Durrus writer Conor Power and his artist wife Fiona were gifted a two-month residency in Antibes this summer. ‘It was as close to “living the dream” as we’ve ever come,’ he writes
THIS summer, we were fortunate enough to be awarded a two-month artistic residency in Antibes on the French Riviera.
Along with my usual journalism, I was working on a novel, while my wife Fiona was painting scenes from the Côte d’Azur.
With the support of Cork County Council, we grabbed the golden opportunity with all four hands, packed the car and headed, at the start of July, for our new home north of Cannes – the Villa Fontaine.
The Villa Fontaine is certainly not a ‘villa’ as the Irish might imagine one, but it is as close to paradise as one could imagine.
Perched high on rocky foundations that once formed part of the ancient ramparts of Old Antibes, the Villa Fontaine is located in one of the prettiest and most colourful streets I’ve seen in my life.
The first thing that hit us both was the abundance of light and colour. We live in a lush and colourful part of the world near Durrus and we can often persuade ourselves that it’s almost sub-tropical. But, in hindsight, we were only fooling ourselves about the West Cork weather.
Our new home was almost overwhelming: the constant sparkle on the Mediterranean from the moment we woke; red tiled roofs; cascading flowers over pedestrian streets; walls, doors and shutters of houses dressed in a never-ending parade of pastel shades; huge fruits and vegetables in the Marché Provençal down the street; weekly markets that spilled out over the entire Old Town selling flowers, dresses, antiques or artwork … all of it bathed in magnificent sunlight that returned day after glorious day.
Vieil Antibes is a gem amongst Riviera towns. In a part of the world where coastal towns have blended into one continuous 200km strip, Antibes stands out. Its ancient ramparts run right to the edge of the sea, forming a protective belt around the Old Town that has kept its soul intact over the centuries, despite the hordes of tourists thronging its streets in high summer.
Living for an extended period of time in such a location is a very different experience to being on holiday. We did take the time to see some sights, but most of the time, we were focused on the daily rhythm of work and life – starting early when it was cooler, and slowing down or going for a refreshing swim as the day got hotter.
At times, we wished for the temperatures to drop just enough to think more clearly. We also occasionally missed tranquillity. There is precious little of it anywhere on the French Riviera during the summer months – even in our quiet part of town. Other than that, it was as close to living the dream as we’ve ever come.
• An exhibition of Fiona Power’s work ‘Window on Antibes’ will be at The Gallery, Kinsale on October 3rd at 6.30pm (www.thegallerykinsale.com). Conor Power will be doing a reading at the same venue and time as part of the ‘Words by Water’ Kinsale Literary Festival (www.wordsbywater.ie).