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Cunard Queen Victoria 2018
Mediterranean Cruise part 9
Map Introduction to  the Cruise, Venice and the initial day at Sea Korcula, Croatia Valletta, Malta Messina, Sicily, Italy Naples, Italy Civitavecchia (for Rome), Italy Barcelona, Spain Ajaccio, Corsica, France Villefranche, France Livorno (for Florence and Pisa), Italy  

Villefranche-sur-Mer, France - Thursday 5 October

Villefranche is a small town on the Cote d'Azur which is 3 miles east of Nice and 9 miles west of Monte Carlo. The Cunard tours offer visits to them both, and to Cannes, Eze, St Paul de Vence and Menton. For independent travellers there is a HopOn HopOff bus to Nice and a regular train service along the coast. We have visited the area, most recently by ship but also by car, so did not want to explore. The morning was spent visiting the main highlights of Villefranche itself.

The Queen Victoria anchored at dawn, we had an early breakfast in the cabin, and at 08.00 the Captain declared that passengers could go ashore. It is a tender port and we were fortunate to again be given Priority Embarkation on the tenders because we were Top Sailors. We left at 08.45 and were surprised there were so few people waiting in the Queens' Room for timed tender tickets. It is only a short tender ride to the terminal building near the Citadel. Villefranche is a medieval town which climbs up the hill from the waterfront and was founded in 1295 by Charles II. Access to houses on the steep hills is difficult and many houses have jigjag drives and funiculars. In 1557 the town was fortified by the building of the Citadel.

The Citadel was restored in 1981 and now houses the Town Hall, a conference centre and 4 museums. Entry to the museums is free and they all supposed to open at 10.00. The Roux collection of tableau made by beautiful miniature ceramic figurines was open early, and so was the Chapel of San Elme which housed a temporary exhibition of interesting paintings showing Villefranche over the ages.

While waiting for the other two museums to open there was time to explore the gardens, look at the views along the coast, and see the outdoor cinema.

The Volti Museum is at the base of the blockhouses. Volti was born in 1915 and he created statues of women in bronze, terracotta and hammered copper. There are a few statues of men, but there are many, many statues of naked voluptuous women, some in couples, others with small children. The exit from the Volti museum is through the Museum shop, which is just a few steps from the Goetz-Bourmeester Museum. This is a museum of paintings, donated by Henri Goetz, and occupies one floor of the old military barracks. The couple were both painters and their work is on display, alongside a few paintings from other artists they knew, including Picasso. Goetz died in 1989.

Leaving the Citadel, the tower of St Michael's Church in the old medieval town beckoned but it was more difficult to find the entrance. We tried to approach it from above but first found Saint Elizabeth's Chapel. This dates from the 16th century, is now an exhibition space, and was closed. Continuing, signs led us to a side door and the sound of church music. St Michael's Church dates from the 18th century and is hemmed in by narrow street and tall houses. It contains a recumbent Christ which was sculpted by a galley slave and to whom people pray for help and advice. It is placed next to the tomb of Scarampo di Cairo. The church organ is a classified historic monument, dating from 1790 and built by the Grinda brothers.

The medieval town has narrow streets, steep alleyways, stepped passageways and arches. In the morning sunshine it was very photogenic and the town is well known as a home for painters and artists. Meandering through the streets, towards the general direction, of the railway station, the road was parallel to the seafront promenade which eventually led to a series of sandy beaches. With no plans for swimming or sunbathing on the beach we turned back and descended the steps to the water, passing pavement cafes and little boats bobbing at anchor until we reached the fish market stalls. Already this was close to the tender landing place, but it was really too soon and we strolled through the craft market and then descended to St Peter's Chapel. This was the only place to have an entrance fee, of 3 euros, to view the walls decorated by Jean Cocteau in 1957 and dedicated to his friends the fishermen. It depicts events from the life of St Peter the Apostle. It is very small and you can probably see almost everything of interest while discusing whether to go in at the desk. The Welcome Hotel (4*) faces the chapel and the waterfront and we were tempted to stop for a coffee on their terrasse. It appeared to be a good choice for a future holiday. There were many large and expensive yachts moored at Villefranche. We decided the most pretty to arrive during our visit was the Nero, a luxurious yacht which can be chartered.

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