Jazz Weekend

A Weekend to Remember

 

Twelve months, four seasons and one destination, France.

With every trip comes new experiences, adventures and of course memories that will last forever. I've met different people with a story to share, I've learnt new words and tasted new dishes, I've sampled new wines and relaxed on beautiful beaches. It would be difficult to pin-point my favourite location or activity but a weekend in late July will certainly be a weekend I'll remember.

 

Friday

 

After collecting the rental car at Nice airport we joined the motorway heading west. Having already studied a map we had chosen a new location for lunch. A slight detour from our usual drive along the A8 took us to Saint-Aygulf. We didn't want to travel too far as our day had begun in England at 2:30am as we had booked what we call the 'red eye flight', 6am from Gatwick.

 

We have driven along this section of the coast road a number of times on our way from Port Grimaud to Saint-Raphaël, each and every time promising to one day stop there for lunch, at last that day had arrived.

We chose a car park on the Avenue de la Corniche d'Azur and walked a short distance across the bridge to La Plage de la Galiote. This is a small, sheltered beach with a selection of restaurants.

 

Saint-Aygulf

 

After collecting the rental car at Nice airport we joined the motorway heading west. Having already studied a map we had chosen a new location for lunch. A slight detour from our usual drive along the A8 took us to Saint-Aygulf. We didn't want to travel too far as our day had begun in England at 2:30am as we had booked what we call the 'red eye flight', 6am from Gatwick.

 

We have driven along this section of the coast road a number of times on our way from Port Grimaud to Saint-Raphaël, each and every time promising to one day stop there for lunch, at last that day had arrived.

We chose a car park on the Avenue de la Corniche d'Azur and walked a short distance across the bridge to La Plage de la Galiote. This is a small, sheltered beach with a selection of restaurants.

 

Bleu et Blanc

Salade Niçoise

After devouring our beautifully presented, perfectly cooked lunch we walked back towards the main beach.

Protected by a life guard, families can relax and play on the long stretch of soft sand that is  divided into sheltered bays by large rocks.

 

Keeping Watch

It's great to explore, to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

 

I love to find a new town or village for lunch en route from the airport. With a little bit of effort you may be rewarded with a new experience and memories to cherish.

 

Saturday

 

The main event of the weekend was the Jazz à Juan Music Festival held in Juan-les-Pins, Antibes. Being my first outdoor jazz concert, I couldn't think of a better place to tick this off my list than in the South of France.

We arrived in the afternoon, having never visited Juan-les-pins we wanted to explore the area before attending the performance.

The streets were full of bars and restaurants, tables and chairs lining both sides of the pavement. Glasses chinking together, cutlery on crockery, conversation and children's laughter, the early evening air was full of activity.

 

 

Although the bars were overflowing with enthusiastic drinkers the restaurants were still relatively empty. After a relaxed stroll along the streets, enjoying the sights of people having fun, families talking together and couples huddled closely in a romantic embrace we chose a restaurant facing the promenade for an early dinner, so early in fact we were the first and only diners there.

 

 

Our empty circular table gradually filled with 'un pichet de rosé, une carafe d'eau, du pain and two beautifully presented plates of grilled salmon and sea bass.

 

The summer sun began to cool and the people continued to pass by the restaurant. I wondered to myself who, if any would be attending the concert.

Declining dessert, which wasn't easy as I have a weakness when it comes to Crème Brûlée, we had 'un Café Crème' before we leaving.

 

Like children are drawn to the beach to build sand castles we are drawn to the beach for a paddle in the clear water, shoes removed we strolled hand in hand, happy to have found yet another beautiful coastal town.

 

 

As we walked, our toes sinking into the wet sand we admired the way in which the sun loungers had been lined up along the jetties, making good use of the available space. As the sky darkened with the rain that was forecast we made our way to the festival.

 

 

Bags checked, tickets scanned, we were then shown to our seats. People, old-young and in-between trickled in and the atmosphere began to build. The main act Paolo Conte was due to perform the second half of the event with American singer Robin McKelle performing first. Having already listened to Robin's songs on YouTube, she was the act that drew us to the event.

 

 

With an unexpected blue sky providing a perfect back drop for the stage, with super yachts scattered on the perfectly calm Mediterranean Sea, Robin McKelle addressed the audience in French and English. She welcomed us, thanked us for attending and then entertained us.  As her coral coloured blouse gently fluttered in the breeze she and her four musicians delivered an outstanding hour long performance, her rendition of 'Nothing Compares to You' being the highlight of the show.

 

 

As Robin McKelle was approaching the end of her performance the storm that had been forecast arrived and heavy rain began to fall. As her much deserved bouquet of flowers was presented, people began to run for cover.

The second half of the concert was delayed due to the downpour, we were informed that if the rain continued the show would not restart so it was at that point we decided to leave. We are still unsure if Paolo Conte performed but we left feeling certain that this wasn't going to be the only time we attended Jazz à Juan.

 

Sunday

 

We needed to leave for the airport at 6 o'clock that evening so the hours remaining were precious. Where do we want to go? Where do we want to sit for lunch?

After a few minutes pondering we decided we wanted to have lunch with the sun on our faces, the warm-gentle breeze in our hair and the sand between our toes. The chosen location for our final meal of the weekend was Pampellone Beach, often labelled as the main beach of Saint-Tropez, although it is actually in Ramatuelle.

 

For us, going to Pampelonne isn't just about being on the beach, it's also the journey.

The beautiful lanes that twist and turn, perfect rows of vines dominating the scenery, the bikes and scooters we pass, rider and pillion passenger already in beach attire.

 

We turned off Route des Plages onto Chemin de l'Epi down the hill towards Nikki Beach car park. We paid our €4 to park in the dusty car park, then drove carefully searching for a space, taking care to avoid tree roots, overhanging branches, Bentleys, Ferraris and limited edition Mercedes.

 

 

After a making a mental note of which tree we are parked under we then began the walk we know so well.

 

Reaching the beach and passing Nikki Beach club always brings a smile to my face and a gentle nod of my head as the beat of the music from the DJ travels along with the breeze.

We had a ten minute stroll to Key West Beach that we turned into fifteen, who would want to rush a walk like this?

 

 

The beach was buzzing, not overcrowded, just the right amount of people relaxing under the summer sun, children excitedly playing in the sand, the sea gently lapping at their feet.

Key West Beach is our favourite place on Pampelonne for lunch, we like the relaxed 'ambience' of the KWB snack bar. The service is warm and welcoming, the food is wonderfully presented and the rosé is perfectly chilled.

Greeted with a smile and a cheery 'bonjour' and without the need of a menu, our order is taken, "'Salade Est West' avec une verre du rose, s'il vous plait".

Diners came and went and our plates gradually emptied, a quick glance at my watch told me it was time to leave.

The bill was paid, a tip was left and more wonderful memories of the South of France left with us.

The ten minute walk that became fifteen minutes on the way, stretched to twenty minutes as we reluctantly strolled back to the car with ice-creams, hastily trying to eat them before they melted in the sunshine.

 

A notification on my iPhone from EasyJet interrupted my thoughts as I watched the tender leave the Key West jetty taking diners back to their super yacht, we like to guess to which one they are returning.

With our bags already packed and in the car it was time to head to the airport.

 

À bientôt France

Photos and Video © Andy Coomer / South of France Magazine

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