Anitbes, France

December 9-11, 2001

To momentarily detox from working at a greeting card website like one of Santa's elves in the Christmas season, Ritsuko and I escape to Southern France.

Here, the skies are blue and the sun bright. The nights are cold enough for artificial outdoor ice-skating, but not bad enough to bite. We stayed in the Juan de Pins section, where the beach is and what might be some movie star summer homes. Making daily walks through Ville de Antibes (the old Antibes village), we found one most disturbing site the long war around: an old châteaux about to be wreaked. It now dwarfs the hanging ball, but in a month it will be gone forever. A shame too, because it would make a great guesthouse with a few million francs and some time to fix it up. Even as it is it's a majestic gem with its semi-haunted look now.

Fine winding streets sprout off the small squares in old Antibes and there are lively people about, although it's clearly more alive in warmer weather. Of the old village, nothing hints to the historical context, so when and why everything was built was an uneducated guess.

The French seem more friendly here than all of my previous experiences. Perhaps that's because I'm with Ritsuko - they might not think I'm English. And anyway, France is definitely the country to best see with a girlfriend.

I'd be lying if I told you an escape from Christmas shoppers was the only reason we came here. It was time to renew Ritsuko's visa on re- entry to the UK. We don't know the status until we step off the plane and go through a series of searches and questions until someone decides that she can stay. This is not unlike the few old Antibes fountains and statues: naked, with out context in a changing world beyond our control.

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