Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villa Ephrussi, and Menton

From our base in Nice, we took a bus to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, hopping off at the Villa Ephrussi stop. By the way, the buses are clean, modern and comfortable. They can get crowded as they are a popular and inexpensive means of transportation.

Our intention was to get out early (Friday, May 2nd) after breakfast to tour the Ephrussi gardens and villa before the crowds. This was the only time on our trip that we paid admission to see something beautiful! The rest of our trip was focused on day hiking on the many walking paths, driving along scenic roads and just hanging out in picturesque villages.

It was an easy walk uphill from the bus stop to the entrance of the gardens. The views from the Ephrussi were also pretty spectacular. The gardens are divided into sections such as Japanese, Exotic, Florentine, rose, formal, Spanish, etc.

I'm including some of the garden photos here. If you want to see more garden photos of the Ephrussi and our trip, please also visit my gardening blog Defining Your Home Garden.

When we finished our visit to the villa, we walked back down to the road, then less than 1/2 mile to the Tourist Information Office. There, we picked up a map and asked about the sentier littoral (walking paths) around Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat as well as the location of some restaurants.

It was a simple, downhill walk to the harbor on Cap Ferrat. There are numerous restaurants along the harbor that look as closely docked as the many yachts in the water. Fortunately, menus are posted outside all restaurants so that it is an easy thing to "window shop" before you make a choice. We opted for Le Yacht based upon the reasonable three-course, fixed price menu (18 Euros) with delicious choices.

My husband selected a salad with goat cheese and a main plate of seafood with chocolate mousse for dessert. I opted for the Italian caprese salad and spicy arrabiata pasta and tiramisu. We were both delighted with our choices as well as the quality of the food and the service. I must warn you that with the grand view of grand yachts comes the potential for exhaust fumes when a yacht cranks up!

After our splendid meal, we easily located the paved sentier littoral to walk around the harbor and up to Beaulieu (all the way to Villa Kerylos, though we didn't go inside).

Walking along the sentier littoral, we came to a beautiful villa right on the water. Just after we passed it, we learned more about the appeal of the villa as it was located at "Place David Niven". We can only assume that the villa must have once been the home to actor David Niven.

Continuing our walk up to Beaulieu, we first waited at the wrong bus stop for the bus to Menton. The correct stop is in front of Le Metropolitan Hotel (although it didn't look like it was open). The bus was very crowded and it was a Friday afternoon around 2:30pm. The roads became equally crowded and it was at least 4:30pm before we arrived in Menton. Due to the slowness of the traffic, we did not get off the bus to see Monte Carlo/Monaco. We believe this would have been better on a different day, starting in the morning. Lesson learned.

There are new and old areas of Menton. Our attempt at touring the old town was frustrating due to the renovation of the tiny streets and houses. We found ourselves walking over plywood and the smell of sewer pipes...we abandoned this tour very quickly. We're sure it will be lovely once the renovation is completed. This was an unavoidable situation that can happen on a trip, so you just have to roll with it and not let a disappointment get in the way of a wonderful vacation.

I had to add this photo of French dogs. I think I could easily have done an entire pictorial on the French and their dogs. I truly believe that the French definitely treat their canine companions as family members and seldom leave them at home. It was great fun to see all the dogs throughout the trip. Some were tiny enough to travel in little baskets, others were so large that they had to squeeze themselves carefully under a restaurant table out of the way. All in all, it was delightful to see the dogs around (just watch out where you step; although this problem was kept under control much better than our experience in Paris).

Being tired at this point, we took the train back to Nice to shower, nap and then enjoy another nice meal at Le Claire Fontaine and stroll the Promenade des Anglais.

NEXT: St Paul de Vence