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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 
Delights in the South of France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium 

Breakfast in France, lunch in Italy, and dinner in Monte Carlo – that’s the plan for today, with gorgeous Riviera scenery in between. Pascale has set a lovely table, with home- made jams, flaky croissants, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and coffee to order. The three of us agree, we could just move in for a month or more!
I enjoy getting my fingers on a piano, and play a tune before we depart for what may be the most glorious garden on the Med- iterranean – eager to take it in before the threatened rain returns.
Driving east on the cliffside corniche curves, the towns get more colorful the closer we get to Italy – that’s Villefranche sur Mer below,

and the sight of train tracks laid right beside the sea brings memories of our many trips from Italy to France along this route. Once we took a night train from Rome to Nice, and peeked out the window as we woke up in our bunks to see the sun rising over the surf – unforgettable!
The gardens of the Villa Ephrussi- Rothschild on St. Jean Cap Ferrat have long been on our must-see list. Up the winding drive to the rosy mansion we go, and begin our wander through the themed landscape,

beginning with the Spanish Garden, reminiscent of the water-laced Alhambra in Granada.

The precisely manicured Japanese Garden is next,

then the Stone Garden, remants of sculptures and arches propped against the wall amidst a profusion of azaleas – perfect timing, they’re in full bloom!

A bank of exquisite roses

headlines a view of the Villefranche harbor, where a village- sized cruiseliner is moored for the day.

We complete our garden tour with the dancing fountains, springing up to a busy Vivaldi

with the cotton-candy pink mansion beyond,
swaying to a graceful waltz outlined with palms and blooms. Kirk and Steve laugh at me as I sit entranced on a bench…. yes, I could stay here all day!
But Italy calls… and lunch by the beach in Ventimiglia, the first town across the border. Marco Polo restaurant is a great choice, with seafood delivered daily by the boats right next door,
and an enviable seaside location-  their bathroom’s left open to beach breezes and views.

Back to France we go, for a stroll through the interiors of elegant Villa Ephrussi – oh the tales this place can tell!

And now for an up- close look at that colorful town we viewed from above.  Down the steep cobbled lanes

to the Villefranche sur Mer harbor,

we take in the vivid homes and restaurants lining the lanes and port,

and peek inside fisherman’s chapel of St. Peter, decorated by Jean Cocteau.

Turn around as you climb back up – don’t want to miss a vista!

Eze is another place on Steve’s must- see list, but by the time we arrive the promised rain is really coming down, complete with powerful gusts of wind. I stay in the car, but the 2 guys climb to the top of the village, and after getting soaked and buffeted, umbrellas blown inside out, take a well- deserved break in the cozy lounge of beautiful Hotel Chevre d’Or,

checking out the vintage Armagnac – at a cool 3,700 euros a bottle!

We’ve got one more country to go today – dinner in Monaco!

And a look at the gilded casino, where we watch other people lose money before driving back to France – just a few minutes and we’re back over the border. A three- country whirlwind of a day!