Today we were in Nice, more specifically Villefranche-Sur-Mer. This port is not big enough for the large cruise ships to dock, so Freedom has to drop anchor offshore and we all have to “tender” to the dock. The tender boats are the property of the local port and not the cruise line so they are always different. Here are the ones we used:
They are a bit on the small side compared to some we’ve used in the past, but they were speedy and continuous so there was no real wait to get to a tender. Today our tour was one I purchased through Viator. Villefranche Shore Excursion: Small-Group Monaco and Eze Half-Day Tour. This one was technically another half day tour, but I had a plan for the second part of the day so we would have a long, busy day away from the ship. On this tour we would be visiting Eze, a medieval village with a famous perfumery; Monaco, with the changing of the guard, and Monte Carlo then back to Villefranche.
Here is our approach to the port on the tender. I was already thinking how pretty this port area was but I had no idea what was to come. We found our tour guide and the rest of the people on our tour (three single young ladies) and headed to our first stop, the Village of Eze.
Eze is famous for its stunning views, its amazing botanical garden and the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix, the oldest building in Eze built in 1306. I recently learned that this town was a favorite of Walt Disney. I can certainly see why.
These views were amazing and the pictures in no way do them justice. We stopped at Chappelle de la Sainte Croix. Like many religious buildings, the very simple exterior:
Gives way to an absolutely amazing interior.
This is the meeting place for the White Penitents of the Roman Catholic church, known for their care of plague victims.
We then made our way up to the Jardin Botanique d’Eze. This garden has an amazing collection of succulents which had to be thriving in the unbelievable dry heat that we had the whole trip!
Our next stop, actually just about five minutes away was our tour of the the Laboratory Fragonard. So if I’m being honest, I was really not looking forward to this. As in Turkey and Croatia, I avoid these “factory tours” like the plague if I can. They tend to be nothing more than sales pitches, which sometimes can be downright aggressive. However, this one was really not bad. It was interesting and while there was a definite pitch at the end, it wasn’t terribly aggressive (not that we didn’t end up spending money, but at least we didn’t have to lug a carpet home with us!).
Our next stop would be the Principality of Monaco. Our tour guide gave us plenty of commentary along the way as she deftly navigated the narrow, really high, right on the cliff roads, We stopped in time to watch the changing of the guard as well as shop for an AS Monaco jersey…since Monaco just won the Ligue Une, not a single store had one and we had to settle for a scarf.
Monaco screams wealth from every street corner. If you consider that 1 Million Euros will purchase a room of approximately 161 square feet, you can see why a Monaco address is its own status symbol. Here’s one of the parking lots:
Then the Changing of the Guard:
Then it was time to meet our guide back at Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée, or Saint Nicholas Cathedral where Princess Grace and her husband are buried.
Our next stop was Monte Carlo. We were there right after the Grand Prix so they had not yet removed the stall numbers from the street, which was cool to see! Then the most famous casino in the world. As you know, I love me some casino. At this time, however, the Monte Carlo Casino was closed to the GenPop and open to invited guests only. Believe it or not, I didn’t get an invitation. Nor was I dressed for the casino, which has a very strict dress code that apparently did not include shorts and tank top.
This casino is massive. In fact it is too big to fit in one picture, so the powers that be have created a solution…a circular mirror that reflects the entirety of the casino facade…its really cool.
Also, I can guarantee you that everyone of those cars in the reflection are Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls, etc. They were really pretty. Here’s me eyeballing the Casino entrance…I shoulda made a run for it!
We then met our tour guide for the ride back to Villefranche. Now was the moment I had been waiting for…lunch! Our guide made a couple of recommendations, one pricey and one more reasonable. However, I had one goal…Mussels. And Rosé. And a sea view. And I got all of them!!!
We asked her specifically where she would go to eat mussels and she pointed us to a seaside cafe called Lou Bantry. We sat on the patio, I ordered my glass (okay carafe) of chilled wine and my moules frites. Oh My Goodness!!! Here’s my “bowl” of mussels:
It was HUGE! And amazing! And it was at that moment I realized that I never wanted to leave. I love Villefranche-sur-Mer. If I ever move overseas, this is where you can find me. Here is our view:
See how happy I look??? This is my happy place. But eventually we did have to leave, as much as that broke my heart, I still did want to see our other stops. Here’s a quick spoiler for you…I did love our other stops, but I still want to be here. This one felt like home to me. I can’t wait to get back there…I am not sure when it will happen, but I know it will.
I did eventually get back on the tender to go back to the Freedom. Our next stop is Florence. By the way…here’s our ride:
She’s a beauty and since I have been on her three times now, with a forth time scheduled, I kind of think of her as mine. But you can ride her too!!