The ship would be tendered in Villefrance, but unlike Santorini the ship would provide its own tenders. We had noticed at the beginning of the cruise that the two lifeboats directly under our room were different than all of the others we could see on the starboard side. Now we knew why - these two were the ship’s tenders as well as lifeboats. Before the ship stopped we watched them lowering the tenders to hang out over the water. We made our way to the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 4 midship for about 7:30am to meet for our excursion.
We took the ship’s tender to the small port in Villefrance and from there went to a bus that would take us on the tour. We travelled along the three “Corniche” roads beside the Mediterranean providing us with beautiful scenery as we travelled. We stopped at a spot overlooking Nice and Villefrance - it was a great view. Travelling once again along the Mediterranean coast we passed by a number of incredible properties while our guide listed all of the famous people that were living there or had lived there. Gary had recently read “King Leopold’s Ghost” by Adam Hochschild - detailing the horrific colonial rule of the Belgians in the Congo under the reign of Leopold II. Here in the French Riviera we passed by Leopold’s incredible home that he had built from the spoils of the Congo. Our first long stop was in Eze - a picturesque medieval village perched high on a rocky mountain cliff face overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. According to the guide, this small village has a population of only 50 people. Access through the village was a steep narrow “street” for pedestrian traffic only, lined with many arts and crafts boutiques. It was well worth the visit.
From Eze we travelled to Monaco. Before reaching the municipality we stopped at an elevated point that gave us a great view of Monaco below. Once in Monaco and off the bus we walked through the incredibly clean streets. It was a hot, sunny day with another brilliant blue sky. It looked spectacular and just a but unreal. We walked passed the homes of Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie. Our guide explained that the placements of the police outside the homes indicated that Caroline was in Monaco at that time but Stephanie was not. We walked to the Cathedrale de Monaco - where past members of Monaco’s royal family are buried, including Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. From the cathedral we walked to the Palais Princier de Monaco. We arrived just minutes before the scheduled changing of the guard at the palace, so we stayed to watch that. After that was finished we went to some shops very close to the palace - there we purchased some F1 t-shirts and some other souvenirs. We met back with the tour group outside the Musée Qcéanographique. We got back on the bus and our route took us along roads used for the F1 race in the Monte Carlo district of Monaco. We entered the “track” near Virage de la Rascasse and we drove along the starting grid (Boulevard Albert 1er). The swimming pool and Porte de Monaco was to our right. Rather than going up the incline of Avenue D’Ostende (as the F1 cars would do) we drove along Avenue President John Fitzgerald Kennedy heading towards the tunnel - the opposite direction that the F1 cars would travel during the grand prix. We got off the bus at the “exit” of the tunnel and went up escalators to reach the higher ground behind the Grand Casino - back on the “track”.
We walked around to the front of the Grand Casino and then headed to the outside covered patio area of the Cafe de Paris. We had an amazing lunch right outside the Grand Casino, The food was first class - and absolutely the best we had had on any tour lunch. It was such a hot day - so, to cool the patio area they had large elevated oscillating fans that had a water supply to disperse a light cool mist. We were entertained at our table by two American couples - and one of the fellows made sure we had a constant supply of cold bottled water. It was good we had him at the table - we were all in need of a lot of water with the extreme heat of the day.
After lunch we went into the Grand Casino - such extreme decadence inside. We walked around some of the tables to watch the people gambling but did not stay too long in there. Someone after told us that they stood watching young rich guys betting €20,000 to €30,000 each bet without any concern at one of the tables. Yikes.
We were on our own after lunch, so we decided to walk around and explore. The only unfortunate thing was it being Sunday - all of the designer shops were closed. We didn’t move too quickly - the afternoon sun was beating down on us and the temperature was certainly over 40°C. The area around the Grand Casino is beautiful - nothing out of place, a photo opportunity in every direction. We walked some more of the F1 track - Gary wanted to specifically see the section of F1 track from Mirabeau to the Loews hairpin. When we made our way back to the Grand Casino we realized that there were no street vendors in Monte Carlo. We noticed because we needed to get some more water. The only place to get water was to go into one of the restaurants. Later in the afternoon we met back with our tour group outside the Grand Casino to make our way back to Villefrance. We passed by a tiny Ferrari shop - our guide told us that this particular dealer sells the most Ferraris of any dealers worldwide. Traveling back along the coast in France we passed by the home of U2’s Bono - complete with a swimming pool on a small adjacent island.
When we arrived at the port in Villefrance we boarded the tender and went to the open deck on top. We sat there for a bit longer than we really wanted - it was so hot. When the tender finally left it was wonderful to get the breeze with the boat moving through the water to head back to our ship. The dinner for this evening was the last formal night. Before dinner we had some more portrait photographs taken - this time opting for a plain backdrop on Deck 4 midship. For dinner we both selected lobster and after the main course there was a Baked Alaska parade around the Metropolitan Restaurant prior to dessert being served. The evening was fun and the dinner was wonderful.
We watched the ship leaving Villefrance from the Sunrise Deck at 11:30pm - it was a beautiful night with a nice view of all the lights along the coast. There was a buffet planned on the ship for after midnight (called Le Grand Buffet). We went to see it, but it was too soon after our dinner to be able to do anything more than just look at the food. It looked incredibly good - and had we been in the early seating for dinner we were sure we would have indulged.
What else to say? - our day in the French Riviera was amazing.
WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.