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Phespirit goes to France
Nice     November 2005

AROUND FRANCE

Map of France

1 Nice

Not since Amsterdam, February 2001, has Phespirit visited a city so thoroughly disrupted by digging. In the case of Nice, November 2005, a tram system was being installed so there was nothing but trenches where once there had been roads.

Whilst other developments ruled out visits to the Musée Masséna and the Musée Chagall, there was still sufficient to keep Phespirit occupied. He found the Musée d'Art Moderne to be mostly stuffed with crap works not fit for a public gallery and certainly not worthy of holding anyone's attention on merit. Possible exceptions: a few bits and pieces by Yves Klein, and Sin Titulo 39 by Suzy Gomez.

The Musée des Beaux-Arts is surely the best show in town for its outstanding collection of gothic paintings by Gustav-Adolf Mossa. For example, 'Pierrot s'en va' (1906).

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2 Antibes

If ever he moved from England to the south of France this is where Phespirit would choose to live. Clearly he would not be the first to do so, given the existence of 'Heidi's English Bookshop' where all the books are defiantly priced in Pounds Sterling.

16th century Fort Carré, which dominates the coast at Antibes, is where Napoleon was briefly imprisoned in 1794; is where a part of the Bond film Never Say Never Again was shot; is where Sweden beat Cuba 8-0 in the quarter-finals of the 1938 World Cup .....

..... and is where Phespirit - the only visitor - was lucky enough to be given a personal guided tour by a girl with beautiful green eyes who apologised for her excellent pronunciations, saying she could speak perfect Italian but that English was not her "cup of tea".

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3 Cannes

When Phespirit first visited Cannes the weather was not with him. The strong sea breezes of late morning had reached gale-force by midday. On Pointe Croisette, Phespirit could barely stand upright, such was their strength (or his lack or it).

Out of season, under indifferent grey skies, Cannes has much the same ambience as the grand old resorts of England's south coast in the middle of November. The prime difference being that the gift shops in Cannes - each apparently devoted to a different designer label - remain almost unquantifiably more expensive. There are no Southend-on-Sea "Slappers on Tour" plastic hats here. Cannes is less honest than Southend-on-Sea in that respect.

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4 Île Sainte-Marguerite

The larger of the two Îles de Lérins is a €5 ferry ride (special price) from the port at Cannes.

In contrast with his trip to Cannes, the sun reigned supreme when Phespirit visited this island. He was able to enjoy the best part of a day exploring the Fort Royal - where the "Man in the Iron Mask" was imprisoned from 1687 to 1698 - and lazily strolling a circuit of Chemin de Ceinture - the footpath that follows the shoreline.

A most enjoyable place to leisure.

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5 Île Saint-Honorat

The smaller of the two Îles de Lérins is a €10 ferry ride (usual fare) from the port at Cannes.

Ah, the smell of fresh sea air!

Île St-Honorat is the home of monks - propriété de la congrégation cistercienne de l'Immaculée Conception. The land in the middle of the island is fenced off for the monks' orchards and vineyards but the magnificent coastal defence tower, Monastère Fortifié, is very much free and open. Phespirit could have lingered there for hours.

Instead he did his customary lap of the island then departed when the sun dipped below the horizon and a full moon rose in the east.

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6 Digne-les-Baines

Chemins de Fer de Provence operates 'le Train des Pignes'; a rail service that rattles between Nice and Digne-les-Baines on a three and a quarter hour journey through picturesque scenery.

Phespirit intuitively selected the best seat in the carriage - on the left side, by a window, facing the front - and enjoyed a sumptuous vista of autumn colour, especially in the valley between Entrevaux and Annot. Continuous sunshine, plus the irregular appearance of mountain mists and frosts, only added to nature's beauty.

To travel was better than to arrive as anything that might appeal to tourists was closed. And like the rest of the south of France (only more so), dog shit was piled on the pavements every few metres.

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  1. Nice
  2. Antibes
  3. Cannes
  4. Île Sainte-Marguerite
  5. Île Saint-Honorat
  6. Digne-les-Baines
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Nice Antibes Cannes Île Sainte-Marguerite Île Saint-Honorat Digne-les-Baines