The traffic up and down the Riviera is not making it an easy job to explore by road - Vive la bateau!

The French Riviera is not the easiest to place to explore – by car, by train, by foot and even by boat at the moment as the rain clouds roll in. I have marvelled at Menton, walked to St Jean Cap Ferrat, thinking it was Villefranche-sur-mer, and done Cannes to death. Today I was lucky enough to cadge a ride on a Fairline Squadron, mainly to get some good pictures from the sea. But the weather has not been great and everything looks a tad grey today.

My previous itinerary has been re-jigged slightly due to the Cannes Boat Show taking up a bit more time than I imagined and a very kind invitation to take part in a classic boat rally tomorrow in Monaco, so it’s the west side on Monday (Port Grimaud and St Tropez) and then the behemoth that is Antibes on Tuesday.

France is such a different kettle of fish to Spain, which is both good and bad. As far as aesthetics go it is miles ahead, in my opinion, and as I speak a smattering of French, I feel more comfortable getting stuff I need. However it is near impossible to get any boaters to talk to me on the record here as people who keep their boats here seem so much more private. There doesn’t seem to be such an us-and-them culture as in Spain and if there are tight communities in the marinas on the Riviera they’re certainly not obvious.

Of course, this is only a bad thing when you’re trying to collect pictures for a magazine! For the boaters things seem very civilised and in most of the marinas I’ve visited far from flashy. In fact, even in Port Hercules or Cannes, the skippers are seldom to be found posing on their own boats, although that may be because most seem to be sashaying up and down the pontoons at the Cannes Boat Show (if I never see another pair of pink jeans again it will be too soon). Lots of people have been happy to have a quick chat, but I couldn’t tell you what their names were or any other details about them. Perhaps this is why my blog entries en France have been rather scant – I am very wary of just letting loose with another “I think this is a beautiful place” tirade without some hard names and faces to back it up from a local perspective.

As for the capitaineries, well they couldn’t be more helpful, although my pidgin French does not make for the most inspiring conversations. Of course, everywhere is ‘COMPLET’ as far as long term berths go and fees do seem to be significantly higher than in Spain so far. I am meeting the French equivalent of the BMF at the boat show before it ends, so will find out the complete situation as far as Riviera berthing goes.

In the meantime I will continue my quest to find knowledgeable local boaters who don’t mind having a chin-wag.