If I had to choose only one place for a return visit, Villafranche would win the prize. It is a beautiful, warm and welcoming city. As we exited the tenders from the ship, we were greeted by a trio of French musicians and as we left the port that night, we were treated to a beautiful fireworks display as a gift from the port of Villafranche.
Not only that, the beautiful Magic dominated the harbor. Celebrity’s Millennium was docked behind us, but you could only see the Magic from the main part of the port.
One thing I want to interject here is that at the two ports where we had to take tenders from the ship to the shore, it was a painless, smooth process, nothing like what I had feared.
In this port we took the Monaco, Monte Carlo and Eze excursion and it began with a beautiful drive into Monaco. Gary was excited to recognize some of the Grand Prix course and pointed out a number of skid marks where cars had obviously run into the barriers on the opposite side of the road from where they should have been. Some of the scaffolding from the stands was still in place. Too bad we couldn’t have been there last week!
We saw Princess Stephanie’s and Princess Caroline’s homes and then proceeded to the church where Prince Ranier and Princess Grace (Kelly) are buried. The line snaked by their graves and we snaked by right along with them. From there we went to the Royal Palace of Monaco and took an audio tour of a few of the public rooms. I would have rather spent the time exploring the little city, but we did a quick (Can you say “fast forward!”) tour and after that we had a little time in the town square before we headed on to Monte Carlo and the opulent Grand Casino.
Lunch was a part of our tour and we had a delightful al fresco lunch at the famous (to everyone but me!) CafÃ© de Paris. From there some folks shopped and others of us visited the Grand Casino. We debated whether or not to go in, but decided since our admission was already pre-paid with the shore excursion, we’d go ahead and take a peek. It was definitely grand, but somehow, not quite as grand as I had expected. We didn’t gamble, but it was lots of fun to watch the roulette tables and the Chemin de Fer tables. Of course, it was the slot machines that attracted the crowds.
After the casino, we walked around the city square and strolled part of the city gardens where the highlight was a Mama duck and her six little ducklings swimming in a small pond.
“¦and the best was last, the little Medieval village of Eze. This little town (2400 inhabitants) sits on top of a mountain and the village was built right into the side of the hillside. The streets are very narrow and they wind around in all directions like an ant maze. Now the city is pretty much a tourist area with tiny little shops built right into the stone walls of the village, but if you wander off the beaten path, you’ll find the private residences and even the military cemetery. There was also an old church with the most beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary I think I’ve ever seen.
At the end of the excursion, we headed back to the ship along the Bas Corniche (low road), a very scenic drive with panoramic views of the port with the Magic right in the middle.