29 April to 6 May 2019
Imperia, Italy to Nice, France, N43° 69.54’ E07° 28.51’, 34nm, 7 hours
to Cannes, N43° 55.14’ E07° 01.28’, 17nm, 3 hours
to Toulon, N43° 12.25’ E05° 92.95’, 65nm, 11 hours 30
to Le Brusc, N43° 04.9’ E05° 48.13’, 15nm, 1 hour 30
Stefan’s deep hidden French ancestry had given rise to a desire to see a Riviera coast more often the cruising ground of huge motor boats rather than smaller sailing yachts like Pintail.
So with the engine fixed and the weather a little brighter, we went to the pasticceria for one last cornetto breakfast and left Italy behind in search of France and the Cote d’Azur.
On our way we passed Italy’s last Riviera town of San Remo and the boats kept getting bigger and bigger. Getting around here also included by helicopter and plenty buzzed over our heads.
On arriving in Nice’s small, old harbour we spoke to the harbourmaster on the radio. He only had a berth for a 20 metre boat at a 2 metre high quay. We said we would take it and he told us to head to the end of the harbour passed a motor yacht called Quantum Blue. “You can’t miss it,” he said, “it’s 104 metres!” Immediately we knew this wasn’t the kind of harbour Pintail was used to. We moored up alongside a relatively small motor yacht but which still made us feel very small indeed. We might have felt more at home in the fishing harbour across the way!
Stefan might have French ancestry but this did not stop him from immediately eschewing the local cuisine in favour of a chicken vindaloo at Le Bombay Palace.
In the first day of uninterrupted sunshine we’d had in a long time we explored Nice and we can report that Nice is nice, very, very nice. We walked down the Promenade des Anglais (it had our name on it after all!) with its art deco vibes.
In the middle of town we found squares full of sculpture, ancient, modern and water and then we found Place Garibaldi. Yes, Garibaldi! Italian nationalist, hero of it’s unification and latterly resident of Caprera in the Maddalena Islands of Sardinia. What was he doing having his own square in France? Turns out he was born in Nice when European borders weren’t quite the same as they are today.
Some of the best views we had were from the castle hill high above the harbour, looking back either down along the Promenade des Anglais or to the old harbour where it was hard to spot little Pintail.
A short hop down the coast we found ourselves in the equally glamorous Cannes and again picked our way through the big boats to a berth in the big marina.
If Nice was nice, Cannes self proclaimed itself splendid and with the temperature warming up was perfect for wandering along the famous Promenade de la Croisette.
The old town was the perfect jumble of tiny streets and old buildings best viewed from the old fortress above
which was once home to the mysterious and much written about man in the iron mask.
In Cannes we had our first introduction to the markets of Provence. Purple asparagus, radishes and courgettes were in season and there were wonderful olives and cheese to be had.
But you can’t go anywhere in Cannes without noticing its association with film. Seemingly ever building celebrates it and we arrived just as the town was gearing up for the film festival for which it is most famous.
Before the stars of the silver screen arrived we had to make do with their handprints and the other tourists posing on the red carpet outside the Palais des Festivals.
We did our best to join in the fun!
However, the only shows we watched were nature’s. We sat out thunderstorms whilst on the pontoon in Cannes and enjoyed the rainbows that followed them.
Whilst the weather kept us in Cannes we took the train inland to the hill town of Grasse. The umbrellas hanging over the streets provided some shelter from the rain whilst we explored this lovely French town. Stefan had a haircut which he declared the best in the Med to date and, courtesy of the town’s big North African population, we had lunch in a Tunisian cafe complete with my favourite brik.
But Grasse is famous for perfume and at the International Perfume Museum we learnt about the origins of perfumery and were introduced to the latest in swallowable perfume.
The streets were full of small perfumeries and memorials to its most famous inspirations
and the scents of lavender and orange blossom.
Our journey home was a bit of adventure. Our train broke down just outside Grasse and when they couldn’t fix it we were all instructed to get off and walk along the track to the next station. It was reassuring that it’s not just Pintail’s engine that sometimes goes on the blink!