Yesterday we were blessed with another 30 degree day for our ‘cram a lot into one day’ adventure. Our first stop was the exquisite Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat. Phil was at the wheel and was very impressive with his ability to round some extremely tight bends, and managing to squeeze the Grand Scenic into a tiny space very near the entrance.
From the approach to the entry, we could see that this visit would be something very special. The beautiful pink building is equally impressive inside and out, and the gardens are something to behold. Once into the villa, an easy-to-use free audio guide is available, and it divulges a huge amount of really fascinating information about Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild – who would have known that she loved monkeys?! There is even a small room, Le Salon des Singes, dedicated to them, where they are depicted on the wall coverings.
Beatrice’s bedroom displays amongst other things, clothing, shoes, a beautiful bedcover and an exquisite teaset – seeing her personal belongings preserved in this intimate way was a real treat, and the villa is full of them – beautiful porcelain of the time, silks, chinoiserie and the blue guest bedroom just makes you wish it had been you invited to stay in it! It has simply the most stunning view of the bay, which at the time of our visit had two huge ocean liners anchored in it, having ferried passengers to the bay at Villefranche-sur-Mer.
After viewing the house, we strolled through the beautiful gardens, which we learned Beatrice had designed to look like the prow of a ship when looking at it from the loggia, and you could certainly see that effect. The view from the loggia up to the Temple of Love spans a long waterway, which at twenty minute intervals, turns into a water symphony, where fountains play in unison with uplifting classical music -pretty impressive!
After we finished our stroll through the well-tended gardens, we took tea and tarts under the shade in the Villa’s tea rooms – a posh treat after a thoroughly worthwhile visit.
Next, we took in the seafront and some of the bustling side streets of the very colourful Villefranche-sur-Mer. It felt very Italian to me, which is not surprising since it is so close the Italian border. There was a small market in progress when we arrived, which had some very nice Italian leather bags too! Phil and I took the chance to climb up to the walled part of the town, which is really a museum of sorts now, plus it provides a great view.
The beautiful and spectacular village of Eze was our last appointment for the day. As it comes into view, you marvel at how that tiny village could have been built on its perch up on the rocks. The village must be approached on foot, and after a few circuits of the carpark looking for a space, we were finally on our way to the top. The village seemed very serene, despite there being quite a few tourists ducking in and out of the pretty lanes, just as we were. It was pleasing to see though, that there were very few ‘tourist’ shops within the village, which I guess is what helps to preserve its character so well. Finding the way to the top was a bit like working your way through a maze, and we noticed others were somewhat confused about how to reach it. Eventually we worked it out and paid the 6 Euro entry fee to Le Jardin Botanique d’Eze, so we could take in the brilliant vista it provides. We were not disappointed. It is quite breathtaking!
Rest and relaxation followed for a couple of hours on our return, followed by aperitifs in our room. We wandered the area close to the hotel and found the town to be strangely quiet compared to the previous evening – which perhaps had been so busy because it was a bank holiday here. We chose La Pierre Bise, because it offered meat grilled on hot stones, with what promised to be very tasty vegetable accompaniments, however we didn’t realise that we would be cooking the meat on hot stones on our table! It was fun, and quite delicious, but it seemed a bit odd to be paying to cook your own meal. However, it was a new experience, the music was great, and the wines we chose were excellent. After a full day, we turned in early, but not before taking in our brilliant night time view.