artists whose works had been exhibited at the Museum and to equally exceptional acquisitions made over the years by the City of Antibes.

In 2001, a donation by the Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman Foundation provided for the opening of two new galleries on the ground floor of the museum. A permanent exhibition allows one to retrace the creative periods of each of these artists over several decades.

In addition, the terrace of the Picasso Museum is home to a permanent collection of remarkable sculptures by Germaine Richier. Other artists represented are: Joan Miró, Bernard Pagès, Anne and Patrick Poirier. It’s well worth a visit and I’m only sorry it took us so long!