France: French Riviera: Along the Cote d’Azur
The Cote d’Azur provides the stunning backdrop for exclusive villas, wineries and botanical gardens.
Arrive at Nice Airport today where you will be greeted and assisted with luggage and customs. Transfer by private car to la Chevre d’Or in the village of Eze.
Chateau de la Chevre d’Or is one of the most unique places in the Cote d’Azur. Named by its former owner, musician Balkovik, who rebuilt the chateau in 1924, Chateau de la Chevre d’Or was later transformed into a hotel, but with very few rooms. The hotel’s present owner has increased the size of the property gradually, by purchasing houses through the village and converting them. This has made for an eclectic assortment of rooms situated throughout the cobblestone streets of Eze – all stunning. The property boasts two fabulous restaurants as well.
This afternoon is at leisure. Walk through the beautiful medieval village of Eze, perched like an eagle’s nest on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient fortified village is still crowned with the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle (torn down in 1706), sitting on a rocky peak. Narrow roads wend their way upward to the well sign-posted Jardin Exotique Panorama. Located on the castle grounds, the Jardin Exotique, a botanic garden of aloes, euphorbias and cactus created in 1949 by Jean Gastaud, boasts a breathtaking view of the coast.
You can also enjoy the hotel’s private gardens and outdoor heated swimming pool with a view of the sea, or schedule optional services at the spa onsite.
Dinner this evening at Le Chateau de la Chevre d‘Or Restaurant is included. An institution among the fine dining restaurants of the French Riviera, La Chevre d‘Or combines the highest quality ingredients to produce sophisticated, fresh tasting cuisine served in an elegant setting.
Following breakfast at your hotel this morning, set out with your private English speaking driver/guide for a taste of Riviera culture and fine wine.
Drive to the medieval town of St Paul de Vence, where the beauty of the surrounding region, quality of life and exceptional light have inspired celebrated artists, writers and poets, some of whom took up residence in the village. Walk the narrow and picturesque pedestrian streets of the village, from the Porte Royale to the Porte Sud, surrounded by magnificent stone facades from the 16th and 18th centuries. Lose yourself in the maze of charming streets, bright gardens, and small shady squares while admiring the medieval architecture, stone fountains, gateways and terraces.
Visit the Maeght Foundation, the collection of Aimé and Marguerite Maeght – renowned art dealers who counted artists Chagall and Matisse among their friends. The Maeght collection includes paintings, sculptures, mosaic murals, stained glass and pottery and is considered to be among the world’s best small museums. Works are beautifully laid out, surrounded by leafy gardens, with light flooding inside to illuminate works like the slender figures of Alberto Giacometti, the colorful paintings of Marc Chagall, and pastoral scenes from Pierre Bonnard, who lived in Provence for the last 22 years of his life. Additional highlights include works by Joan Miro, Alexander Calder and Vassily Kandinsky.
Break for lunch on your own this afternoon. We recommend Restaurant Le Tilleul in St Paul de Vence. On the sunny terrace, beneath the shade of a 100-year-old lime tree, Chef Stéphane Marie prepares cuisine made with seasonal produce, blending regional specialties with exotic ingredients, accompanied by your choice from the restaurant owner’s personally selected wine list.
Continue on to Saint‐Jeannet, a small village in the hills of Nice. Until the mid twentieth century, every plot of land here was dedicated to the vine, with the village counting as many as 700 wine estates. The tradition is now upheld by a solitary remaining vineyard –Georges Rasse upright, inspired and happy in his fascinating work.
Rasse shares his passion and know‐how with local pupils who never miss the opportunity to take part in the grape‐picking operations and to listen to Georges speaking from his heart about terroir and tradition. Here winemaking follows the oldest traditions: Red wines aren’t fined or filtered. Against all winemaking theories they first stay 3 months outside in transparent jars before maturing 12 months in oak. White wines are matured on lees (sediment) in oak, with careful stirring to ensure the finest production. The ancestral tradition of foot-crushing produces the finest rosés. The yearly production of 20,000 bottles is largely sold to visitors and to the local restaurants.
The man, the Domaine and the wine together make this visit a delightful experience.
If time allows, additional optional museum visits or shopping excursions can be planned for this afternoon.
This evening we suggest dinner at La Reserve in Nice. Immortalized on film by the famous Nice photographer, Jean Giletta, La Reserve de Nice is part of the heritage of the Cote d’Azur. Long moored in Nice Harbor at the foot of Mont Boron, it is named after the fish tanks which, in days of old, could be found at its feet. The interior is designed in the eye‐catching style of the 1930s, while the location boasts panoramic views of the Baie des Anges and the Estérel Mountains. On the menu, the creative gourmet cuisine of Chef Sebastien Mahuet.
Return to your hotel this evening via private transfer.
Today depart with your driver and your exclusive garden specialist for a visit to some of the most beautiful villas and gardens of the region: The Villa Santo Sospir, the Villa Hanbury, The Villa Ephrussi.
Enjoy a drive along the three “Corniche” roads which lie between Nice and Monaco. The Lower road reaches to 150 feet above sea level, leading from Nice to the little fishing port of Villefranche with its beautiful bay. Continuing on toward Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the millionaires’ peninsula, the road enters the little resort of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, which became very chic and fashionable at the turn of the twentieth century. From Beaulieu through the section of “Little Africa” at the foot of very impressive cliffs, the Lower Road crosses from Eze on Sea, to Cap d’Ail, admired for its crystal clear inlet. Here one meets the border between France and the Principality of Monaco.
The more modern Middle road, offers incredible views through the same series of towns as it winds downward from its height of 1,200 feet above sea level in Eze to the coast.
You will enjoy a private visit to Villa Santo Sospir, in the seaside village of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Built in 1931 on the western side of the peninsula of Cap Ferrat, the villa was decorated by multi-talented French artist Jean Cocteau, who chose Santo Sospir as the backdrop for scenes in his film Le Testament d’Orphee.
Your guide will provide suggestions for a seaside lunch this afternoon.
Continue on to Villa Ephrussi, where you will discover the most beautiful French Riviera palazzo surrounded by nine wonderful gardens. Through the art dealers and experts she befriended, owner Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild sought out artworks all over the world, transforming her villa at Cap Ferrat into a collector’s paradise. Between sea and sky, overlooking the bay of Villefranche, the nine heavenly gardens are adorned with patios, fountains, ponds, flowers and shaded paths.
Crossing over the Italian border*, you will visit Villa Hanbury, at Mortola, located at the western end of Liguria. The villa is known for its splendid botanical gardens ‐ officially the Giardini Botanici Hanbury ‐ dating from the 1860s. The gardens were established by an English family with the goal of establishing and integrating plants from around the world. With the input of landscape designers and botanists the result is a very fine series of gardens featuring almost 6,000 species of plants and generally considered to be one of the finest botanical gardens in Europe.
The setting, on the hills sloping down to the sea, is as impressive as the gardens themselves. The well‐planned spaces are full of both native and exotic plants that have flourished here, many scattered along the pathways that lead to the sea. There are secret pathways and hidden corners to discover and explore ‐ all very beautiful.
After you have had a chance to explore the gardens at Villa Hanbury, visit the nearby caves at Balzi Rossi. The caves were inhabited in the Palaeolithic Era and contain burial sites and tools from that time. They are one of the most important prehistoric sites in Italy.
Dine on your own in Eze this evening. We will provide you with suggestions.
*Please have your passport with you.
Today is yours to enjoy Eze at leisure. You will be collected by private car and driver in time to meet your departure flight or continue on to your next Willing Foot destination.
This is just the beginning.
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