Today’s tip: Villefranche sur Mer
The Côte d’Azur is a beautiful part of the world. The mix of orange and pink hued Belle Époque and Baroque buildings and the deep blue Mediterranean disappearing into the horizon never fails to impress.
The French Riviera stretches for 250 miles along the seafront from the Italian boarder to the east all the way to Toulon to the west. There are hundreds, if not thousands of public and private beaches along the way.
One of my favorites is just two stops east on the train from Nice. Many of the region’s beaches have large smooth pebbles instead of sand, but the quaint town of Villefranche sur Mer has lovely soft grainy sand instead (we’re not talking white powder, but it will do).
From the train it’s just a short walk down the hill to Plage des Marinières, a beautiful sandy beach that is open to the public.
The stretch of beach does fill up in the summer, and you can often see yachts and cruise ships anchored out to sea in front of the beach where the water is deep. But it’s still less crowded, and much more comfortable than the pebbles in Nice.
There are a couple of beach bars along the waterfront, My favorite: La Voile Bleue is the perfect spot for a mid afternoon pichet of rose or a beer, and they serve sandwiches and salads etc. as well.
If you can only take so much swimming and sunbathing, pack up your towel and stroll over the cute port and cobblestone streets of the town.
There are a number of pricey restaurants and a few ice cream shops and cafes tucked into the windy streets, and plenty of souvenir shops. There is also an antiques market once a week in the main square opposite the port
The picturesque village has a star studded past, bohemian artists found inspiration in the sea views and golden light and a number of movies were filmed here, like Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, and one of my all time favorites: Dirty Rotton Scoundrels. The Rolling Stones famously holed up in a mansion here – a former Gestapo headquarters during WWII – to record their album Exile on Main Street.
To explore the area by sea, there is a boat rental shop near the port called Dark Pelican with reasonable prices. You’ll need a picture ID and a phone number to rent a boat.