Rick Steves' review says of our hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer, "If your idea of sightseeing is to enjoy the view from your bedroom deck, the dining room, or the pool, stay at the Hotel la Flore, where most rooms have great views." Ours certainly does, as the pictures can attest. We started the day by viewing another cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Splendor of the Seas. We went down for breakfast and took more photos. We picked up fruit and cheese and set off by bus for St. Jean Cap Ferat to tour the Rothschild Mansion. The bus driver appeared to think he was in the Monaco Grande Prix as he maneuvered the bus around the curving roads. It is understandable that Grace Kelly lost control of her car and died on one of the Corniche roads near here.
Beatrice Rothschild built a home on the narrow neck of the St. Jean Cap Ferat Peninsula between 1907 and 1912 with money inherited from her much older husband, Maurice Ephrussi and her father, Alphonse Rothschild, both of whom were bankers. Upon her death it was willed to a French institution for the preservation of cultural places. We toured the building, which is impressive, but even more impressive are the grounds which cover many acres and have several distinct gardens.
We retired to the tearoom for dessert and refreshments to cool off after two hours of sightseeing in the warm sunshine.
We left the mansion and worked our way, after several misguided detours to the beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer, passing some of the homes with, to quote Rick Steves again, "Gates more expensive than my house". Upon reaching the beach, we stayed in the shade and rested while we ate some of the fruit we had purchased earlier.
Having been suitably refreshed we enjoyed the gathering breeze as we walked along the promenade above the beach, eventually retracing the path we had taken yesterday from the station to the taxi. We walked round the outside of the old citadel which was used to repel invaders and protect France, earning its warlord of the day tax free status, hence the name "Villefranche". We stopped to buy more fruit and visit the Tourist Information Office before returning to the hotel to rest, relax and watch the tenders taking the passengers to and from the cruise ship, thus following Rick Steves' recommendation for sightseeing.
We got ready for dinner and again had a superb meal in the hotel dining room. The prices compare very favourably with those on the waterfront cafes that we passed today. It is very relaxing having dinner while watching darkness fall to be met by the lights from the boats and ships in the harbour coming on one by one, culminating in the brightness of the cruise ship illuminating its surroundings. Just as we were finishing our meal, there was a fireworks display which the waiter (whose English is even more limited than my French) said was for Villefranche, but when we asked the chef what was special about today, he said it was for the cruise ship. We did not see anything like that last night, so wonder if Royal Caribbean arrange that for their cruise ships. It certainly was quite a show, and we were privileged to have ringside seats for it. We had a stroll along the street from our hotel then returned to our balcony to watch the Splendor of the Seas sail off to who knows where, leaving the harbour that much less bright, but us wondering if we will waken to a new ship in the bay tomorrow.