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Nice: Bus to Villefranche

September 16, 2015

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The weather forecast for today and tomorrow isn’t great and I was woken early in morning by the sound of heavy rain. I wasn’t sure whether to go ahead with my plan to catch a bus to take me a few miles along the coast to Villefranche when I set out to find a cafe for breakfast. I remember the Pain & Cie cafe in Cours Saleya from my last visit here as a Pain Quotidien and the inside decor and food are still much the same despite the name change. You can get an excellent Continental Breakfast for €10.50.

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When I came out it was grey and cloudy but no rain so I decided to walk round the coastal road to the port where I’d been told the bus to Villefranche went from. It was a nice walk with a great view back towards the bay of Nice and fine Genoese-style buildings at the top of the incline.

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As I rounded a sharp bend in the road and saw the port in front of me, one of the first things I saw was a magnificent tall ship.

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I sent a photo to my son via Whatsapp and he looked up the website for the ship and discovered the starting price for a 10-day luxury cruise was €4,385. Mmmm … I don’t think I’ll be doing that, but nice to see. There was a bus at the stop. And a huge queue. I managed to get on but it was very busy so no chance of a seat. It costs a standard €1.50 for a local bus ticket. I knew the journey was short and expected there to be a Villefranche stop but after about 10 minutes saw that I was coming out of the town – the French helpfully sign towns on the way out with a red slash through the name so you know you’re exiting. I pressed a button for the next stop. I’d have to walk back. The mistake turned out to be a wonderful example of serendipity for the bus stopped at the top of a hill with a magnificent view back towards the town – which I would have missed if I’d got off at the correct stop!

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I carefully made my way down a nearby steep slope which eventually turned into steps, taking me direct to the old 14th century town and harbour. It was quiet as I entered its narrow, twisting alleyways, with the odd small group of locals chatting but offering a friendly ‘bonjour’ to me as I passed.

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Down at the harbour front it was busier as this is a popular stopping place for yachts. It was nice to settle in a cafe by the seafront for a morning coffee and watch yachts pulling out of the harbour for a day’s sailing.

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I had a lovely time just wandering around for a while but as it was still quite early I decided to head back to Nice for lunch. There were more steep steps to go up this time and take me out the far side of the town back towards Nice. I stopped at the top to look back to another glorious view of Villefranche.

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The bus was crowded again but I stood by a window giving me a great view of the coast and it seemed to be an even quicker journey, barely 10 minutes. There were a few restaurants in the port area on the list the food tour guide gave us yesterday so I made my way round the edge of Nice harbour to one of them.

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On one side of the harbour there were brash gin palaces but on the other side pretty little fishing boats were moored.

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Restaurant Le Pass’Port is just by a road but with a view over the harbour. It was a perfect simple restaurant to find lunch.

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I was tempted to have a crepe but decided instead to have ratatouille with eggs – plus of course a glass of Provençal rose! Ratatouille is almost an iconic Provencal dish so in many ways a perfect choice.

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It was very good – but a huge portion so I couldn’t quite finish it. Thus definitely no room for a sweet crepe for dessert and just a coffee. It was one of the more reasonably priced meals I’ve had at just €16.50 for food, wine and coffee. I decided to take a different route back to my hotel, cutting across to the old town via Place Garibaldi rather than following the coastal road.

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It was a nice diversion and once I’d crossed the Place and turned into a narrow alleyway and into the labyrinthine Vieux Nice, it was pleasing to realise I’m now finding my way round without a map – or most of the time!

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