Sunday, February 28, 2010

Villas Ephrussi and Kerylos at Cap Ferrat

On Saturday I took the bus out to where I left off last Wednesday, having decided to visit two villas, one on Cap Ferrat and the other just over the water on the Beaulieu side of the bay.

The first, Villa Ephrussi, was built in the early 20th century by Baronness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, from the fabulously wealthy banking family. They put a simplified family tree on the information pamphlet, and I was all "wtf, were they really inbred or what?" I turned to Wikipedia and discovered that their family tree has a handy little symbol for 'cousin marriage' - I counted some 25 such marriages in the family tree, although admittedly this was over a number of branches and generations. But still, keeping it in the family, eh?

Inbred or not, Béatrice definitely had taste. Her villa is just exquisitely sited and really makes the most of its location (unlike, as we shall come to, Villa Kerylos) with 9 themed gardens (e.g. rose garden, Japanese garden etc.) and terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows etc. It would have been lovely to see the gardens in spring/summer, of course, but they were still lovely. The house itself is a bit shabby and not to my taste from the outside (apparently she had a thing for all things pink) but elegant inside and packed with works of art she collected and picked up on her travels. She left the museum to the French Académie de Beaux Arts on her death, with the specification that it should be kept as much as possible with a home-style atmosphere, rather than as a museum. Since there were few other guests, this was quite successful - there was even caged budgies and classical music playing - although I think I for one would need a *lot* of money to pluck up the courage to sit on Louis XV chairs and dine off Sèvres china. (I mean, not that that's an option when you visit the villa, but kind of amazing that that was 'home-style' to her...) Just the thought of the wealth and refinement and luxury and idleness required to do all that designing (she was apparently very exigent over the details) and collecting boggles the mind. One bad thing about the place was that the upper floor was only able to be viewed as part of a paid guided tour, which seemed a bit of a swizz after having already paid 15 euro for a ticket to the two villas.

Anyway, the second item on the menu was Villa Kerylos, on the other side of the bay. Kerylos is a reconstruction of an ancient Greek villa, which is pretty awesome. It was built at roughly the same time as Ephrussi, by Théodore Reinach, also from a banking family, but himself a double doctorate who eventuallly specialised in Greek history and poured his obviously copious enthusiasm into the creation of his villa. As you can see from the pictures below, it is possibly even better-situated than Ephrussi, so my one pet peeve about the place is that it pretty much throws away its spectacular sea views for (presumably) the sake of semi-authenticity. No massive plate-glass windows here, although you can hear the sea from inside the house, and in the basement, which is nearly at sea level, you can even smell the sea, the place is full of poxy little rubbishy windows that basically waste the fantastic views (although to be fair, there are outside terraces, but still).

But anyway, that aside, it's a pretty fascinating place, a blend of Ancient Greece and Belle Epoque France, very tasteful although sometimes a bit cluttered. The audioguide was good as well, giving commentary on Ancient Greece as well as on the house itself. Most of the furniture and statues etc. are reproductions and were actually in use by the family, but there are also genuine antiques in cases throughout the house. It was never inhabited by a lion. To my knowledge.

Anyway, a nice day out, and I walked for around 1 1/2 hours around the cape and so on. Hopefully if Wednesday's fine I might either go to Menton (I think it's meant to be the last day of the Lemon Festival, exciting) or continue my walk, picking up from Beaulieu and heading towards Eze. I want to eventually have walked the whole way from Nice to Monaco!

Sea view from Villa Ephrussi, looking in the direction of the Villefranche coast

The foyer of Villa Ephrussi

Looking down the French garden to the back of Villa Ephrussi

A plate I enjoyed at Kerylos. I seem to have taken quite a few photos of our goatish friends over the years...

Now, I get the whole 'Villa in Ancient Greece' thing, but they really picked authenticity over comfort in this place...

I think this is called something like the 'andrygon' i.e. the man's room, but apparently tradition was bent a little to allow ladies in in modern times

The inner open-air courtyard at Kerylos

A view of Villa Kerylos from Cap Ferrat

Close(ish) up view of Villa Kerylos from Cap Ferrat

Look how clear the sea is! If I didn't know better I would say I was in Thailand or a Pacific Island or something (disclaimer: have not been to Thailand or a Pacific Island)

Statue at Cap Ferrat

I think this is the Baie des Fourmis i.e. the Bay of Ants - none sighted

Pacman ghost! Watch out!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


As I may have mentioned before, I have vowed, since I am in the land of cheese, to try a different variety whenever I'm in the market for some cheese. Whether or not 'fun with cheese' makes for a particularly exciting blog entry, I don't know, but I'm going to occasionally report on cheeses of note anyway.

Now, I have been consuming and enjoying cheese, including French cheese, for quite some time without being moved to blog about it. But I was driven to the internet by my latest acquisition, a charmingly-named 'Petits Amis' Munster-Géromé cheese. Indeed, from the outside all is well with this cheese - it seems a perfect choice for frolicking with a mate or forcing children to carry heavy milk vats half their size:

But on further examination, I had to turn to the net for reassurance that I wasn't risking my health in eating this cheese, because it is a big ball of wrong.

The main problem isn't that it smells like damp socks, or its rather livid colour, or the fact that once you cut into the rind it has the inner consistency of brie that's been sitting out on a hot day, despite being fresh from the fridge. Rather, the problem is that it comes out of its refrigerated cocoon WET. Covered with a disgusting slimy coating. According to my mates at Wikipedia , this is normal and a result of its special manufacturing process, which involves ageing the cheese for 5 weeks in 'damp cellars', all the while bathing it regularly in brine. Which all makes for a delightfully slimy/sticky customer. If you have a weak stomach, I advise you to look away now and especially to not pay attention to the visible sticky run-off collected on the wrapper:

But as you can see, after reassurance from the interwebs that this is deliberate, I forged ahead and ate some (not all in one sitting in case you're wondering). And the verdict is... it packs a flavour punch, with predominate mould notes, but is actually not toooo bad if you can get over the "arrgh, a cheese made of toads!" thing. I think once is enough for me and this petit ami though!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Happy trails!

Mostly inspired by my discovery that podcasts are to walking what rubber ducky is to bathtime, I've been shanks ponying it up over the last few days. Saturday was gorge gorge gorge so I headed out and walked from the Old Town of Nice, over the Colline du Chateau, around the port and along the coast up Mt Boron - all in all, about 2 hours' worth of walking, in about 15 degree heat (seriously, for the inattentive amongst you, it SNOWED a couple of weeks ago and last night I actually saw some snow still lingering on in a corner somewhere), with the sun beating down in a totally pleasant and bearable way, sparkling off the true-to-form azure sea. It was wonderful and a great reminder that living somewhere like this is the dream of a lot of people and I should get off my arse (to be fair, it has rained a lot lately) and see more of it.

Anyway, in keeping with this philosophy, I got off said arse today and took the bus to where I left off last time, at roughly the mid-point of the road around Mt Boron, and walked through Villefranche and a little bit past Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where I reluctantly gave up after about 1 1/2 hour because me wee trotters were too sore. It started out sunny but clouded over a bit as I went today.


Sea view from the hills above Villefranche. On the left is Cap Ferrat, on the right is Mt Boron

View of Villefranche from the east

View of Villefranche from the west

The coast between the port at Nice and Mt Boron

Looking towards Nice, you can see the war memorial archy-thing set into the cliff to the left of the cruise ship and snow-capped mountains in the background!

View of the Old Town from the Colline du Chateau

View of the coast from partway up Mt Boron

Looking from Villefranche towards Cap Ferrat sticking out to the right

My expertly-photoshopped route-map for those of you playing at home!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Mardi Gras!

As promised, here are photos from Carnaval on Saturday - I had a great time. Great atmosphere, we were standing up in Place Massena. On the Promenade there are crowd barriers, so we asked someone on the gate if they were going to put them up and where to stand - the answer? Stand wherever you want, and if a float's coming, move. Ha ha, can you imagine that in an Anglo health & safety obsessed country? I went with a Canadian girl Katie I met up with off Couchsurfing, who was really nice & whole evening was fun-filled! It's something like the 160th Carnaval, it's always nice that it's actually a real tradition and not just something invented for tourists... The theme this year was the environment, so lots of floats of animals and so forth. Kind of ironic when you see how much mess the thing generates!

I've got tickets for the seated section today, which I bought before deciding to go on Saturday. Am a bit meh about it right now since I've seen all the floats and the atmosphere probably won't be the same, but it is actually Mardi Gras today after all. Will also have to get some crepes!

Stork with baby

The effect of a guy with some streamers and a leaf-blower thing

The pavement view of Carnaval

Obama to the rescue! Oddly enough, he's dressed like superman and clutching (you can't see this) the Kyoto Protocol - erm, would that be the Kyoto Protocol his administration rejected? Or, like, some other one that he's all in favour of?

Please, no paparazzi!

Noah's Ark. I got me two alligators, some long-necked geese, a humpy-backed camel and some chimpanzees. Good times

Me & Katie & anonymous photo bomber at Carnaval

The King of Carnaval

Oh noes! Jellyfish have taken to the skies!

The frog was the symbol for this year's Carnaval for some reason

Froggy astride the world

Freaky flying Cupid float

Me after taking a particularly heavy confetti attack to the face, was picking these off for a while

Confetti in the sky

This is a bit hard to see, but they're tossing some guy in a blanket

Carnaval vid - in case you're wondering whence the startledness, I don't know I was taking this video myself!

Weird loud me-talking effect here... Those earths with giant mouths are also a bit too friendly. Ends for some reason on one of the annoying Italian priests that kept trying to ruin every photo. Probably trying to ruin this too

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nice sous la neige! (And not sous la neige)

Well it has already snowed once in Nice this season, but this time it came not like Jesus (aka a thief in the night), but right in the middle of the day - AND it had the courtesy to do it while I was equipped with my new camera Santy Claus brought me! Yay! Now I know there are people out there in the world at the moment who have been almost literally up to their eyeballs with snow, and they might not get the excitement, but I'm from a place where it doesn't snow, and, while I've seen it before, I still think it's pretty damn cool. And it's got to get a little extra caché for snowing in the fricking French Riviera, non?

So I rushed (as fast as the sloooow bus with a sticking back door would take me) down to the beach, because I was hoping to get some cool pics of snow on it, but noooo it didn't settle anywhere down in the town. Up in C-mizzle where I live, however, we got a semi-impressive haul that lasted until Saturday or maybe even yesterday.

Below the snow pictures are some more pictures of Nice that I've been meaning to get around to posting, mix of snaps from when my family were here and ones I've taken out and about in the town. I still couldn't get the pics from Paris to load (there are ones from Chenonceau below if you scroll down though...) In honour of Mardi Gras tomorrow I'll probably post my photos from Carnaval on Saturday night - so much fun!

The snow starts falling on the neighbours' garden

It's snowing at the beach! (Trust me, it is)

At the beach again

Snowflakes on me! Face removed due to the fact that I looked about 12 years old. It is beginning to seem like a good thing that one of the receptionists at school constantly tries to send me around the back (student) entrance though! I may have made that comment before... once you get to my advanced age you start treasuring these moments, ha!

Snowy tree on Allée Miles Davis in my park

Form 2 science taught me something - my uber-scientific snow gauge on my balcony hit over 8 cms before it started to melt (and yep, my bank gave me a ruler, score!)

Snow in 'my' park

Snow-covered palm tree

The next day - bright and sunny and still snowy!

The waterfall on the Colline du Chateau

Roman arena at Cimiez

The Roman ruins in Cimiez

The Palais de Justice in Old Town

Narrow streets in Old Nice

Cathedral in Nice

This is too dark to see really, but I had to take a pic of my neighbour-across-the-way's living (?) room, as for some reason they have a purple light (permanently, not just for 'disco night'). And they sit in there with the shades up all night watching TV (I can't see them, but I can see the light of the TV) WITH the purple light still on - isn't that annoying?

Meh and Peh on the hill with the Baie des Anges in the background

Me & my bro on a night out in Nice

Mum & me in Roman mode up at the ruins in Cimiez

Me & Mum on the Colline du Chateau

At the Cours Saleya Flower Market

My 'rents on the Promenade des Anglais with the Colline du Chateau in the background

Looking down on Old Town from the hill

Ze beach

The Baie des Anges from the hill - my parents were unfortunately here during a run of drizzly, overcast weather, but I suppose it is winter after all!

The cemetery up on the castle hill

Video of the snow falling! Nice big juicy flakes as well. Btw, that "la la la" isn't me, I couldn't figure out where it came from and I finally remembered I was watching Project Runway on my laptop at the time, ha. Still, not a bad soundtrack!

Snow at the beach - and what are actually some pretty angry waves by Nice standards! Possibly of interest to my brother...