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Day 4 South of France: Beaulieu sur Mer and St Jean Cap Ferrat - 17 May

Having spent time in the Hinterland yesterday, we thought we’d give the Cote d’Azur another shot. We hadn’t driven any of the French Riviera’s legendary corniches yet, so today was going to be it. We chose the Lower corniche, which skirts the staggeringly beautiful coastline from Nice towards the direction of Monaco and Monte Carlo. We drove past the little fishing port of Villefranche, which boasts the most beautiful bay.

Beaulieu sur Mer and Villa Grecque Kerylos:
 From Villefranche, we headed for Beaulieu sur Mer. Known as the millionaire’s peninsula, it became the place to be seen at the Turn of the Century. Beaulieu sur Mer is also home to Villa Grecque Kerylos, a stunning reconstruction of a luxurious Greek palace of the Delos Island dating from the 2nd century BC, and built by Theodore Reinach, French archaeologist, mathematician and lawyer, during the Belle Epoque. Completely furnished and decorated, the various rooms of the villa illustrated the sophistication and lifestyle of Ancient Greece. With the aid of an audio guided tour, the rooms and decor came to life for us as we stepped into another time. 

Saint Jean Cap Ferrat and Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild:
After Villa Grecque Kerylos, we had a date with another millionaire’s estate at the neighboring town of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, this time the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. Being given instructions and a very poor photocopied map by the assistants at Villa Grecque Kerylos - we were told it would be an easy 20 minute walk - we struggled for 45 minutes to find the place, mammoth in size as it was. For starters, the locals that we met along the way were either ignorant of exactly where the estate was, or refused to help. One lady outrightly held up her hands in front of her and said a very emphatic “Non!” before we had a chance to open our mouths to ask for directions. It was enough to give us a complex, I tell you.

After going backwards, forwards, and around in circles, there it was, in all its magnificent glory.  The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, one of the gems of the Cote d’Azur. Built during the Belle Epoque by Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, with its priceless art collection and set in exquisite gardens, the villa is a collector’s residence. With porcelains manufactured by the royal manufacturer, Sevres, standing side by side the Gobelins tapestries, master paintings and rare pieces of furniture, its interiors can only be rivaled by its gardens filled with rare species, punctuated by waterfalls, columns and ornamental ponds. It was out of this world.

But rare species and artworks aside, after all the anticipation, then the subsequent disappointment of uncooperative locals, we arrived at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild feeling exhausted and rather jaded. We thought it best for ourselves (and the rest of humanity) to refresh and recharge over lunch at the in-house restaurant. In keeping with the theme of the day, though, we were given a table in the sun when we stipulated the shade, after which our order was 45 minutes in arriving - Breathe in, 1,2,3,4, breathe out, 1, 2, 3, 4. 

After lunch eventually arrived, and we were adequately fed and watered, we were in a far more philosophical state of mind than when we first arrived, with the patience to explore the rooms of the villa and enjoy the luscious gardens. I pondered over the plight of the uber-wealthy, like the Rothschilds, as I went from room to room in the villa, checking out their priceless possessions. The Rothschilds, with their considerable wealth, would have had more than just one or two properties like these around the world - would they have had the time to smell the roses, literally? What would have been the point of accumulation of wealth if not to truly enjoy what it acquired? Had it ever been a consideration to pass their possessions on to future generations whilst they were still alive? All these questions and more swirled through my brain as I witnessed what unimaginable wealth could buy. I was suddenly grateful for the relationship rich, freedom filled, and relatively uncomplicated life that Peter and I led in Sydney, Australia.

Dinner in the evening was spent (twice this week) in a local hangout called La Terrasse sur Saint Paul, which we walked to from Villa St Maxime. While Peter and I enjoyed a simple but delicious pizza and steak with vegetables respectively 2 nights ago at La Terrasse sur Saint Paul, tonight, we devoured an unbelievable wild trout and vegetables. As a special treat, we were seated next to Scottish newlyweds, Debbie and Paul, who were on their honeymoon and we had a great time yarning to.  The meal was fabulous, the company was great, the wine was plentiful... what else can one ask for in life!  www.saint-pauldevence.com/restauration/la-terrasse-sur-saint-paul


Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 17th May, 2012 | Trackbacks
Categories: France

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