Monday, May 2, 2016

Cap Ferrat- Hiking to a Belle Epoque Villa

Two summers ago, Camille and I spent two weeks in Villefranche just west of the tiny peninsula of Cap Ferrat.  Embarrassingly, and without wifi, we attempted this hike and just ended up on the road.  Behind the thick hedges, guard dogs, fences and surveillance of the villas, is a fabulous trail that runs along the water's edge.  So that no one else has the confusing experience we had....

Here is how to hike Cap Ferrat.

First off, Bus 81 will take you anywhere you need to go on Cap Ferrat or  Beaulieu-sur-mer for 1.50 euro.  It leaves from the Promenade des Arts in Nice and winds around the Port, over Mont Boron, around Cap de Nice and through Beaulieu and Cap Ferrat.  The views are fantastic from the Moyenne Corniche as you round the Cap and the bay of Villefranche.  

We got off at Baie des Fourmis, the site of the great McGriff Flip Flop caper of 2014, and walked westward to find the entrance to the trail.  Magically, when we knew where to look- it was right there!  My favorite part of this walk is that you wind between the backsides of beautiful villas and the water.  

The rocky terrain here allows for permanent stone and concrete docks and small swimming areas that seem to be open to the public. 

Within a few minutes, the path takes you through downtown St. Jean and past the marina full of wooden fishing boats.  Just a block further along Avenue Jean Mermoz and you are at the Plage des Fossettes and the Fontaine CoeXisT(there are two of these).  

If it is morning, I suggest heading clockwise toward Paloma Plage and back.  If it is afternoon, the opposite so you will take advantage of the sunny side of the walk.  This is a great opportunity to enjoy amazing views of the coast toward Monaco, watch the big yachts and sailboats enter the bay, and enjoy the coastline-you feel like you are in the backyards of some of the villas.  

After the loop, we headed back through town toward the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.  Built in the Belle Epoque style over a 16 year period in the late 1800s by Charlotte Beatrice Ephrussi-Rothschild and her husband, it is situated on 8 hectares of land right in the middle of Pont St Jean atop the hill.  There is a view of Villefranche bay on one side and Baie de Fourmis on the other.  

The audioguide said that she had spent time on a large ship and so enjoyed it that she wanted the villa to have the feel of a ship at sea, hence water on two sides.  

Standing on the balcony of the second floor, the gardens seem to finish the bow of the ship with her replica of the Temple of Love or Trianon from Versailles as a bow ornament.  

With unlimited funds and a quirky personality, the Baroness de Rothschild had a menagerie (by the way, menager means “to blend or mix” in French”) of animals-a ferret, gazelles, a monkey- along with almost any item of furniture or antique she wished for-she has a rug from Versailles, there were 5, 4 burned and the fifth is in her villa.  

But she did use her unlimited resources to create beautiful gardens-Spanish, Japanese, Provençal, exotique, and rose with water elements and dancing fountains. 

The home itself is a work of art with its Italian Renaissance inspired central atrium, marble, and all the most up-to-date amenities of its time- telephones, multiple bathrooms with hot and cold water.  The home and gardens were given to the Academy des Beaux Arts and are well conserved and well run.

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