As I mentioned in my earlier post the itinerary of the cruise changed due to weather conditions so today we found ourselves in the beautiful French town of Villefranche.
The gentle curve of the coastline with its small port filled with colourful fishing boats is the first thing we saw as we approached on our tender from the ship.
Villefranche is a small coastal town on the Cote d’Azur and sits in-between Nice and Monte Carlo. It was Bastille Day when we visited so there were lots of locals and tourists enjoying their day off on the small beach and in the many cafe’s, bars and restaurants along the waterfront.
The 16th century Saint Elme Citadel dominates the town and is a massive stone fortress that was erected on the order of Emmanuel-Philbert of Savoy in 1557. It has housed the town hall, four museums, a conference centre, an open air theatre and gardens since then.
Walking around the old town we found narrow roads and stairways, covered passages leading down to the coloured facades of the ancient houses that have been carefully restored by their owners.
The ancient Rue Obscure – meaning literally Dark Street – runs parallel to the waterfront and is an extraordinary 13th century street entirely covered by vaulted arcades.
Having explored Villefranche we made our way up to the train station to catch a train to Monte Carlo. The train journey takes about 20 minutes and is a pleasant ride along some stunning coastline.
Some 6 miles from Villefranche, the Principality of Monaco is governed independently and ruled by Prince Albert II, a direct descendant of the Grimaldi family, who have reigned since 1275. Monte Carlo is a funny place, built into the side a of a mountainous coastline the city is split up by major roads running through it so it doesn’t seem to have an obvious centre.
The place I most wanted to visit was the world famous casino. The area where the casino is located is beautifully kept with its manicured gardens and elaborately designed buildings.
There’s a lot of building work going on around this area but you can still get the feeling of the wealth and glamour that Monte Carlo is known for. The square in front of the casino is filled with expensive luxury cars and people sat enjoying a glass of wine or coffee just watching the world go by.
Next to the casino is the Monte Carlo Opera House. The south terrace which overlooks the sea has some stunning architecture.
This area also boasts two of Monaco’s most famous hotels, the Hotel du Paris and the Hermitage.
Apart from the area around the casino one of the most obvious places where Monaco displays its wealth is down at the marina. It’s filled with beautiful and very expensive boats, maybe one day I’ll get to travel on one myself!
I found Monte Carlo to be a bit of a disjointed city but I did enjoy looking around the casino area and the marina. Would I return, probably not, I think I’ll leave it to the rich and hop on my train back to Villefranche.
Next port of call Marseille.