Monday, September 22, Santa Margherita to Antibes
The morning went like clockwork. We were up before the sun, got ourselves together, and walked to the bus stop where we got a bus to the train station. We purchased our tickets the day before and used the few lire we had left to buy croissants and water. When the train arrived we hopped into a car and started walking thru the second class cars to get to first class. The cars were crowded and our luggage a problem. We finally gave up and stood for the 30-minute journey to Genoa. We learned the hard way that it's best to get into the correct class car from the platform and not on a crowded train. Once in Genoa we had no difficulty in switching to our train to Antibes, and we were happy traveling in first class for the three-hour trip. It was our bad fortune to encounter a conductor as we had forgotten to stamp our tickets in Genoa for the second portion of the trip. The fine was not much, about $5 each, and about twice what it would have cost in lire, but we paid in francs as we had no lire left. It was a good thing Maritza brought plenty of francs. It was more embarrassing than it was costly.
It was easy locating our new hotel, L'Auberge Provencale in old town Antibes. It sat on a main square filled with shops, restaurants, and parked cars. No one was around and a note for us (in French) was taped to the bannister. We assumed it was telling us to go straight up to our rooms. Only 31 stairs to this one! We reached Maritza's room first -- she was delighted. It was a huge room overlooking the square with a large canopy bed and a single bed. I headed up to my room on the next floor, "Chambre Celine." Maritza's room was named "Emmanuelle." I was speechless. How can I describe my room? It's at least 700 square feet with a vaulted, beamed ceiling, and a canopy bed with billowy fabric. I suppose this sounds charming, but I found it rather eerie. The auberge is a former abby and I was anxious to hear its history (which I never did).
We settled in and went out to see a bit of the town. Mostly we wandered through some shops and admired the charm of the town. Maritza stayed in following lunch and I wandered a bit more. Lunch at Le Tire Bicon was just okay, but dinner at The Village Restaurant was wonderful. We had three-course meals for under $20 each. (We got about 6 francs to the dollar on this trip.)
Be careful what you wish for -- you may get it. I wanted accommodations that were out of the ordinary with lots of character, and I definitely got it. I travel a lot on business and usually by myself. I sleep well in strange surroundings, but now I was convinced I was not alone in the room. I kept the lights and the TV on all night. Gothic is the best word I can think of. I wasn't sure if I could stay in this room for five nights.
Tuesday, September 23
So I slept in my Jane Eyre room. At 11:00 pm someone turned on a radio, very loud, and kept it on til after midnight. During the day the room was gloomy, but at night it was downright creepy. After breakfast I moved my stuff into Maritza's cheerful room. Breakfast was hot chocolate, French bread and croissants served in our room. After the first morning we abandoned the hotel breakfast and went out to a local bakery. Each morning I had an almond croissant that was to die for.
After breakfast we did a little shopping and then picked up our rental car -- a Ford Mondeo. As Maritza was comfortable driving, I did the navigating. It would have helped if we had a map -- the tourist bureau was out of them. Maritza got the hang of it quickly and the car worked out well.
We headed to Mougins, only we blinked and somehow missed it. Oh well, on to St. Paul de Vence, a fortress village perched on a hill with narrow cobblestone streets meandering this way and that, oozing charm and catering to hordes of tourists. Lots of expensive shops and restaurants. It was pretty and I enjoyed my time here. Then we went to a neighboring town, Vence -- not to be confused with St. Paul de Vence.