Cruise liners replace aircraft carriers in the bay
The Bay of Villefranche is a deep water bay which permits very large boats to stop over. In a previous century the bay was home to the Imperial Russian fleet. Then for some time it was home to passing aircraft carriers of the US navy, which ended when France withdrew from NATO. (Back in the twenties and thirties the sight of many young sailors was one of the areas main attractions to the gay literary and artistic set, including Jean Cocteau and Somerset Maugham, who made Villefranche and nearby Cap Ferrat their base)
In more recent times, the visiting boats are Mediterranean cruiseships, like the giant Ocean Village. Some days days two even three huge cruise liners "park" here for a day. Their tenders disgorge the 3,000 passengers off on various guided coach excursions to Eze Village and Monaco. but few are aware of Villefranche, other than as a boarding point.
The boats are not a pretty addition to an otherwise beautiful view, but business is business: the "boat people" are an essential part of the tourist economy.
Boulevard Princess Grace de Monaco
On one of the final bends approaching Villefranche, on the Boulevard Princess Grace, is a memorial to the actress Grace Kelly, fairy-tale wife of His Serene Highness Prince Rainier of Monaco. Grace met her untimely end in 1982 as her car left the road on the upper corniche high above Monaco. Another "Lady Die" story, perhaps, echoes of a similar fate of another princess some years later in a Paris underpass. However on this occasion it was early morning, no traffic, no paparazzi, a hairpin bend, and Princess Grace having a mother/daughter moment with wild child Stephanie on her "unsuitable" choice of partners. Stephanie survived the car's tumble down the Monaco hillside, Grace tragically did not.
A warning to motorists and big bikers who drive at impetuous speeds on this busy route, where there is no central reservation to separate the opposing flows of traffic, and sometimes very little that would prevent a vehicle veering over the cliff edge.
So pedestrians, cyclists and basically everybody on the road, beware and watch out!.
High season crowds at weekends
The beach can get crowded at weekends, when neighbouring Italians and French alike seeking some sun and lunch drive to Villefranche for the day. I am suprised these people don't have atrophied legs and pumping iron forearms - the only excercise they seem to get in life is turning a steering wheel. The crowds are self-limiting however, since there is only limited parking , which incidentally costs one euro an hour.
The only other people hazzard is visual - elderly sunworshippers, often topless ladies with skin like a crumpled brown paper bag. Can put you off, errr, whatever.
Oh and the jellyfish. (Didn't I mention the jellyfish?) In high summer the warm sea temperature can cause swarms (one floating every three feet) of Noctiluca Pelagia on occasional days. They sting. Not fatal but quite painful. Apparently its not global warming but chance, of a couple of unseasonably warm days in April causing the medusa larvae to overpopulate, as other fish fail to munch enough of them. Anyway its no big deal - just stay out of the water, set up in a bar, and discover the joys of bachus.
Villefranche is a beautiful place, but I ask are local authorities doing anything about the rat plague which infests the seafront at the 'Plage des Marinières' near the station? I watched in disbelief one evening as dozens of enormous rats scurried back and forth between the wall below the station and Le Carpaccio restaurant's dustbins.
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