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!