Monday, March 16, 2009

Deserted Nice

I was in Nice again this weekend and, as the weather was fine, we took the Suzuki down the coast to Cannes. There are two main things that strike me about the Cote d'Azur: 1. many of the beaches are narrow, nasty and stony and others are artificial; 2. the palatial residences are empty for most of the year.

When you drive around Cap d'Antibes, there's almost no one on the road. Imagine if you won Euromillions and you decided to buy a little palatial residence in the area, who would your children play with? No one in the neighbourhood, that's for sure. There are no signs of life on Cap Ferrat either, or anywhere that has its own movement detectors along the garden wall.

We drove up into Californie and I was amazed to see that several mansions were derelict, boarded up and abandoned. This is prime real estate and not only is it not inhabited, it's ugly, unfinished and a blot on the landscape. I can only suppose that such houses are caught up in legal wrangles, divorces, family feuds or bankruptcies.

It's so odd, coming from Montpellier where the beaches are sandy and tens of metres wide, to see these narrow little strips of pebbles where kids can't play football, you can't hope for any peace and quiet what with the road pounding along next to the beach, and you're either posing about on a sunbed on a private beach or squashed up with the rest of the world and his dog on the couple of metres left for the general public.

There are no dunes, there's nowhere to hide and it's about as wild as granny's knitting. I suppose that's what comes of having mountains instead of coastal plain and swamp as a backdrop. The colour of the water is lovely, of course, but that would be normal given the fact that the seabed is not fine sand in suspension, but immovable rock. Little kids are not interested in sunbathing, are too young for scuba diving or snorkeling and cannot build pebblecastles. These beaches are more favourable for the pursuit of adult activities it seems.

If you want to play with your kids on a sandy beach, you're better off going along le Petit Travers near Carnon. There you can picnic in the dunes in peace and enjoy the liberation of space. It might not be as stunning as the Cote d'Azur, but it's still beautiful - just different. I love having the possibility of getting to know both.


  1. Not just the palatial residences, but almost all of those super-duper luxury yachts, are deserted 95% of the time. There ought to be squatter's rights, IMHO.

  2. Yes our Southern seaside is the real thing, family beaches, family houses...and families.

    No palaces here, no Beckham's either, no Ferraris you cannot get out of first gear becoz of the traffic..

    Just family everything and lots of sea and sand!

  3. Expat - apparently the yachts are kept as a sort of instant source of untouchable money if things get tough. Take it out into international waters and you pay no taxes on the sale. Nifty!

    NG - Beckham & Co wouldn't be seen dead on the beach at Carnon et c'est tant mieux!


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