October 21, 2013

Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

Cap Ferrat – the name conjures visions of million dollar villas hidden behind massive security gates. In the 1800s, the peninsula was a popular spot for wealthy families in Nice to come for a picnic.  In the 1950s, celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton discovered the town of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. Today the village is a quiet side trip on France's Côte d'Azur.

View of Cap Ferrat from Eze Village

The Cap Ferrat Lighthouse

Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat (top of the hill)
and the seaside Club Dauphin (reached by funicular)

British Architect Sir Norman Foster's 'Sail House'

While staying in nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer we took a boat trip around Cap Ferrat and later explored the peninsula on foot. The local TI can provide a map but we followed the excellent directions in Rick Steves' Provence & the French Riviera guidebook. You can also get there via the #81 Lignes D'Azur bus (a one way ticket is 1.50 euro) which operates from Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer. The nearest rail station is on the other side of the peninsula in Beaulieu sur Mer.

View of Cap Ferrat from Villefranche-sur-Mer

We set out from Villefranche-sur-Mer in the morning before it got too hot and were soon rewarded with beautiful views of the azure waters and large cruise ships in Villefranche Harbour.

Views of Villefranche Harbour from Cap Ferrat

Those large villas are there behind the gates, set in stunning locations among the pine trees and palms, oleander and bougainvillea.

Villa Gates

Bougainvillea and Oleander


Cap Ferrat Doorway

The main attraction on Cap Ferrat is the belle époque Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and its nine different theme gardens.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat

Map of the Gardens

Lunch on the Villa's Tea Room Terrace

We spent the morning touring the gardens, had a simple lunch of quiche and salad on the villa's tea room terrace and then continued our walk to the other side of the peninsula to the town of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat.

The Promenade Maurice Rouvier runs for 2.3 kilometres between Beaulieu sur Mer and Saint Jean. Along the way you can see Villa Kerylos which was modelled after a Greek villa or peek into the backyards of the wealthy.

Villa Kerylos, Beaulieu sur Mer

Seafront Riviera Real Estate

On Place David Niven is the villa that once belong to Charlie Chaplin and later David Niven. It was originally called Lo Scoglietto (Little Rock in Italian) but is now known as Fleur du Cap.

Fleur du Cap on Place David Niven

The Promenade Maurice Rouvier is a well-maintained level walkway, open to the sea breeze and comfortable for walking even in the middle of summer. 

Promenade Maurice Rouvier

Water fountains are provided for the comfort of our four-legged friends.

Canine Water Fountain

There was also an unusual statue of a man riding a giant tortoise – lawn art, Riviera style.

Lawn Art in a Riviera Garden

As we approached the town of Saint Jean we came upon the local beach, Cros des Pins. The unusual looking stalk of an Agave Americana plant towered over the sand.

Cros des Pins Beach, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

Agave Americana

We followed avenue Denis Séméria past the Town Hall (La Mairie) and local Tourist Office. Despite the small town atmosphere, the champagne bottles at Le Seaside Café's wine bar reminded us we were still on the French Riviera.

La Mairie, Town Hall 

Le Sea Side Café

Wine Bar

A number of sculptures were displayed on the esplanade overlooking the harbour. My favourite was  Message by French sculptor ERICKH, carved from white Carrara marble.

Message, by ERICKH

Then we headed back down toward the port past some of the town's boulangeries, charcuteries and wine shops.

Avenue Jean Mermoz, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

The Butcher Shop

Saint Jean's Old Harbour was built in the 1800s by convicts from the prison in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Quai Lindbergh is lined with sea-themed planters and oversized shells.

Quai Lindbergh, The Old Harbour

Sea Shell Planter on Quai Lindbergh

There are numerous shops and restaurants along the waterfront. We chose a shady spot overlooking the marina at Bar de la Mer and cooled off with one of their refreshing drink specials.

Shop Window, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

A Harbour View and Refreshments at Bar de la Mer

We'd covered at lot of ground since morning so we decided to take the bus back to our hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer, but it was a day well spent discovering a quieter side of life on the French Riviera.

Related Post:
Gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

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