Monday, 14 December 2015

Exploring further afield

The view from Villefranche across to St Jean-Cap Ferrat.
For this post, I am travelling outside Var - just a short trip from Les Arcs-sur-Argens, as my computer is undergoing repairs and it has taken all my recent photos with it.
Rue Obscrue,Villefranche.

Take a train from the Les Arcs-Draguignan station and you will travel through Cannes and Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer.

I had always wanted to go to Villefranche for three reasons.

1. My cousin stayed there for an extended period and waxed lyrical about it.

2. Then a writer friend opened the first chapter of her book with the protagonist walking through a street called Rue Obscure. The way she described the street and its history - and of course the story she was writing - drew me in so not only did I want to visit Villefranche, but I wanted to walk the Rue Obscure.

View from the Villa Ephrussi
3. I read The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, and became fascinated by the story of the Ephrussi family.

One of the family members, Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, put together a fascinating house, now known as the Villa Ephrussi, surrounded by four acres of gardens.

It is located on the summit of St Jean-Cap Ferrat, the peninsula that can be seen along the eastern edge of the Villefranche bay.

The train from Les Arcs takes around 80 minutes to reach Villefranche-sur-Mer, and you can walk into the town from the station.

The French-style gardens that lead from the villa.
We found Rue Obscure by accident and it is every bit as mysterious as my friend described.

There was a market in town and we enjoyed lunch in the gardens above the port.

Then we walked around the semi-circle of blue Mediterranean to Cap Ferrat.

We even passed the house Keith Richards rented in the early 70s when the Rolling Stones were in 'exile', before finding signs directing us to the Villa Ephrussi.

It is fascinating and I really recommend a visit if anyone is visiting the Cote d'Azur.

The galleried entrance of the Villa Ephrussi.
The nine separate gardens are laid out in discrete areas (French, Spanish, Florentine, Japanese, Provencal etc) and feature a wide variety of plants and many sculptures with steps that lead up to the 'temple of love' at the far end of the French garden.

The long water feature in front of the villa has fountains that erupt at various times of day.

Just walking through the fabulously over-decorated house is mind-boggling.

The clothes, the artefacts, the furniture, carpets from the Palace of Versailles, the inlaid mosaic floors, the arched mezzanine, the rooms - and of course, the views from the huge windows - along the coast towards Monaco and back across the bay to Villefranche.

There is a small and elegant café (Restaurant Ephrussi) where you can look across to Villefranche.

You can spend a whole day wandering the house and gardens at your leisure or take a guided tour.

I know I will certainly go back - both to the mansion (now owned by France's heritage council) and Villefranche-sur-Mer.

No comments:

Post a Comment