Oh let’s get rich and buy our parents houses in the South of France…
You know that line from that song? I’m actually completely oblivious to the rest of the lyrics, and even the artist, but I know that line, because I’ve been singing/humming it since I arrived in France six months ago, in anticipation of exploring one of the most well-known and visited places in the world. It kept me going when it was Day 14 of rain in Rouen, kept me working when I was buried in work and had to forfeit time outdoors.
The South of France! Clear, cold water the color of turquoise! Miles of beaches, Mediterranean cuisine, and that omnipresent, always shining Sun…bliss, I thought. Bliss.
Now, of course I’d heard some not-so-silver-linings that could cloud the SUD experience: it’s so expensive, it’s so touristic, it’s so commercial, it’s too crowded. Nay! I cried. All lies, and not fit for these pure, adoring ears. So I set off, ready to whip off my coverup at a moment’s notice and take a leisurely sunbathe at a moment’s notice.
So who was right?
I suppose we both were (indicating myself and the slightly more realistic world). The sea really is THAT blue, the scenery really is THAT stunning, and the olive oil worth a first-born child or two. I wandered through the sun soaked and perfumed streets of Old Grasse, found an (almost) private beach in the adorable town of Theoule-Sur-Mer, hiked in the shrubby hills above Nice, and was offered freshly-picked cherries while wandering around a whole-village antiques sale.
But I was shocked by just how congested the coast was, and not just by people. There were so many new buildings, so many villas, so many roads and highrises and developing foundations. The South of France is gorgeous, so naturally people want to live there — but it’s also where I felt the least IN France. After four months of rain, cows, and butter in Normandy, the Nice and Marseilles regions were a real jolt.
Now that I’ve seen so much of France, I am absolutely ITCHING to return to Brittany, the Loire Valley, and Bordeaux; I’ve also got my eyes on a longer stay in Alsace and around Strasbourg. I know I’m coming back for Aix-en-Provence, and a little border-of-Spain action is in the stars, you can bet your bottom dollar on that. The Sud I’m less sure about, which is ironic, since I made the best friends there, and I have the best memories there, as well. But I’m a romantic, and the romantic is a bit more satisfied in the regions less traveled.
All that said, there’s something everyone needs to know about the Alpes-Maritime region, which is right next to the Italian border, where Cannes and Nice and Monaco all lie. They’ve got gelato and sorbet, and they have GOT IT IN SPADES.
Every city, every town, every place with people with tongues, had a little (or a giant) ice cream shop, where they sell glaces et sorbets AKA gelato et sorbetti AKA ice cream and sorbet.
Now, with that pesky pasteurized cow-milk allergy, the ice creams were out. But sorbet? Heavens, was that in.
In all honesty, I ate too much sorbet. Every day represented an opportunity to discover and try new flavors and shops, and I took FULL advantage of that, often blowing the equivalent of $7 US Dollars on a few scoops of creamy, fruity, flavorful goodness.
Goodness that made me very, very happy. There is almost nothing better than a little spoonful of creamy, silky, cold sorbet on a hot day. When your feet are achy, and the sun is blistering, and you’re just a little too sweaty for comfort – THAT is the moment you want to arrive at your carefully selected gelateria of the day. It’s not particularly good for portion control, but for maximum enjoyment? Nothing beats it.
So, where to go? ONE ANSWER.
Gelateria Del Porto in Antibes.
Go. Swoon. Die. Then resurrect yourself and try a few more flavors. This stuff is dynamite, and made by a truly lovely and passionate man, who once told my friend: You can’t have vanilla. I haven’t made it yet today – come back in two hours, and it will be perfect.
It totally was.
So there’s the SUD for ya. Go for the sorbet.