Golfe-Juan is a community on the edge of Antibes in the Côte d’Azur. If you like to swim and catch a few rays, this is a calm place for both activities, yet only a few minutes from the packed public beaches. Its biggest claim to fame is that on March 1, 1815, Napoléon Bonaparte landed here with 600 men after his escape from exile on the island of Elba. From here, he marched to Paris, picking up loyal followers with every mile. His 100 day return to power terminated with the Battle of Waterloo. When I saw the battered sandals of a little girl on the rock, I wondered if the boots of the great Emperor had stepped on that same spot as he marched off to try to reclaim his glory.
I was confused about why a French village had a name with a Spanish spelling, but it’s not actually Spanish at all. Juan is Jean in the Occitan (Ox-si-tahn) dialect of the south of France. Occitan refers to “la langue d’oc”. France was once linguistically divided between the “langue d’oc” to the south and the “langue d’oïl” to the north. The label comes from how the locals pronounced the word “yes” or “oui” in standard French. In the north it sounded more like “oïl” and to the south, more like “oc.” The French department next door to the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (or PACA) department is known as Languedoc-Roussillon after the local dialect. Whether you say oui, oïl, or oc, Golfe-Jean is a great place to while away an afternoon, or even take the first step on the path to world domination.