It is Friday and Krishna took the day off to show me around the Côte d’Azur.
Priya takes painting classes on Fridays with an elderly woman artist in Aix. The children have school but Aditya was bringing home a friend Lucas, to sleep over, so she had her hands full.
We left around ten thirty and soon struck the highway, with the disembodied woman’s voice on the GPS relentlessly telling us to turn left or right! (Or sometimes in frustration she says “recalculating”)
The fast four lane highways make all the towns easily accessible. The difference between the American highways and those here seems to be that there are fewer exits. We headed towards Nice and Antibes, by -passing Cannes at a steady 100 kmh. The weather was perfect, the sun bright, the blue sky flecked with a few white clouds, and a mild breeze that caressed my face and hair, when we slowed down and I rolled down the windows.
We were soon in one of the most famous and wealthiest holiday resorts in the world.
Juan le Pins had a road named after JFK for he had a home here.
It is still too early for tourists so we were able to drive through without too much traffic to slow us down. There were many pedestrians as parking is hard to find so those who were lucky to find a spot, were content to walk down along the sea front. Narrow pavements, slow moving cars, single lane traffic, mostly one- way. New expensive apartment blocks face the sea. The blue of the Mediterranean is unique, with its bright blue translucence and some swathes of dark blue here and there, fascinating to look at, its calm waters broken only by the large white yachts and fancy boats, some of them as large as a small house. By afternoon small sailboats speckled the water nudged by the breeze which blew cool and soothing to the walkers along the sea wall. There are small coves near hotels, with umbrellas for sunbathers, but the beaches are pebbly,–not like the sands that sift through our toes on our Indian west coast beaches.
The road curved around the bay as we drove to Cap Antibes where the expensive homes cannot be viewed from the road, with their high walls and gates. No name plates, just the name of the villa, ensuring the owner’s anonymity.
We stopped at a restaurant overlooking the wide curve of the bay.
Bright yellow umbrellas shaded the tables on the sunny terrace, but we preferred to sit indoors looking out through wide windows. The food was delicious with the subtle flavours that are characteristic of French cooking. A shandy is available here as a bottled drink called Panache.
Refreshed and replete, we walked to the Picasso museum over looking the sea, built of the yellow limestone characteristic of the region,
We soon left the coast and drove to Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, I would say. There are about twenty ” Parfumeries” in the town, and we chose one of them, Galimard, for a tour of their ‘laboratories’ where they explained how the flowers were boiled the liquid distilled and the essential oils extracted. All the big perfume names of the world buy their essences here, mixed according to their requirements, labeled by Chanel , Dior etc, their formula a secret between the retailer and the “Nose” who mixed them.
There are very few “Noses” in the industry, highly paid and exclusive to their perfumeries.
Reached home in time to join the family for dinner and afterwards watch the news from Indian TV channels — all about Modi’s invitation to SAARC heads of state. No news of IPL!