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Experience Provincial Life in Villefranche-sur-Mer
As the South of France opens its doors to an ever-increasing influx of tourists, the bucolic way of life in the countryside is disappearing from many nearby destinations such as Cannes, Nice, and St. Tropez. Travelers who wish to experience the provincial modus vivendi of the region may wish to make their way to Villefranche-sur-Mer, a beautiful seaside commune along the French Rivera.
Nestled in between Mont Alban, Mont Boron, and Mont Vinaigrier, and the Mediterranean Bay, this postcard-pretty town continues to abide by the traditions of a time long past.
With colorful rustic cafes lining the harbor side, a slew of open farmer’s markets, and a host of quaint chapels, forts, and heritage houses, Villefranche-sur-Mer does present an opportunity to turn back the clock for a unique holiday in twentieth-century rural France.
Any visit to Villefranche-sur-Mer usually starts at the waterfront on Quai Courbet, along the promenade that houses numerous bars and cafes offering a wide range of regional aperitifs and country wines. Watching the local fishermen paddle their brightly painted barques on the living watercolor of Le Rade de Villefranche explains why writers such as Somerset Maugham and Evelyn Waugh made this corner of France home away from home.
A short walk along the boardwalk can take one to the Chapelle de Saint-Pierre, the patron saint of fishermen. Bedecked with frescos of Saint Pierre and restored by the legendary polymath Jean Cocteau, this chapel is a throwback to a time when Villefranche-sur-Mer was a small fishing village on the borders of the principality of Monaco.
A Taste of the Pleasures of the Countryside
Nothing expresses the esprit d’un lieu like an open market. Villefranche-sur-Mer has three functioning markets throughout the year. With a wide range of local produce, indigenous crafts, and tourist trinkets on offer, these markets significantly contribute to the livelihood of the region. The Provençal Market in Binon Gardens sees a large gathering of neighborhood vendors selling locally grown fruits and vegetables, olive oils, wines, cheeses, and cured meats every Saturday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through the year.
Presenting numerous examples of authentic artwork from the Côte d’Azur, Amelie’s Market – an artisan’s market showcasing pastoral handicrafts – remains open to the native populace and visiting tourists from the early days of May till the end of October. There is also a flea market which offers pre-owned trinkets and treasures from Villefranche-sur-Mer and its surrounding communes for the eclectic collector. It is open all day on Sundays.
The cobbled Rue du Poilu of Old Town can lead enthusiastic travelers into the past as they make their way along the same path that was once trodden by Villefranche-sur-Mer’s own contingent of soldiers who fought in the Great War. History buffs may wish to explore the suitably named Rue Obscura, a nearby underground boulevard that facilitated the movement of troops in the thirteenth century.
Old Town hides the residence of the now little-known flying ace Auguste Maicon—once a celebrity contender for the first transatlantic flight. Visitors can complete their walk up this age-old section of the town with a visit to the Saint Elme Citadel, which contains four museums, expansive gardens, and an open-air theatre. The Citadel is free to enter and offers a panoramic view of the march of life in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
To experience the provincial customs and traditions of the region with a private retreat after a day’s sojourn, One Authentic Properties’ Villa Bayview in Villefranche-sur-Mer promises a luxury hospitality experience unlike any other. Built for the globetrotting aesthete, Bayview is a portrait of perfection in white stone, polished glass, and the ubiquity of water blending into an architectural masterpiece.
This property houses five plush bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, two fully stocked designer kitchens, a private sun deck with chaise lounges, a temperature-moderated swimming pool and hot tub, and large manicured gardens with a nonpareil view of the sea. Luxury car rental and chauffeur services, helicopter transfer, and yacht chartering options are available à la carte. A stay at this luxury rental in France is bound to remain etched in a visitor’s memories for many years to come.