Choose Villafranche on the French Riviera For Romance!
Just outside of Nice, France, lies the charming coastal village of Villafranche-sur-Mer. This quaint, hillside village overlooks a picturesque natural harbor on the French Rivera. The deck from our rented apartment offered incredible views of the harbor, with a steady stream of cruise ships and sleek yachts followed by paparazzi boats, cameras blazing! Obviously, the ‘harbor’ of the rich and famous! The view extended to the peninsula of St. Jean Cap Ferrat and the Mediterranean sea beyond. Awesome!
The Old Town – Stroll through history in the steep, cobblestone streets unspoiled by traffic and modernization. The old town dates back to the 12th century and in keeping with it’s heritage, some restaurants and shops are built within the rocks of the hillside. Check out the Rue Obscure, a dark passageway through the city that dates back to the 1200’s. Pretty cool!
The Beach – Comprised of a patch of sandy rocks between the street and a seawall, the beach provides a pretty view, but not a whole lot of comfort. By the way, nudity is okay here. The big question is; Why is it only the people you really don’t want to see naked that bare it all? Ughhhh.
The Food – I didn’t think I’d be a big fan of French food, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it absolutely incredible in most of the restaurants! Food is an art form in France, made with a flair and amazing attention to detail. We used tripadvisor.com to help us find the better restaurants within the old town. Great choices! The best restaurants were L’Aparte, Le Serre & Les Garcons, in that order. Le Serre is family run and has the most amazing homemade limoncello! FYI… you have to make friends with the owner before you can taste it! Although the reviews were good, I was not a fan of Le Mekong.
Day Trips in the French Riviera – You’re much better off taking public transportation then renting a car. It’s very hard to find parking and the cars must be moved at certain times! Public transportation is great and stops at every village. The towns of St. Jean Cap Ferrat and Beaulieu sur Mer are 5-10 minutes by bus. It’s just a short 15 minute drive west to Nice and about 15 minutes east to Eze, followed by Monaco & Monte Carlo in 20 minutes. What a great location!
This wonderful big city on the French Riviera is an interesting mix of old structures and urban chic. Coming into town through the Promenade des Anglais, the beach and city run parallel on either side of you. The city is alive every morning with an open air market that’s absolutely worth getting up for! A couple things to know… 1) You can bring a gallon jug to the wine shop and they’ll fill it from the barrel! 2) They don’t drop the check in a restaurant until its requested, if you don’t ask, you’ll wait forever! 3) Not all toilets are free, be sure to have some change on you or things can get very unpleasant.
Eze The view of the Mediterranean from this mountaintop, medieval city, is truly awe-inspiring! This is a small town that’s definitely worth a look, but just an hour or two is enough to meander through the town. Choose one of the restaurants with a view to stop and have a drink. Wow!
What a teeny, tiny country! Jump on a tour bus for a quick trip around town. One stop to disembark in is the old town shopping area which has a lot of cute shops along it’s cobblestoned streets. At the top of the hill is the Prince’s Palace. Another stop will bring you to the legendary Monte Carlo casino. Built in 1893, this casino surprised me… I was really expecting something much grander! Beautifully done, but small.. I crossed it off the bucket list.
St. Jean Cap Ferrat
Take a few hours to visit this seaside village on the peninsula. This is the ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ area. Sit by the marina, and enjoy some people watching.
You’ll be glad to visit the seaside village here. There’s a nice downtown area for shopping. The beach is much larger than Villafranches’, with chairs and umbrellas available.
Cannes & St. Tropez
Along the coast, west of Nice, Cannes is about 45 minutes away and St. Tropez about 1 hour and 45 minutes. I was so enthralled with my slice of heaven east of Nice, I never ventured to this area. I heard and read that these were just more expensive versions of the French Riviera I already knew and loved! Que sera’.. maybe next time.
The perks are too many to enumerate but every rose has its thorns, so let’s put the quirk on the table. The French are not known for their warm, endearing ways. We did notice that this stereotype was not unfounded. It’s disappointing that a coastal city that relies on tourism, would not embrace their visitors a little more. This was more evident in Villafranche & Cap Ferrat. The bigger cities of Nice, Eze and Monaco appear more tolerant of the tourists. Oh well… if you can get past this issue, everything else is amazing!!! Honestly, I couldn’t care less. I loved it!! We did meet a handful of wonderful, funny people.
The Cote de Azur is incredible! Villafranche is, no doubt, one of the most charming, romantic villages that I have ever seen and had the pleasure of living in for a short period of time! I would absolutely do it again and again!
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please check out my post at ‘affordable europe’ to get there for cheap! Also, our apartment was incredible… don’t be afraid to pick an apartment through www.homeaway.com. It was a little disconcerting to choose an apartment when going to another country. Check the reviews and how long they have been advertising on the homeaway site, to make sure it’s credible! You’ll love ‘living there’!
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