Villefranche sur Mer... my home away from home.
My first experience of actually staying in France was when I studied French at the Institut de Francais in Villefranche in October, 2013. My birthday treat to myself. An absolutely marvellous, month-long immersion French language experience, high on the hillside above the Villefranche harbour.
Before that, I had visited France on a number of occasions, but I'd never stayed more than a few days here or there. Always passing through, never a ‘local’ – even for just a while. I yearned for that sense of belonging that I knew my heart desired.
On this occasion, I had a beautiful self-contained apartment for one. whole. month.
Learning French all day, relaxing at sidewalk bistros and drinking wine! Plenty of time to explore the region and fall in love with the language. Time to get to know the village and its people, appreciate the location, and swim in the beloved Mediterranean Sea. To languish on the beach at Beaulieu sur Mer, or swan around like a Baroness at the Villa Ephrussi. Perhaps catch the bus along the spectacular Moyenne Corniche to Eze, before the shops open and the tourists got there. Perfection.
To live like a Frenchwoman, however briefly, and to become truly connected with this place that forevermore has my heart. I am in heaven here.
Villefranche has an ancient tale, with the Rue Obscure (the 'hidden street') built along the first ramparts of the harbour and dating back to 1260. It was designed to protect the villagers from bombardment, but also came to be very useful for storing wine - of course!
With one of the deepest harbours in the Mediterranean, many accommodation places have views of the bay or the township, and the area is breathtaking. The cruise ships come in here, and the passengers disembark and delight in this village that captures hearts - including my own.
A short stroll down from the Boulevard Napoléan III and you are into le vieux village. Discover quiet walkways, hidden streets, and ancient houses with old shutters and chalky paint. Painted in yellows, oranges and pinks, they are like an imagined Mediterranean sunset dream.
Further towards the harbour, restaurants of all styles line les petites rues. Although the old village itself is not large, it is a gastronomique delight.
At the water's edge, Villefranche Harbour is breathtaking. Luxury yachts float alongside simple local boats, fine restaurants line the wide promenade with tables on the water's edge, and the occasional exotic car shares the Quai de l'Amiral Courbet with happy visitors and locals. With a vista around the bay to the Villa Rothschild and Villa Kerylos and beyond, this is a spectacular coastline.
Villefranche is located in the first bay east of Nice. It’s the ideal location for savouring this special part of the world, and for discovering the Riviera. Eze, Monaco, and Italy lie a short distance to the east, with Nice, Antibes, Juan les Pins, Cannes and beyond to the west. Parfait...
Discover charming architecture, worn shutters, wrought-ironwork, and colour everywhere. Shops, weekly brocante and food markets, and a terrific variety of beautiful restaurants and bistros makes relaxing for a week (or a month) in this place an absolute joy! Be prepared to climb – either up or down. This is hillside country, down to the water.
And while you’re here, consider taking an immersion course at the Instituit de Francais, and really learn the language. I can highly recommend it for so many reasons. I truly feel that my grasp of the language continues to grow, 4 years on from that one month of study. It was the best gift I ever gave myself, and I certainly plan to do it again one day.
I am planning a small-group tour to Villefranche in May 2018: Up to 10 women for 10 days. During that time, we will be exploring the marvellous Côte d'Azur. It will be a one-stop, unpack-your-bags-and-relax style of vacation, with outbound day trips 5 or 6 days out of the 10. The rest will be optional walking tours of the area, lazy brocante Sundays, or simply time-out to eat, read and relax and become a local. I'm hoping to secure an apartment with harbour views, but early bookings are essential at this time of year.
If you are interested, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and email address, and I will send out some more information as it comes to hand.
Take a couple of minutes to enjoy this little video
The music from the fabulous Baby et Lulu...my favourite French chanteuses. Actually, they're Australian, and do a terrific job of all the songs on their album. I love nothing more than to wind the windows down on my car whilst I'm out for a drive, with the music way up and trying, at least, to sing along in French!
What's your favourite French music? Leave me a YouTube link in the comments if you have one.