Rather than snap the roller-skating grannies I went to see this, one of my favourite objects, a lightning-struck statue in the little garden of the Musee Picasso.
I whipped up the coast by train to Antibes to find – it was open! This museum is the Brigadoon of art, seemingly opening to the public once every five visits. This is partly due to a complex arrangement that sees the museum close for a two-hour lunch every day. Except Mondays, when it isn’t open at all.
But of course – it’s France. The season has started, the beaches are already busy, the cafes are full, and behind the freshly painted promenades full of organic markets are the graffiti-covered backstreets where disaffected youths hang out, and black and Arab populations are relegated to lives largely passed in the shadows.
The gap between rich and poor is growing fast here – but it is everywhere. The Russians fill the smart restaurants, which are serving an insanely extravagant starter I’ve never encountered before – roasted foie gras on lobster with truffles. I’m amazed they don’t flame it in brandy and sprinkle diamonds over the top.
Meanwhile, I’ve opted to stay in a relatively humble hotel that displays perfect Frenchness. A triangular bathtub has been placed in a non-triangular corner, with a loo built for someone three inches wide. The bedroom has five walls – one only two feet long – with huge windows that overlook an old lady’s dining room. There are several dogs in the hall, and an Englishman who wants to know if he can walk from Nice to Monte Carlo. The bar is never open, and there is an immense green neon sign just beyond my bed which says ‘Gounod’, I’m not sure why.
One of Gounod’s most prophetic remarks was ‘Our houses are no longer in the streets – the streets are in our houses.’ He must have stayed in this room.