Villefranche - close to Nice, lovely beach

Villefranche, July 2008

Lovely beach for children at Villefranche Villefranche is a lovely peaceful coastal village just minutes from Nice by bus or train. We like going there for the beach which is fine gravel and shelves gently into the sea, perfect for small children as well as everyone else. Unlike the beaches in Nice there is no need for padded mats or rubber swim shoes, the gravel is easy to walk on and comfortable to lie on, you just need a towel. We always take a small parasol which slides through the gravel effortlessly compared to the pile driver needed for the pebbles in Nice.

view to the east of VillefrancheFrom the beach, view to the east of Villefranche, towards the peninsular, St Jean Cap Ferrat

view to the west of VillefrancheFrom the beach, view towards the west of Villefranche, to Villefranche Port, the Citadel, Welcome Hotel and the Cap of Nice.

From the Port in Nice, we catch the 100 TAM bus bound for Menton via Monaco. It's one euro each this year. Villefranche is the next village/town east of Nice, just the other side of the Cap de Nice and before St Jean Cap Ferrat. It's just about 8 stops on the 100. Once you are on the downward run into Villefranche, you need to ding the dinger and get off at the bus stop marked 'Octroi'. The Villefranche Tourist Office is a little way further up the road on the right and set back a bit. You can pick up a map there. I've tried to mark out the location of everything on the map below.

Villefranche map showing the no. 80 bus stopTo get to the beach, you need to walk past the the tourist office and turn right then wend your way downwards either through the Old Town of Villefranche or though the stone fortress or Citadel down to the sea. The beaches are at the far east end of Villefranche, Plages des Marinières. Only the indicated areas have lifeguards. There used to be a private beach here but this has closed down so it is now all pubic beach. There is a food/drink kiosk for snacks, ice cream (cornettos, 3 euros) etc and a fairly horrible loo (go in the sea). There are a couple of open fresh water showers.

If you drive there is a pay and display car park right by the beach d if you take the train from Nice, it is just 2 stops away from Nice Ville (then Nice Riquier, the Villefranche) and about 1,30 euros. The train is the closest option for the beach but the 100 fom the Port is handier for us as our studio is by the port.

Although it's a bit of a walk to the beach from the bus stop, it's downhill plus you pass a Spar shop so you can buy a picnic lunch at a reasonable price. Coming back to Nice is a bit of a slog back up the hill to the Octroi bus stop though so we have worked out a better route using the Ligne d'Azur bus, the 80 which starts by the Port of Villefranche, the stop is called Port de la Sante and route takes you up and over Mont Alban, then down into Nice on the high twisty back roads away from the clogged coastal road. It terminates at Nice Riquier train station which leaves us a 10 minute walk back to the studio however we usually wait a few minutes and take the connecting number 7 or 20 which continues on to the Port, you use the same 1 euro ticket - there's no extra charge as it is a continuation of the same journey. A couple of weeks ago, we watched, along with about 30 Italians, two 100 TAM buses sail straight by the Octroi bus stop on to Nice without stopping. No matter, we have the 80 alternative up our sleeves and no long schlep up the hill either. I've tied to indicate on the map, the location of everything:

the route to Villefranche beach from the the 100 Octroi bus stop There's an 80 this year that leaves the Port at 6:05 pm, a good time to head back. All along the front at Villefranche, there are bars/restaurants and cafes and the bus top for the 80 is by the little church decorated by Jean Cocteau and close to a small square where you can buy a coffee or ice cream if there's time before the bus comes. Try and sit on the right hand side of the bus facing the driver for the best views over Villefranche.

Chapel St Pierre, Villefranche, decorated by Jean Cocteau, 2 euros entry, not Mondays or lunchtimeThe 14th century Chapel of St Pierre, decorated by Jean Cocteau, by the Port de la Santé, Villefranche.

Useful links:

Sunday trip to Monaco - the 'Monaco Shopping Experience'

Monaco and Monte Carlo, July 2008

View from the Palace Hill over the Port and out towards Monte Carlo. You can see the storms in the hills. The large outdoor lido or swimming pool is just visible in the centre left of the picture.

One of the leaflets I picked up in Nice Tourist office was promoting Sunday shopping in Monaco for the summer. "7 Sundays with a difference, from 20th July to 31st August 2008" Myself and the dear daughter are rather fond of shopping. The main shops in Nice are always closed on Sundays apart from the tourist shops and market in the Old Town and a few supermarkets.

For more information try and here plus this archived link.

We caught the 10;30am 100 TAM bus from the Gare Routiere so that we would be in time to catch the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace. That way, we could pretend it wasn't all about the shops. This is a 5-minute routine every day at 11:55am. Bus arrived at the foot of the rock at Place des Armes bus stop about an hour later so had plenty of time to stroll up the hill and eat our sandwiches before trying to see the guards. Large number of tourists already milling about in prime position so we just stood at the back and saw relatively little. I don't think we missed much, it's all a bit lame but the drums and the bell tower accompaniament was ok.

Changing of the guards at the Royal Palace. They have guns but they're skinny, I reckon I could take a couple.

Now for the shopping. Apparently you can take the buses all day Sunday for 1,50 euros, there's about 5 of them but the day was overcast, even a few drops of rain, so walking suited us fine. We headed towards Monte Carlo to look around the Center Commercial there. As part of the Sunday promotions, free eco-bags were being handed out at the malls. We couldn't find one anywhere but maddeningly, we saw plenty being toted all over Monaco. They are also given out in hotels on a Sunday morning and as passengers disembark the cruise ships.

On the way to Monte Carlo, we passed by the Olympic sized outdoor swimming pool or lido. Looking at the prices, it's quite good value, only 4,70 euros for the day.

Open air lido, open most days to the general public for about 5 euros

Walking up towards the Casino, it became apparent that Sunday shopping did not apply to the big names. All the real shops were closed; Hermes, Dior etc. The commercial centres were open though - most of the units within the Centre Commercial le Métropole were open, including a branch of Longchamps. This shopping centre is behind and to the north of Café de Paris by the side of the Casino. I suppoes if you had been stuck on the cruise ship with no shops for a day or two, it might have been an Aladin's cave but it wasn't much of a shoppigng experience in my humble opinion. Far better to while away a few hours in the Café de Paris.
Paused for an expensive boule of icecream (4 euros) from the Hagen Daz café in the Casino Park before catching the 100 back to Nice. It stayed fairly overcast and thundery later on, not really beach weather so the trip to Monte Carlo was not a bad choice. We popped into the Monaco Tourist Office before coming home to gather some info and the promotion crew were just returning from handing out all the free eco-bags so we managed to get one at the 11th hour. I wish I could say it was worth it, suffice to say Anya Hindmarsh will continue to sleep sound at night.

The Casino bus stop for the 100 back to Nice or the 100xpress Monday-Friday is at the top (north) of the casino gardens, not far from the Tourist Office. There is an arcaded area in front of the shops - les Allées Lumière for some welcome shade.

The Belgian double chocolate is highly recommended by my daughter.

Pocket-sized city spots guide to Monte Carlo, £4.79 from Amazon:

Gathering information in Nice

Walked along to the Tourist Office to see what was new. The main Tourist Office is at 5, Promenade des Anglais, just past the Meridien Hotel by Albert 1er Gardens. It's set back from the road a little and there are no wondows - just a huge posters promoting various current events. Inside, it is wonderfully cool and fresh. There are plenty of leaflets on the walls - suggestions for tours, activities, hotels, restaurants etc and many have an offer combined - for example the Grand Tour has a 1-euro off coupon with the brochure and there are coupons offering 10% off purchases at Galeries Lafayette - the fancy department store in central Nice and at CAP3000.

The good stuff however, is behind the counter. A new and excellent version of 'Nice Pratique' - a practical guide to Nice is available in English but you have to ask for it, the same for a restaurant guide and hotel guide plus a detailed map of Nice.

For exploring out of Nice, another information centre is close at hand - walk back along the Prom towards Castle Hill and cross over the front of the Albert 1er Gardens pasing the Carousel. On the corner of the opposite building is the Maison du Departement for the area 06 - the Alpes Maritime. Here you can collect information about surrounding villages, like Biot, La Napoule, etc plus wonderful guides on exploring beyond Nice - walking and cycling guides and information about other actvities such as canyoning. There is a counter for help but apart from a cheery Bonjour, they are happy to leave you to browse the information and help yourself to leaflets. You can collect the local train time tables here too.

One final stop around the corner and over Place Massena to the lignedazur Office on Place Massena, under the arcades and you will have enough information to make the most of your time in Nice. AT the lignedazue Office you cab pick up a current map of the local buses and tram stops.

The only information nearly impossible to collect is for the TAM bus network. For this, you need to go in person to the Gare Routière on Jean Jaures, hope that the Office is open and ask the French-speaking person at the central counter. It's easier to read the electronic notice boards and read the timetables just outside the Office by the bus platforms. Or download the information off the internet. When you ask at the counter, they might give you a photocopied timetable of your bus route but that's it. There is no map or plan availabe for the TAM bus routes connecting Nice to the rest of the Cote d'Azur. The lignedazur map shows some of the areas covered. To see a map of all the TAM routes, you need access to the website or examine the map on the wall inside the Bus station (when it's open, definitely not on a Sunday)

The TAM buses, the majority will want to use are the 100 from Nice to Menton, the 100xpress for Nice to Monaco, the 200 for Nice to Cannes and the 400 from Nice to St Paul de Vence. Here's a list of the regular TAM networks:

TAM regular bus networkfrom the TAM website

Information in Nice links:

Nice Tourist Office

Ligne d'Azur (local Nice bus/tram network)

TAM (Cote d'Azur network of buses)

Ter (local train network)

14th July Bastille Day - a public holiday in France

14th July 2008 - French National Holiday

The majority of shops are shut and transport is limited. The Old Town is very much open though and a few supermarkets are open for the morning only. I remember this time last year spendng the day on Opera Plage. Over the last few years, Sunday morning opening during the summer for the supermarkets is becoming more commonplace. This summer, Monoprix in Place Garibaldi will be open all day Sunday.

The Promenade des Anglais is closed for a Parade later on and it's lovely and quiet to walk along. There will be fireworks over the sea at 10pm and a free open air 'Ball' in the Albert 1er Gardens from 9pm, for 3 hours, stopping briefly at 10pm for the firework display. I gleaned most of this from the local paper Nice Matin whose main story is the birth of twins to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at Lenval Hospital the far end of the Prom.

We are still having difficulty finding a reliable source of the Times - ended up at the Kiosk on the far side of Albert 1er, by the Meridien Hotel today. Came home for lunch and it has unexpectedly clouded over and the temp dropped a bit.

Off to see friends in Juan Les Pins tomorrow and will spend the day on the beach with them. This year, we have been going late to the public beach after 4pm and have found the heat and sun much more bearable at this time. We flop about for an hour or two then come home.

Yesterday, the surf was up in the morning becoming quite rough by late afternoon, no chance of swimming, here are a couple of photos, showing morning and afternoon. Both taken from about the same place - overlooking Castel Plage by the Chateau Hill:

surf up a little in the morning, photo taken overlooking Castel Plage, 13.7.08

Surf increased by late afternoon, 13.7.08

30 second video of the surf by Castel Plage

The cost of using the private beaches would be very expensive for the three of us. Castel Plage charge 14 euros plus five euros for a parasol, another 5 for a towel and the cheapest bottle of wine is 18 euros. As with all the private beaches, taking your own food is not allowed.

French National Public Holiday 2008:

1 January New Year's Day/Nouvel An (Tuesday)
23 March Easter Sunday/Paques
24 March Easter Monday/Lundi de Paques
1 May Labour Day/Fête du Travail (Thursday)
1 May Ascension Day (Thursday)
8 May WWII Victory Day/Fête de la Victoire 1945 (Thursday)
11 May Pentecost (Sunday)
12 May Pentecost Monday (reinstated for 2008)
14 July Bastille Day, France's national holiday (Monday)
15 August Assumption Day (Friday)
1 November All Saints' Day/Toussaint (Saturday)
11 November Armistice Day 1918 (Tuesday)
25 December Christmas Day/Noël (Thursday)

Information courtesy of

Back in Nice for the summer 2008

9th July 2008 - back to Nice for the summer

One of our worst flights with easyjet out from Liverpool to Nice, a three-hour delay with very little communication. We were meant to depart at 18:30 due to arrive 22:30pm in time to take the express bus 98 but eventually arrived 01:30am and had to brook the cost of a taxi - 35 euros including the tip as all express buses stop before midnight. We did better than the crowd off to Alicante - their flight was cancelled.

It's been the longest break away from Nice, we were last here in December other than topping and tailing a ski holiday in Meribel in February. We've been here about a week now, it's going to be a hot summer I think, temperature has stayed around the 28°C mark most days. As usual, I'm overweight at the start of the holiday and I can really notice it with the heat. I've started to run again in the mornings but not for long, about 20-25 minutes most mornings.

We are economising this summer, meals on our balcony, no private beaches etc, I would like to say as a response to the credit crunch and an urge to live thriftily but mostly due to me
blowing the holiday budget on our second day here in Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo Casino reflected in a mirror sculpture in the gardens in Place du Casino

I've been studiously avoiding all shops since, even harder when they are still in the sales period - 'Soldes' signs in all the windows. outside Hermes in Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo is still fabulous, I like it more and more every time I go - so neat and clean. We took the 'xpress 100' from the Gare Routiere, it's 1 euro and knocks about 20 minutes off the regular 100 bus to Menton. More info about the xpress service here.

A few changes that I've noticed already:-

1. All bus fares appear to be just 1 euro this year, not 1,30 euros like last year. This is for the lignedazur buses in and near Nice and the tram and also the TAM bus network linking Nice with surrounding towns and villages. Such great value.

2. Place Garibaldi is 99% finished at last and looks wonderful with trees, seating, re-sited fountain and statue. It's quiet too with 2 one-way roads, a bus lane and a tram line only. It's now possible to walk across serenely. That's if you can take the sun - the trees need to grow a bit for shade or you can stick to the long way around under the arcades. There's just the water in the fountains and some edging and signposts to complete for full renovation/restoration.

daughter standing in the newly restored Place Garibaldi
It's made a big difference to the Café de Turin restaurant and the café Garibaldi - far more pleasant to sit outside with just the tranquil hum of a tram going by - traffic is reduced to one way here and it is generally much less busy.

3. One of my recommended restaurants appears to have closed - Chez Pistol next door the the Petit Turin, from the renovations it looks as though the Petit and Garnd café de Turin have bought it and are expanding sideways.

4. Our local Tabac on rue Pairoliere in the Old Town has been renamed 'Charlotte' and now sells cheap jewellery and local papers and postcards, we have to travel a bit further to buy an international paper.

5. Just like two years ago, the 98 express bus from the airport will continue on to the Port until about the second week of September - extremely handy for us. The fare for both the express buses remains at 4 euros and serves as a one-day bus pass within Nice for the rest of the day. Last year, it was the turn of the 99 to continue to the Port, I think the 98 route is better.

6. Prices. Noticeably more expensive in than last year, in supermarkets, restaurants etc and compounded by the weak pound. We continue to shop in the supermarket 'Ed' on rue Cassini, by far the best value though a bit limited in choice.

My website: