Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 7, 2015

Wealth and Beauty in Cap-Ferrat

Let’s continue our exploration of the Provençal coast of France (or, more poetically, the Côte d’Azur), which began HERE in Vence, and then in our base, Villefranche-sur-Mer, HERE. Today we’ll head east from Villefranche to tour Cap-Ferrat, the peninsula that forms the eastern side of the harbor of Villefranche (click on graphics/photos for larger images).

Cap-Ferrat map

It’s a short bus ride from Villefranche to our first stop in the narrowest part of the peninsula, an easy walk to our first destination, La Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

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Yes, Rothschild as in the banking Rothschilds. In this case, Baroness Beatrice de Rothschild (who married Baron Ephrussi, hence the name), who had the villa constructed between 1905-1912. Like most of the insanely wealthy members of her family, she was an avid collector, of paintings, sculptures and porcelain, amongst other treasures. The interior and grounds of the villa are open to the public, per the Baroness’ bequest. A tour of the interior of the villa includes displays of many of the objects in her collection.

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For us, the primary attraction was the villa’s exterior and its extensive gardens. The main garden is a formal jardin française.

Villa Ephrussi pano

In addition, there are eight other themed gardens with plantings and architecture to reflect various parts of the world or styles, including Florentine, Spanish, exotic, Japanese, roses, and Provençal.

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Not so grand as Versailles or Schönbrunn, certainly, but lovely and lovingly maintained. The villa occupies the top of the ridge at the center of the peninsula, and has stunning views to the east, along the coast toward Monaco, and of Villefranche to the west.

Villefranche panorama 2

Baroness Rothschild wasn’t the only wealthy inhabitant of Cap-Ferrat, which in 2012 was rated the second most-expensive place in the world to live (after Monaco). The peninsula is dotted with villas identified with notable persons past and present, from W. Somerset Maugham to Paul Allen. We lacked invitations to any of them, but took advantage of the free footpath that circles the portion of the peninsula jutting out to the eastward, with views of the rocky coast and the blue Mediterranean. The rich don’t get everything to themselves.

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The circular route begins and ends in Cap-Ferrat’s principal town, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, its harbor full of pleasure craft. There’s also a beach.

St Jean harbor pano

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We had lunch at a little place with the unlikely name of Captain Cook’s, but had a tasty lunch we described in a post about travel food, HERE.

A visit of only a few hours tells you why Cap-Ferrat is an enclave of the ridiculously wealthy, but it yields up its sublime beauty to the diligent traveler, without oppressive toll, to quote Ms. Dickinson.

This is the third in a series of posts about travel through a portion of southern France. CLICK HERE to see the first, or use the navigation buttons below to go forward or back. We’ll stick around for at least one more post. We kind of like it here.

© 2015 Brad Nixon. Jardin française photo courtesy M. Vincent, all rights reserved.

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Responses

  1. Your choice of Villefranche as your base to explore the eastern part of the Cote d’Azur was a very good one. You have shown us many beautiful views of your walks around the area. Looks like you had a fabulous trip, and it’s nice that you documented it so well so that you can relive it again at your leisure. Thanks for sharing!

    I am curious as to where you were standing to get that elevated roof level view of the La Villa Ephrussi (looking down on the reflecting pool). Was there some sort of observation pavilion overlooking the cliffs and the surrounding property?

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    • Certainment. If you click on the panoramic view of the garden to enlarge it, you’ll see a pergola at the far end of the pool. I was standing up there, a little to the side. You can pull exactly the same trick at Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, among other places, but at the Hapsburg’s joint it’s something like half a mile across the garden back to the palace. Franz Josef and his gang did things on a very large scale.

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