Between the historic town of Frejus and the Italian border town of Ventimiglia lies one of the most stunning railroad experiences in the world. Home to around 30 pittoresque villages, this is the very stretch of seafront that inspired our new Visage N°1 collection and its railroad-track minute indicator.
But this place is far more than just inspiration. In fact, if you want to explore the Côte d’Azur in a day or two, jumping aboard one of the coastal trains is probably the best (and most affordable) way to do just that. So, in today’s newsletter we’re doing just that – spending a day on the move in order to share our favourite spots on the Riviera railroad.
Trains trundle along the coast from early morning, but we opt for a sleep-in, catching the 8.53 departing from Nice-ville, heading towards Ventimiglia. Our first stop, Villefranche-Sur-Mer is real close by, which is perfect if you (like us) decided to skip breakfast. We don’t want to stay too long, there’s much more to see, but there’s always time for a nap in the spring sun before continuing to Villefranche’s old town for a visit to the quirky Chapelle de St-Pierre. Jean Cocteau coated this harbourside church with murals of St Peter, cartoony fish, and curvy lovers in the 1950’s.
The 11.29 from Villefranche-sur-Mer rocks us gently eastwards again, passing Eze-Sur-Mer, famed for its sheltered bay and Bono’s sprawling holiday home, then Cap d’Ail, accessible only on foot and renowned for its brilliant snorkelling. If this was summer time, we’d get our heads under water before lunch – and probably linger at one of the beach clubs too.
A little later we hop off in Monaco, instantly heading for lunch at Café Llorca. Michelin-starred chef Alain Llorca opened this bright, modern bistro at the end of 2010, and you can get the “plat du jour” for as little as €15. During lunch it’s started to drizzle, so we decide to check out the Musée Oceanographique. Founded by Prince Albert in 1910 and built on the side of the mythical Rock of Monaco, this historical building has watched over the oceans for more than a century. From aquariums and shark lagoons to contemporary art exhibitions with Damien Hirst and Huang Yong Ping, it continues to be true to its vision of bringing art and science together.
It’s starting to get late, and we grab the 15.02 for Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, where we’re having drinks and dinner with some friends. We meet up at a small park overlooking the water for a game of pre-dinner pétanque, surrounded by elderly men looking on and chuckling. Just around the corner, past the bay’s eastern bend, Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s former studio Le Cabanon peeks out through the pine trees. Surrounded by it all, it’s no wonder we named one of our limited edition watches after this place. Its mixture of old charm and nouveau riche is the perfect personification of the French Riviera.
After dinner we make a rush for the midnight train back to Nice. We sit down just as the train starts moving – watching the glittering lights from the yachts out at sea. What a day…