Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
We had never heard of Cagnes-sur-Mer but we needed affordable, comfortable, self-contained accommodation for a family of four near Nice and the best and cheapest that we could find was in Cagnes-sur-Mer, which is only 12km from Nice.
I used my frequent flyer points to pay for the apartment there so our costs were not anywhere near as high as they would be. Interestingly even basics like toilet paper, soap, sheets and towels are not provided at that apartment but it’s in a good location and is comfortable and kept us safe from the flash floods on Saturday night.
We all got our hair cut (cheaper in France) which was an interesting experience for all 4 of us because none of the 3 different people that cut our hair spoke functional English nor do we speak functional French so we relied on hand gestures. My son’s barber seemed to be a new arrival from North Africa. He seemed to only know one hairstyle and a procession of young men walked out of his barber shop with matching hair cuts. Our son was delighted because he gelled his hair into a cool style. My hairdresser had worked non-stop for 2 days to clear flood debris from her shop and her phone-line had not yet been repaired. She was very calm and friendly. When her son visited her she greeted him with kisses and called out ‘cou-cou’. I’m not sure if she was actually open for business but she seemed happy to cut my hair.
The café nearest our apartment was run by a couple who are originally Italian. It was tiny and cosy and they are very welcoming and calm people. We immediately felt at home in there and returned everyday for morning coffee. Their prices were very reasonable too and we had a delicious lunch there with prosecco one day.
Despite the cost savings we still spent at least 150 euro per day on food, transport and museum entry. We avoided taxis and instead caught the crowded and cheap buses. We only went to a few museums with cheap entry. We ate out once a day and at brasseries or cafés never restaurants. I’m boggled to think how we could have experienced Côte d’Azur more cheaply. I’m not concerned about the cost, just observing how expensive it is to be on vacation. I read a travel blog recently above travelling on 50 euro per day including accommodation. That just seems crazy now that I’m a parent travelling with children and no longer willing to do nothing but eat cheap fast food, stay in a hostel and walk around all day.
Cagnes-sur-Mer has a lovely old town on the top of the hill. It’s very lived in and the town isn’t crammed with tourists and fancy clothes shops. We liked it. Nice obviously receives tremendous volumes of cash from visitors and I’m glad that we didn’t stay there.
We had the old town to ourselves the day that we explored it. We saw fancy restaurants near the Haut-de-Cagnes castle and guessed that tourists must stop there for lunch in the summer. Several cute old houses in the old town had brass name tags on the door with foreign-sounding names on them and presumably there is a sizeable expat community living there. Walking up and down the steep hill must keep everyone fit! The castle is not very exciting to explore and the highlights are the olive museum on the ground floor and climbing the tower for a great panoramic view.
We went to the beach at Cagnes-sur-Mer a couple of times but didn’t swim partly because it was not hot but also because we were worried about the water quality after the floods that happened on Saturday night. One day we discovered that the hippodrome (horse-racing track) had a children’s fun fair. We went to it separately, following the British divide-and-rule maxim to keep our children separate so that everyone has a better time. There were a few fun activities for children and at the same time there was a dressage competition (which looked quite revolting, cruel and unnatural), a fancy dress parade on horses, acrobatics on horses and the beginnings of a horse race. It was interesting to wander around the stables and see the hub-bub of activity as horses were washed, groomed and prepared.
Cagnes-sur-Mer is famous for the fact that Renoir moved there towards the end of his life. He bought a lovely villa on the hill with an olive grove. My daughter and I enjoyed visiting the museum that is in his house and inspecting his artwork and the artwork of his peers.
We bought a soccer ball and played with it a few evenings. It was great fun and exercise that we all needed. Our son loves soccer now and is really tenacious and fun to play with. He runs furiously after the ball and becomes drenched with sweat. He treats the whole world as a parkour venue and climbs up and jumps over and onto everything. Twice older French women vocally expressed their distress that he was in danger. We have become accustomed to the Norwegian way which allows children to play outside without many rules or considerations for safety but they don’t seem to do that in France! It’s understandable considering the population density and 3 months ago before we left Australia we would have felt the same way but now we have relaxed and accepted that children need to play and taking small risks is part of a normal childhood. To be continued…