Villefranche-sur-mer is a small town on the French Mediterranean coast, situated very close to the Italian border and considered a suburb of Nice. Over the centuries, it was part of the Greek and Roman empires, occupied by the Ottoman Turks, various small kingdoms, Provence, the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleonic France, Sardinia, and only becoming a permanent part of France about 150 years ago.
This is not the high-roller town of the seacoast, like Nice and Cannes, but with the mountains behind it, and the blue water and sailboats tied up along the seawall, it’s very pretty. It boasts a deep harbor, which is probably why cruise ships come to tender here. The US Navy 6th Fleet was based here for many years, as well. Many movies have been shot here, and it’s not hard to visualize James Bond racing down the winding seacoast roads in an Ashton-Martin convertible.
As we docked very early in the day, there were no cafes yet open, and we were not near any residential boulangeries from which to grab a coffee and croissant. Jeff and I decided to take the train to the nearby town of Eze, which has a historic and reputedly beautiful old town. The SNCF train dropped us away from the town center, and after wandering around a bit, still looking for coffee, we found a local who recommended the bus. Not a problem, except that the bus to Eze only came by once per hour and had just left. After (finally) getting coffee, we instead took the bus back to Villefranche and ended up with an early lunch at a so-so cafe that had, at least, interesting interior architecture.
Alas, the beautiful market at the town park didn’t have anything that I could carry home, as my gut tells me seafood paella won’t travel well without refrigeration and I doubt would clear the U.S. Customs.
Afterwards, we walked around the back streets, away from the main road, and enjoyed the sights. I noticed quite a few little cafes with good menus. Since this is no longer a major shipping port, there is little in this town outside of tourism. The native population is aging and younger people move away in search of jobs,
In July, the temperature is pretty warm (90-ish F) with humidity. Although uncomfortable, I was OK, but Jeff is from New England and starts melting around 80 F. Many places to do not have air conditioning, so if you travel in the summer, and you’re
a weenie sensitive to heat, you might look further north. And check out Eze if you’re in the area – I’ve certainly put it on my ‘try to see someday’ list.
Enjoy some of the walk-around photos we took.
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