Located on the coast between Nice and Cannes, the small town of Antibes packs a lot of history into a small area.
Dating back to the 5th Century and its time as a Greek colony, Antibes’ recent history was shaped by its popularity with wealthy Europeans and a number of artists who made it their home over the years or simply stopped by to paint.
On my first morning in Antibes I took a stroll around the bustling Market area of the town centre and was overwhelmed with the selection of food and drink on offer. I may have bought a cake or two to eat on the way to the Picasso Museum…
The Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso first visited Antibes in 1923, but it wasn’t until 1946 that he moved to the town to live with friends at Château Grimaldi.
When Picasso arrived he was offered the second floor of the Château, the former guards quarters, which he accepted. Picasso didn’t stay long in Antibes, but in just a few months he produced 23 paintings and 44 drawings.
Paintings such as La Jois de Vivre are now viewed as some of Picasso’s finest works, proving his time in Antibes was a productive and enjoyable one.
Today the Château is owned by the town and has been renamed the Picasso Museum, which is open all year except on Mondays.
Works by the artists Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman also hang in the Museum.
James Bond fans may not instantly recognise the imposing sight of Antibes’ Fort Carré, the impressive 16th Century building located on the approach to Antibes which was at one time a jail for Napoleon, but once through its gates things become more familiar.
It was back in 1983 that the filmmakers behind unofficial Bond movie, Never Say Never Again, found themselves on the Côte d’Azur to shoot Sean Connery’s return as 007, and the Fort doubled as the North African location of Palmyra, the hideout of bad guy, Largo.
Connery can be seen on foot and horseback riding around the Fort.
Another Côte d’Azur location can also be seen in the same sequence, Villefranche-sur-Mer’s Citadel.
André Hugon’s 1952 film, Quatre sergents du Fort Carré, was also shot at the Fort.
Another Antibes landmark with film connections is Marineland, a park originally opened in 1970 which is now one of the largest of its kind in the world.
Attracting tens of thousands of visitors a year who are keen to visit its animals, some of those attendees are also keen to see where films such as The Big Blue (1988) and Rust and Bone (2012) were filmed.
The answer is mainly around the dolphin and killer whale tanks, which welcomed director Luc Besson back in the 80s to film underwater sequences for his cult classic, The Big Blue.
Although apparently set at sea, much of the film was shot in Marineland.
More recently, Oscar winner Marion Cotillard starred in Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, which tells the story of a killer whale trainer who loses her legs in an accident.
Cotillard spent time with the whales at Marineland and the finished film won a number of awards at festivals around the globe.
Other animals at Marineland include sea lions, tropical fish, aquatic birds and a certain polar bear…
Next time I’ll be heading to another part of Antibes, the area of Juan-les-Pins.
The Côte d ‘Azur, within three hours of over 30 European destinations, offers a wide range of themed stays all year round. With France’s second airport, Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, the French Riviera is within reach of over 33 countries, 103 destinations and served by 56 airlines.
Antibes is located approximately 21 kilometres from the town of Nice. Visit the local tourist office at www.antibesjuanlespins.com.
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Top image © Office de Tourisme de Antibes – Photograph: Robert Palomba
Picasso Museum images © Office de Tourisme de Antibes – Photographs: George Veran
Top Fort Carré and top Marineland images © Office de Tourisme de Antibes – Photographs: Robert Palomba