Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Cap de Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer Hike

Hiking in the French Riviera is a favorite past time of many in the region.

There are a ton of trails throughout all of France but there is something special about the ones here for either the majestic views near historic fortresses or how one can hike along the sea and stop for a swim if you like.

One such trail can take you from Cap de Nice on the edge of the city along the sea to beautiful Villefranche-sur-Mer.

This has to be one of the easiest hikes around but this still means to wear proper footwear, remember to take breaks, especially if you are new to hiking in the summer heat plus bring liquids and other refreshments to keep your energy up. Also don’t forget your mobile just in case of emergency.

You can either start this route in Villefranche-sur-Mer or from Cap de Nice. For this guide the start is in Cap de Nice. As you walk along Boulevard Maeterlinck from Nice above the sea, you will come across the Sentier Littoral sign just before the boulevard turns towards Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Simply take the stairs down to the Pointe des Sans Culottes (Point of No Pants) towards the sea until you are at the Batterie de la Rascasse, which has an outstanding viewpoint towards the sea (for obvious reasons) and was occupied by the German and Italian armies during WWII following the scuttling of the French fleet in the port of Toulon. It was disarmed in 1945 and has not been in use since then but is generally maintained as a symbol of that time.
From here, you can start hiking towards Villefranche-sur-Mer by following the trail from the Batterie de la Rascasse.
Very easy to navigate, you will come upon many areas of stairs but nothing overwhelming as you pass below many extraordinary villas located above you while you move forward and parallel to the Saint Jean Cap Ferrat peninsula.
This is one of those trails that keeps you on the same path towards your destination, so there are no worries about it splintering off into an unknown area.
Here, you can find the place of your choosing for a stop for a picnic at the sea on some rocks or as you get closer to Villefranche-sur-Mer you will come across more swimming locations. Just keep in mind the area is unsupervised so swim at your own risk.
As you approach Villefranche-sur-Mer you will start to see areas where more of the locals both swim and fish, almost like secret spots away from the usual tourist areas.
This is also a great way to discover new parts of Villefranche-sur-Mer. To get back to the Quai/Old Town area, just stay along the sea, follow around the citadel and you’re there.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Les Garcons in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Wondering through the historic and colorful pedestrian streets of Villefranche-sur-Mer, you are certain to come across a fantastic restaurant by the name of Les Garcons.

Situated in what appears to be its very own charming courtyard in front of the establishment, this is where you will find many of the patrons enjoying a meal and drinking wine with friends.

The atmosphere is casual and fun with an aura of romance as the sunset changes the hues of the building colors until you are basking in candlelight at your table. 
If you want an authentic feeling of France and Europe overall...this is the place to be.

As any of my friends will tell you, I’m not a foodie by any means but when you find something right, you tend to go back again and again.

Such as the case with Les Garcons, most recently in early July when business partners from London were in the area and without even a second thought we decided to meet where we have many times before at the restaurant. 

Each time we are here the experience is familiar yet different if you know what I mean. Les Garcons is one of those places that feels like family, friends and home...comfortable. Yet the ever-changing menu and remarkable selection of food and wine choices offers you something new every time.

The handsome staff are always attentive and fun to joke around with along with being very hardworking and knowledgeable about not only the food but what is happening locally.
The menu choices are very much in line with the season and local food sources, with only the best in fresh seafood and overall food ingredients used in their meal preparations.
You will be salivating over the menu selection and will definitely want to taste not only what you have selected but those you are with as well. It’s only fair to share and at Les Garcons and you definitely can with the portion sizes available, especially when it comes to dessert.
The restaurant can get busy especially at high season but if you arrive early enough or are willing to wait a short while, it is totally worth it. The courtyard seems to be the most popular area but at cooler times or for a bit more privacy, the restaurant itself is warm and inviting.

Les Garcons is the kind of place where if you eat there once, years later you will still be telling people about the fantastic meal and experience you had there.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Vibrant Villefranche-sur-Mer

In my years of living in the French Riviera, I'm surprised I've never written about Villefranche-sur-Mer before?!

Likely because the location quickly became such a part of daily life but if you are planning a trip to France, this is definitely a place you have to come experience.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is an amazing seaside town just 3.5kms from Nice on the way to Monaco and is known for its colorful, historic buildings, gourmet restaurants, beaches, and shops.

A visit to the French Riviera would not be complete without spending some of your time here.
With a lengthy history dating back to prehistoric times, this area was also used by the Greeks and Romans as a place for stops during their journeys. Know for it's natural surroundings, breathtaking views and the Rade de Villefranche, which is one of the deepest in the world making it ideal for boating, diving and includes a variety of sea life such as dolphins and whales.
Given the beauty of the area, during the mid-1900s, this part of France became known for its wealthy and royal visitors that built many luxury properties so that they could enjoy the warm sunshine throughout the year and entice friends and families for long visits.
This all leads to Villefranche-sur-Mer quickly becoming a true travel destination for tourists to relax and entertain during their holidays with others.

Compared to city life in places such as Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer offers a more subdued lifestyle. Here you can explore the many pedestrian streets amongst the colorful buildings at your leisure, shop at the many boutiques that will cater to your every whim. and enjoy delicious meals offering local food favorites. 
Not known as a particularly "gay" place to live, the area is still very gay-friendly and members of the LGBT community do live or own second homes here. For those that don't want hectic city life, this is the place to be. I personally have many gay friends that live in Villefranche-sur-Mer who love it and it's always a pleasure and a welcoming break when I get to visit with them.
Nightlife is a different situation due to the size of the town so there are no nightclubs, yet it doesn't feel like you would be missing that scene. Here the bars and restaurants tend to be extended out onto terraces where you can enjoy the sounds of a band or DJ under the stars.

This is a great way to meet the friendly locals that live nearby year-round or others also on vacation. During the summer months , there are lots of outdoor concerts in the parks along with a large outdoor cinema playing various favorite international films.
If you want to have some of the most amazing experiences of your life, plan a visit to Villefranche-sur-Mer! Even Madonna spent time here at a luxury villa rental overlooking the bay and town during one of her birthdays, so if it's good enough for the superstar...