Villefranche, France - Day Two
Welcome to France WELCOME TO FRANCE

Silently, he greeted us as we got off the boat.

Click on each image to enlarge.
Villefranche Harbor Our first glimpse of Villefranche-sur-Mer from the Grandeur's tender.
Villefranche Harbor A picture perfect day, a perfectly picturesque scene.
Map of Villefranche A map shows the fifteenth century citadel as well as later growth along the shore and inland. The bus tour originated from just outside the old walls of the city.
Sidewalk Cafe The streets in Villefranche and in much of Europe are narrow and congested, but fortunately cars are smaller than in the US. Unfortunately, tour buses aren't.
Street Art Art is everywhere to be found...every where tourists are to be found, at least.
Street Art As with American art, French art varies widely in quality and price. Only the quantity of it differs in France. There's much more of it than we see here.
Street Art No, it's not tea time in Toulous, the chairs and table are for sale also. So too is the tea service...everything but the tea itself. Oops, that's not a tea service. This is France, it's a wine decanter with tiny glasses.
Flea Market Art Somebody's great grandmother, no doubt. Oo La-La!
Villefranche Street A stroll along the pier...safer to accidentally fall into the sea than the street.
Cocteau Memorial The French writer, Jean Cocteau, was born in Villefranche.
Narrow Street in Villefranche Alleys in Villefranche are often closed to cars and may contain steps.
Villefranche Villefranche is even more beautiful from above.
Smart Transportation The "Smart" way to get around the narrow, twisting, streets of Villefranche. We didn't see a single American car all the time we were in Europe. And despite the frankly FRIGHTENING way the French, and especially the Italians, drive, never did we see a dented fender...until we arrived at the airport back in New York.
French phone booths Although phone booths are all but obsolete now in this country, in France, they're quite stylish and modern.
Boats From the Grandeur of the Seas to the tiniest "dinghy" all such craft have two things in common. They float (usually) and they always make great subjects for the painters amongst us.
The French Riviera The climb up began at Villefranche, and never seemed to end.
Monaco In Monaco, the very old coexists with the very new. How, I'm not sure.
Higher and Higher Every square inch of usable space is used for building, then they start building on UNusable space, then finally, they build on thin air.
Nearing the top The Mediterranean is a relatively warm, quiet, inland sea. That which man grows next to it in the way of architecture reflects this blessing.
Monte Carlo We look down on Monte Carlo apartment buldings some 40 stories tall. Land in the tiny principality is priced by the square INCH.
From the Mountains This is from the Middle Corniche, only HALFWAY up the towering cliffs.
Eze The tiny, Medieval fortress town of Eze, perches on a tall prescipice seen in the distant background. It survives today as an arts and crafts center. Despite its apparently inpregnable position, it has fallen to several different invaders over the past thousand years since it's founding by Benedictine monks in the eleventh century.
Medieval Eze One has to wonder if the architects of Monte Carlo got their inspiration from the plodding inclines and massive stone ramparts of Medieval Eze.
Eze Tourists Twenty-first century time travelers, who, perhaps an hour earlier, were climbing the streets of Cannes, Nice, or Monaco, now scale the "streets" of Eze.
Eze Painters Eze painters make it look E-Z.
Eze Gallery Exterior It looks bigger than it is inside, but no less charming. The same could be said for the gallery's owner.
Eze Art Gallery Perhaps the world's smallest art gallery. Only in France did prices for art seem high. Elsewhere, one was more often surprised by how LOW they were.
Sharon at Eze Until 1900, all water for the residents of Eze had to be hauled by man or beast up to the hilltop village. This is the town's only public fountain. Today, a cistern atop one of the watch towers supplies running water for the less than 300 permanent inhabitants of Eze.
Me at Eze The village of Eze is breathtaking. Here I'm pausing to catch mine.
2 Francs 2 Pee Pay toilets! What will the French think of next?
Caesar's Trophy The remains of Caesar's "trophy" can be seen atop the distant ridge near the exact center of the photo. It dates from the first century BC.

Villefranche-sur-Mer is a beautiful place to visit...and I wouldn't mind living there either.  If ever there was a beautiful portal through which one might first set foot on French soil, it's Villefranche (pronounced Vill-ah-FRAHNSH).  It's quaint, picturesque, lively, lovely, totally and wonderfully French, attracting both tourists and a large contingent of Americans who live there seasonally.  Walt Disney couldn't have designed it better.  From what I saw, it's the French Riviera at its best, both figuratively and literally halfway between the glitz and glamour of Cannes and the incredible, hyperactive verticality of Monaco.  For a painter, it's a giant sidewalk cafe with a menu of possibilities to sate even the most jaded appetite for coastal beauty.

France is a country that reveres painting.  It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we stepped from the Grandeur's sleek, modern tender onto the centuries-old stones of the town's quay.  Before we even reached the pleasantly modern tourist reception area we encountered an artist painting and selling her work.  Along the narrow main street, on one side were picturesque shops, a small hotel, and sidewalk cafes, on the other, small boats tied up as if arranged by an artist to form a still-life.  A small flea-market has been a Sunday afternoon fixture for decades, selling the art and artifacts of several generations.  An ice cream cone (single dip) costs 10 francs (about $1.40).  French ice cream is ten times more flavorful than anything sold in the US (the same goes for Italian gelatico).  English is spoken, if not necessarily understood all that well.  And the overall ambiance seems almost like a fantasy.

The bus tour starting at the ancient citadel and progressing along the three corniches (cornices) was a driver's nightmare.  The scenery was breathtaking but how that man negotiated the hairpin turns and narrow, congested streets with that forty-foot behemoth we rode in seemed almost a miracle.  From Villefranche northeastward toward Monaco we went up and up, literally climbing the western terminus of the Alps.  Monte Carlo has to be the most heavily populated square mile on earth, also the most expensive.  Soaring, 40-story, skyscraper apartment buildings that we gawked upward at one moment, we were looking down upon the next.  Eventually, we reached the Middle Corniche dating from Medieval times and the tiny, mountaintop village of Eze (pronounced EASE).  It was a town in which no vehicle much larger than a motor scooter has ever set foot...or tire...whatever.  The streets were barely five feet wide, cobblestoned, treacherously inclined, and endlessly convoluted.  Craft shops, art galleries, tiny bistros, and a single hotel ($230 per night), sported such ancient authenticity that the Medieval walled city had acquired a single fountain only in the last hundred years.  England's Richard the Lion Hearted, on the way to some modern-day crusade, would feel right at home.

Even the Upper Corniche, which dates from Roman times, does not top the highest peaks in the area (the Roman's never built roads OVER mountains when they could simply go around them).  It was here, overlooking the Greek-founded city of Nice and the most incredible scenery in the ancient Roman Empire, that a grateful nation built for Julius Caesar a "trophy" - an enormous circular crown of marble columns capped by a tall, conical roof - in return for his having conquered Gaul (modern day France) in the first century BC.  Today, a small part of it, no more than the enormous base and three or four Corinthian columns, still juts defiantly into the Mediterranean sky, the perfect focal point for the painters' art.  If Eze seems primitive, a relic of the so-called "dark ages," somehow Caesar's much more ancient classical memorial seems strangely "modern" despite its ruined state.  It seems to symbolically anchor the "recent" course of history and art.  From it, leads the narrow road which zigzags up and down, back and forth, indelibly drawing across the stone face of this international playground a crooked path, no less impressive in scope, no less profound in meaning, than the course of man's eternal longing for both natural and unnatural beauty.