Villefranche-sur-Mer is carved into a hillside on a bay between Nice and Monaco. We chose to stay in Villefranche because it is smaller and more residential than many of the towns on the water. That’s not to say that they don’t have the tourism thing down pat. Cruise ships regularly put down anchor in the harbor and we paid more to park our car overnight here than we did in New York City! As cheap as I am, I didn’t care. The views were worth it.
I loved the pastel colored houses and church. On the left is the Baroque Eglise St-Michel church. While it seems as though every town here has impressive, serene churches, this one had interesting objects that appeared magical with the light streaming in on them. The statue of Christ below was carved out of olive wood by a convict.
We fed our coffee addiction and had breakfast at a café on the docks. People were readying their boats for a sailing competition that weekend and seeing fisherman returning with their catch provided great entertainment. After gorging on fish the night before, we learned that the Mediterranean is almost fished out and most of the fish served in restaurants is imported from the Atlantic. Many of the towns on the Côte d’Azur started as fishing villages. Today, tourism is the number one industry, but Villefranche is still has a few people who still earn a living fishing.
Villefranche has been a port since Roman times and is strategically important because it could be used as a base from which to attack the port of Nice. After the fall of the Roman empire, residents fled and built the hill towns that dot the mountains behind the water. In the 13th century, the Duke of Provence wanted to defend the port from Saracen Turks and strengthen their hold on the coastline. To get them to move, he made living there tax-free. Gotta love tax-free. The Duke of Savoy constructed the fort to defend the port and bay in the 16th century.
The vaulted Rue Obscure (dark street) provided shelter from bombardment. Rue Obscure is a passage way under the harbor front houses dating from 1260.
Narrow, steep lanes climb up from the harbor. They were blissfully quiet and relatively deserted until the cruise ship started ferrying passengers ashore.
We decided to pull the plug and head out to the Grand Cornishe. Before we left, we stopped to check out this church. Villefranche is known for the Chapelle St.-Pierre in which Jean Cocteau (a famous French artist, poet and filmmaker) painted lavish frescos with heavy black lines and pastel colors.
Oops, I almost forgot. In Villefranche, we found a new use for a bidet. It came in really handy to clean the mud off of his Dunks.