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The Archives in Antibes for a Look at History

It’s unlikely that a trip to the municipal archives in Antibes would be on many (or any) visitor’s to-do list. However, for me, the chance to see parchments dating from the 1300s was irresistible.

When four parchments appeared in a British auction house two months ago, the city of Antibes was “in the room” – virtually speaking, anyway, amid this public health crisis. The city’s bid was backed by the deep pockets of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco.

The documents up for sale were presumed lost forever:  Their whereabouts had been unknown for seven centuries.  But on May 28, 2020, the day of the auction, the city of Antibes and its princely ally won the bid, and shortly afterward the parchments arrived – one could say – back home.

Ever curious about local history, the chance to see these four (4) parchments in person was something that French Lessons could not resist.

Archive Highlights

1381: The oldest document relates to an important inheritance (involving more than one castle) by Katherine, daughter of Marc de Grimaldi, from her maternal grandfather.

1384: This parchment from Antipope Clément VII grants the brothers Luc (c. 1330 – 1409) and Marc (died after 1396) de Grimaldi rule over Antibes’ castle, once they take an official oath of office.

1390: Relates back to the sale of Antibes’ château.  Having settled other accounts, Antipope Clément VII still owed money to the two Grimaldi brothers.

1431: Indicates some ongoing uncertainty as to the ownership of the bears evidence the castle.

Archives Municipale Antibes (website)
12 Rue du Général d’Andreossy
06600 Antibes
Open Monday – Friday


World War II Antibes

A British submarine, the H.M.S. Unbroken, sailed into the Baie de la Salis one night in April 1942.  In charge of the operation was the author of this book, Peter Churchill, a member of the British Special Operations Executive.  He rowed ashore in the pitch night, sometime around 3 a.m., and mounted the steps that led up to l’Ilette peninsula – landing here. It was a daring and heroic operation that involved the secret landing of the H.M.S. Unbroken in Antibes to support of the résistance movement in the South of France. Today, you find a commemorative stone and plaque on the location of their landing.

Tribute Antibes HMS Unbroken

WWII Survivor’s Story

Tania Laveder had hoped to write her own story, but over the years she has lost some of her Russian. She learned German only for the purposes of survival. The Italian of her in-laws remains fairly non-existent. And the French that has governed her life for almost 70 years now – well, she never approached the language with the sincerity of a student. She was always busy raising children. If she had tried to write her story, she feared no one would take it seriously.

May I write your story for you? I ask Tania. In English?

To find out more buy a copy of The Many Lives of Tania Laveder, Russian World War II Survivor.


Grimaldi Castle Antibes

Discovering Antibes France Picasso Museum

The Picasso Museum opens at 10 am and not a minute earlier. I was informed by the attendant at the ticket booth when I arrived at 9:53 am. It is well worth visiting le Château Grimaldi (a building with many “lives”). This location is where Picasso – the master artist – worked in 1946 making the third level his atelier (studio). Picasso went on to bequeath all of the art he created to the Château, on the condition that it remain on display to the public. For those who love art, there’s no better place than the French Riviera to discover Picasso, his art, his affairs, and his wide circle of friends.

A visit to the museum was just one of the stops during my three nights on the Côte d’Azur.

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Jemma Hélène

Jemma Hélène

Jemma was born and raised in the US Midwest. A banker by trade, she slogged away at a Swiss investment bank in the UK and South Africa before moving – for decent spaces of time, anyway – to the South of France. At a similar stage, she also moved to the right side of her brain as a writer. She has published articles in Maclean’s, SuperYacht World, and various travel and university presses.

At this point Jemma lives mostly in Canada, but she spends the whole of every summer in the Côte d’Azur town of Antibes. From this seaside town of ramparts, situated midway between Nice and Cannes, she has penned her blog French Lessons since 2007. Each post captures a snapshot of the remarkable, real life of the French Riviera. “Consider these pages my summertime gift to you,” she tells her readers.

When not engrossed in things French, Jemma is - not in any particular order - writing a book, making music, performing motherly duties, expanding sustainable education in places that have less of it, promoting Canadian writing, and travelling off-the-beaten-track: over 90 countries, and counting.

You can reach Jemma through her blog site at French Lessons.

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