Painting the town in Antibes

The light in Antibes, France, has captivated the world's greatest artists, in turn transforming the seaside town into a celebrity mecca.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, follows the footsteps of Picasso, Chagall and Monet.

What’s the first thing that you think of when you think of Antibes? Is it the Hotel du Cap, the holiday destination for celebrities like Brangelina, Madonna, Johnny Depp or other wealthy celebrities? Or is it the less fast-paced side? The painter’s trail where Picasso, Chagall and Monet found the light in Antibes so spellbinding that they set up easel and started painting?

We are on day two of our trip through regional France with Rail Europe. Although we haven’t taken a train yet (that’s tomorrow), we take the 30 minutes drive from Nice to Antibes where we first stop at Cap d’Antibes which is the billionaire playground of the Antibes. The marina is the second biggest in the Europe add you may find the super yachts of billionaire Roman Abramovitch moored here.

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Claude Monet's interpretation of the view.

Overlooking this is Fort Carre as Antibes was a lookout fort for the military. Juan Les Pins is the nearby nightclubbing and shopping area not unlike the Gold Coast or Bali strips of shops, restaurants and bars. Cafes are set up for maximum people viewing and the area is busy as shops open until late at night.

We pass the town of Villeneuve-loubet which a pilgrimage for chefs as it is the town where famed chef Auguste Escoffier was born. There is a museum that features his menus and equipment.

Nearby is the old town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, which is worth a stop. With less than a thousand residents, the town has been beautifully preserved and features pretty boutiques.

Actor Yves Montand was known for playing petanque there during his time. Artists like Picasso, Matisse and Chagall have spent time at Saint-Paul-de-Vence and the many boutiques sit alongside art galleries. Leave yourself at least an hour to explore the winding streets and alley ways but don’t wear heels! The pretty star shaped cobblestones are not for heels.

The Antibes are known as a place that has attracted many painters including Monet, Peynet and Picasso. There is a painter’s trail which is about an hour’s walk from end to end and shows where these painters painted their famous works and it’s wonderful to be able to see the view behind the panels.

There is also a Picasso museum dedicated to the works that the famous painter created during his time there in 1946. The sandstone building was the site of his studio. At the end of his stay there, he donated all of the works (over 40 paintings and over 20 sketches) to the town of Antibes. They now feature in this museum as Picasso wanted people to see them in Antibes.

We take a drive to the Provencale markets which are on every day but Monday and there are a range of items from cheeses, pastries (including ones with with lemon cream and coffee cream), dried lavender as well as some lovely jams including a wonderful lychee jam and a rose jam.

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One of the most fascinating stands is the spice stand that has a wonderful range of spices, slightly different from what you might see. Rose salt is one of the items that is a little different and I swoon at its beautiful hue.

Adjacent to the market is an absinthe bar where the ground level looks like a regular store but you take the stairs to the basement to the absinthe bar. Walk past the old signs which were supposed to warn patrons of the danger of absinthe or anything that wasn’t wine, beer or cider. Near one wall sits a table and chairs where a well once sat and pretty decorated tables hold the instruments necessary for chasing the green fairy...

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