Waking up on Villefranche day for the second week was like waking up for Christmas morning as 5-year-olds – we couldn’t wait!!!
Of course our beloved future-retirement-spot did not disappoint, and gave us bright, sunny skies without a cloud to be found for miles…..ahhhhh….Villefranche. We love you.
When we used to work here on the ships, our absolute favourite thing to do in Villefranche was get up super-early, take the first tender over, and park in a cafe along the waterfront to watch the village wake up….So that’s how we decided to start the day this time too.
It’s soooo super-quiet and peaceful at this time of day you barely feel your own pulse, and one-by-one, people shuffle out of their apartments, and quietly slip into a cafe for their morning cafe-au-lait and croissant. The shops slowly open up whenever they want (the hours on the door are just for decoration – they open when they darn-well feel like it) and slowly – peacefully – the village comes alive. It’s the “European way of life”, and it’s gorgeous to observe first-hand.
We were thrilled to see that nothing had really changed since the days we used to be here every week – everything looked exactly the same as we remembered. One thing in particular that we were overjoyed to see still there and looking every bit as beautiful as she did 12 years ago – our good friend, Rita. This lovely lady works at the tourist information desk you see as soon as you get off the tender, and used to greet us with her smiling face every Friday morning. She is also the lady we spoke of in our earlier blog, who taught us to “work to live…not live to work”.
When Mum and Dad joined us in our reverie we decided to head directly over to Nice so we’d have the better part of the day to spend there and not be in any kind of rush, as we wanted to take them through both “New Nice” and “Old Nice”. Again, travelling by public transit in Europe is really easy to do, so even though we couldn’t remember exactly the routine from 12 years ago, we headed to the main street of Villefranche, looked for a bus marked “Nice” and hopped on. Voila.
We started in “New Nice” just to show Mum and Dad and take a few snaps, and stroll the area of the well-to-do. This is the part of town where you will find some of the more expensive hotels and shops, as well as the more modern business areas. It’s beautiful to see, but our favourite area of town is without-a-doubt “Old Nice” – so we didn’t waste any time heading there to begin browsing.
The two main areas are separated literally by only one street, so it is very easy to explore the main areas by foot, and in minutes we were there. It was exactly as we remembered. The beautiful and famous flower market, the narrow, cobblestone shopping streets called “The Lanes”, the chic Promenade des Anglais, and the playground of the rich and famous – the iconic Hotel Negresco. Absolutely nothing had changed. Everything looked as if not one minute of those 12 years had gone by. Beautiful.
We timed our day so that we would have plenty of time back in Villefranche for a nice lunch and a stroll (had to have our panini and Nicoise Salade – cruise friends, do you remember the sandwich guy? He’s still there!)
And of course a visit to Villefranche would not be complete without stopping to relax at the cute little beach, a place where we passed soooo many hours every Friday from 1996-1998. We can still picture ourselves and the rest of our friends running down the street late for the last crew tender, and chuckled as we witnessed some of the Voyageur’s crew doing the exact same thing that afternoon 12 years later. I guess nothing in the South of France changes! And it shouldn’t! La Cote d’Azur – you are absolutely perfect in every way – please don’t ever change….