43° 41′ 37.2156” N 7° 17′ 17.0772” E
29. juli, 2016
Nice: Only when you are four years old as our granddaughter, Nellie, you can in Nice – two weeks after the horrific attack on July 14 – ask if this is a place, where you can buy teddy bears and flowers.
The memorial site for the 84 random people, who were mowed down by an-ISIL terrorist in a heavy truck on Bastille Day in Nice, is for us, who are older than four years, deep, deep, deep into the heart poignant and oppressive.
Flowers, teddy bears, candle lights, poems, obituaries in overwhelming amounts, the whole atmosphere around the memorial site provokes a desire to stand behind the French and tell them that their sorrow is ours, that we share with them in their showdown against terror.
“Je suis Nice“.
Nice is an enchanting city. Cosmopolitan. Rich. Varied. Energetic. Caracterized by art, culture and architecture of the time, when the European aristocracy met here with one another in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Here are many beautiful buildings, several museums, joyful playgrounds and more life in the streets than in any other town along the French Mediterranean coast.
Exactly this year, the summer of 2016, however, it is difficult to do anything other than let the pictures speech from the memorial after the fatal Bastille Day.
Facts: After having dwelt on the memory of the victims of the July 14 terror here are some factual sailing information: Nice is a relatively inexpensive port: 30 € per night. Slightly cheaper than Cannes: € 34 per night.
Our experience is, that if you are in the big cities, you should try to get into the old port – Vieux Port – then you get a price close to Nice and Cannes. The price rises when you go into smaller ports for instance Marina Baie des Anges between Nice and Antibes. Here you pay € 48 per night without ever getting more for your money.
Therefore: Go for Vieux Ports when you need to seek a harbour with shopping facilities, sanitary facilities and cultural activities beyond what you can get when you anchor for free in the bays.
Ronja eat cherries with the big ones. Note that now we park our boat, as we will. The bow in first – no matter what the French do and think
43° 35′ 2.1804” N 7° 7′ 41.7288” E
Antibes: The woman behind the counter shakes her head: “You must understand, that what you are asking can not be considered. We do not hire out berths on monthly contracts in July and August. We only hire out one day at a time, eventually two days and then you can come and ask, if you can hire one more day. Those are the rules. ”
The woman behind the counter has an expression that lets us understand, that our request takes the prize as the month most foolish.
“It’s not the port’s berths. It is the individual owners. We can not know, when the owner comes back and want to use the berth himself. ”
The woman is sitting behind the counter at the port office in Port Vauban, Antibes’ giant port, who reportedly is Europe’s largest marina with over 1700 berths, including a billionaire pier for those boat-owners, who can not settle for two or six employees but has 40 or – in one case – even 60 crew members.
We had asked the woman, if we could rent a berth for our sailing boat Ronja for a month or more, while we were back home in Denmark. Obviously we could not. There are rules. And where we were we all, if rules are not followed?
We leave the harbour office crestfallen. We think, again we have met that French arrogance, where at least some officials have a greater need to show who is the boss, than they have an interest in finding a possible solution with the customer.
Nevertheless: We MUST be in Denmark on August 2. or 3., and we CAN at the earliest be back in the south of France on September 12 . The problem has to be solved.
We take place in Café Felix, who has an acceptable wifi and a decent white wine, and we send a flurry of e-mails to ports and shipyards along the Riviera – from Cannes in the west to Menton in the east.
We would like to have Ronja to lie in the water from August 2 to September 12. But we are desperate enough to make a comprehensive agreement for the entire winter, including getting the boat taken out of the water, if the other ports also rejects having her in the water for more than a month.
We get the fastest responses from those, that we seek out personally. Three yards/boat repair shops in Antibes each have a crane large enough to lift Ronja out of the water. All three are sincerely accommodating to our problem. One says, however, straight out that he can make more money utilising his port area to prepare and repair boats than to have our Ronja standing in hibernation. Fair enough.
Another oat repair shop offers to take Ronja on land and store her in a corner of their port area until April, eight months for the price of 7.500 €. A shipyard offering to hive Ronja on land, take the mast of her and carry her into the country, where they have a storage space. Price: 8.200 €.
Thanks. But no thanks. On these terms we will not take Ronja out of the water.
So begins the answers ticking in via the mail. The most professional ports, the four ports that are part of the organisation Riviera Ports – Cannes, Nice, Golfe-Juan and Villefranche – acknowledge immediately with a standard mail, that they have received my mail, and that they will answer the question within 48 hours.
Three of them actually do this. Nice offers to cover part of the period. Cannes and Villefrance says no but they will put us on the waiting list. We do not hear from Golfe-Juan. The same applies to six or seven other marinas. No responce at all. Not a single line.
And yet. One port answers. The most surprising of them all.
We basically had received oral refusals from Port Vauban, but when we sat down and wrote mails, we also sent Port Vauban an email.
And, big surprice! Port Vauban answers yes, they have a place to Ronja from August 2 till September 12.
Hooray for Port Vauban! The port of Antibes is back in the lead. We acknowledge with a yes to the conditions and promise to be there on August 2.
And what did we just learn here? We learned that one hand in a port office do not necessarily know what the other hand is doing. A refusal from one employee can become a happy acceptance from another. Never take no for an answer – when it comes berths.
Reflection: In the four years we’ve been sailing out into the world with Ronja, many have asked whether it is not hard to set aside our boat when we are at home in Denmark and work many months. On the contrary. It has been easy. Easy in Holland. Easy in northern France. Easy west of Marseilles. The French Riviera proved to be a little more difficult and more expensive. But anyway: Again a solution could be created in a short time.
You pay for it. In our case, we pay € 1,082 for 40 days in high season. But as I said: We just had to go back to Denmark on August 2.
43° 33′ 10.2492” N, 7° 1′ 2.5284” E
July 16, 2016
The air is filled with helicopters over Saint Tropez and Cannes. As industrious insects they are buzzing back and forth between the cities with occasional forays out to the large yachts, each having its own helicopter pad. It seems there is especially dense morning and after-work traffic of people going to and from the job from the villa or the yacht in Saint Tropez, Cannes or Nice.
But what do we know about it? Ronja has no helicopter platform on the aft deck. On reflection has Ronja not even an aft deck. The many helicopters give a sense of business activity, but they also underline the atmosphere of exclusivity and extravagance, we have approached as we close in to Saint Tropez and Cannes. The port of Saint Tropez gave us shelter during almost three days of summer storm with up to 8 Beaufort gusts, and now we have been three days in Cannes so far.
Of the two cities, we prefer Cannes. There are common features between the two cities. But Cannes by far wins in comparison. Why? Because there is a nicer atmosphere in Cannes. Cannes is not as outlandish as forlorn as hysterical as Saint Tropez. It is as if, Saint Tropez is nothing in itself, but is instead defines its own value in the things it pulls from the outside – the large yachts, the numerous brand stores, the famous and the rich.
It probably has been like this for many years. After World War II when people wanted to restore the war-damaged city, Saint Tropez was aimed at cultivate a special reputation as a playground for the famous. Errol Flynn came to town, Jean Cocteau, Anaïs Nin and in 1956 also Brigitte Bardot. Thus was the special image in place.
The image is still cultivated. The cruises sail round with tourists, pointing out the villas of the celebrities. The large luxury yachts gets the room innermost in the old harbor, so we all understand that this is the real attraction of Saint Tropez – a sneak peek into the incredibly rich people’s world; tourist fathers and –sons strolling also along the quay discussing how it would be just to work at one of the huge yachts.
Things are different in Cannes. Here the city is larger and can better accommodate all extremes. Here’s also luxury yachts, but they lie at the outer pier and is just one of many elements in the city’s port. Here are also tourists, but the city’s size ensures that it remains predominantly a French town. There are also international brand stores, but they do not overshadow the many local specialist shops with cheeses, pates, bread, hardware, fruit – not to mention antique markets and the daily, quite lavish, food market, Marché Forville.
Unless you just are missing a Gucci bag, shopping-conditions are also best in Cannes – among other things with a few good supermarkets close to the port. The best we saw in Saint Tropez, was a fabulously beautiful hike on a narrow cliff path around the peninsula of Saint Tropez and out to the great beaches Les Salins and Pampelonne. The trip is very long. It is possible to take small swims along the way. Take plenty of water from before going.
Fact: A port space for Ronja in Saint Tropez: 59 € per night. A space in Cannes: € 34 per night (with better facilities). A pizza calzone in Saint Tropez 18 €. A pizza calzone in Cannes: 15 €. Saint Tropez has a small but very interesting museum of modern art. It’s called l’Annonciade and admission is € 6.
43° 0′ 3.6612” N, 6° 13′ 18.0048” E
July 8, 2016
Imagine it before you: A soft reclining chair under a huge, shady pine. A bottle of cold water within reach, a crime novel in hand. The distance between the chair and the azure waters is just ten meters of perfect sandy beach, and ten steps to the side is a small restaurant with a daily menu for lunch.
The place is Porquerolles. The largest of the four islands in the archipelago of Iles d’Hyeres, a short distance east of Toulon. Porquerolles is a mixture of a Caribbean island paradise, the Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen and a military barracks. The island offers simple vacation at sky-high prices.
Porquerolles city was built 100 years ago by the French military. Complete with fort, church, officer housing, barracks and exercise tracks. Today, all the buildings taken over by civilians – bicycle rental shops, ice cream vendors, vegetable grocers, ship wrights and restaurants for every budget. Taken together it has created a relaxed, alternative charm, which by mid-July has the additional of a week-long jazz festival.
The island’s focal point is the many beaches. Some have stone beach, others have the finest sand beaches. Everywhere has a sandy surface under the water, which by the way is nicely separate from the many sailors who are anchoring off the beaches. Tourists at foot and by bicycle walking the many kilometers on the way to and from the beaches. It can be a hot journey, but the ride is greatly mitigated by the enchanting aroma of dry pine needles and fresh saltwater.
Plage de Notre Dame is reputed to be the most beautiful of the beaches. Plage de la Courtade is closer to the city. We, however, prefer Plage d’Argent the most – for it is the only one that has its own restaurant, decent toilets and hire of sunbeds.
Facts: Porquerolles is ridiculously expensive. Supply and demand are out of balance. An overnight stay in the harbor, which has few and poor facilities cost 50 € for Ronjas 11 meters, where we are used to paying € 35 per night. A lunch menu at the restaurant cost € 24 for a single right where we are used to get both two and three lunches for € 19 in other ports. The baker is expensive. The supermarket is expensive. Everything is expensive.
A word of advice: Save the port dues and use the island’s many bays for overnight. Bring your own supplies.