Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where I almost got killed by an avocado – twice. And not because of my allergies. But more on that later.
Beaulieu-sur-Mer is a very pretty little town on the other side [from Villefranche-sur-Mer] of the base of the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula, only a short walk from Villefranche-sur-Mer. It’s small, quiet, and chic, with luxury boutiques, bougainvillea everywhere, and a definite upscale feel.
Before my 2-month stay on the Riviera, Beaulieu wasn’t even on my radar, but I ended up really liking it a lot, and often went over there to shop, shoot, and explore.
Beaulieu was originally part of Villefranche-sur-Mer, but they separated in 1891, and Beaulieu became THE spot to winter in with (among others): Queen Victoria, Gustave Eiffel, Leo Tolstoy, Igor Stravinsky, and Lord Salisbury (Prime Minister to Queen Victoria) whom I would have loved to see! He was apparently quite an eccentric dresser with a massive beard and used to ride a large tricycle from his house in the hills down to the town, with a servant trailing behind him. He passed away in 1903, so I didn’t get to meet him, but I did see a few other interesting people in town, including a guy in a black Audi with dark privacy windows and a black cat walking around on the dashboard as he was driving (sadly I didn’t get a picture of it).
The first time I walked over to Beaulieu was unglamorously to shop for groceries at the Super U. If you’re walking from Villefranche to Beaulieu, you can either take the main road between the towns (the M6098 aka the Basse Corniche) which has quite a bit of traffic, but also amazing views:
Or you can take the “back roads”, which sort of begin at Plage des Marinières in Villefranche. At the end of the beach, right behind the trash bins, is a set of stairs next to the train tracks. It looks a little questionable, but is fine (turn around when you’re halfway up the stairs for a nice view of Villefranche across the bay).
At the top of the stairs, you enter a narrow lane with stone walls on one side, and the train tracks on the other, hidden behind thick greenery and passion flowers (which I had never seen in the wild before!).
Eventually the lane widens and becomes a small road, with huge villas in large gardens behind high stone walls and impressive gates.
On that first walk, I took a few random pictures and when I looked things up later, saw that villa Nellcôte was where the Rolling Stones lived and recorded the “Exile on Main street” album in 1972! Just another house I passed on my way to the grocery store…! 🙂
After crossing a larger intersection and going down a small hill, I passed the pretty, pink Hotel Royal-Riviera, and around the corner from that was the main beach in Beaulieu, Plage des Fourmis.
Many beaches in this part of the Riviera are mostly pebble, so sand is brought in and spread out over the stones on a regular basis to create a sandy beach.
I followed the pretty promenade above the beach and at the end, crossed the street and passed the Casino (designed by Gustave Eiffel) and through a small park with tall palm trees. At the end of the park was a cute Belle Epoque building: La Rotonde, designed by Danish architect Hans-Georg Tersling. It was built in the early 1900s as a place to serve tea at the Hotel Bristol at the request of the British customers.
I kept following the main road through town, found the Super U, did my shopping and took the bus back to Villefranche – a quick but pretty ride with those amazing views from the Basse Corniche again!
Second visit to Beaulieu-sur-mer
The second time I walked over to Beaulieu, I went really early in the morning. I had spotted a few things on my first visit that I knew I wanted to photograph in the soft morning light. I took the same route along the beaches
and once in Beaulieu, went down to the area of the hotel La Réserve.
The hotel started out as a luxury seafood restaurant in 1880, and in 1905, they added 10 rooms so that their guests could stay over if they wanted. They did, and it became a really popular spot with among others King Gustaf V of Sweden, King Leopold II of Belgium, Leo Tolstoy, Sir Thomas Lipton, Gustave Eiffel and Gordon Bennett Jr., owner of the New York Herald. It sounds like Gordon Bennett was quite a character (his name is even used as an expression in British English!), not always in the nicest way, but he did love Beaulieu and contributed generously to local charities. He particularly loved La Réserve, and apparently spent quite a bit of time running his newspaper from the restaurant. You can still have a drink at “the Gordon Bennett Bar” there. 😃 More on Gordon Bennett here if you’re curious: Gordon Bennett Jr.
It was a beautiful morning and I ended up spending most of the day wandering around and exploring new areas of Beaulieu. First, I went over the marina:
And then on to the other beach in Beaulieu: Plage Petite Afrique.
The whole area around the beach is stunning, and apparently it has its own microclimate – it’s usually several degrees warmer here than in the surrounding areas, and rumor has it that the first banana tree in Europe was planted here.
Exploring the hills
On another visit, I decided to explore a bit higher up in the hills. Like so many other towns on the Riviera, the main part of town is at sea level, but it extends quite a bit higher up in the hills, with large, luxurious villas clinging to the mountainsides.
I strolled through the town and stopped at a street corner to photograph a pretty iron gate at the base of the first set of stairs across the street.
As I was standing there under a tree, composing the shot, I heard a rustling above, looked up, and a HUGE fruit of some sort hit the ground with a loud thud right next to my shoe, and split open. It shook me a bit, there I was, all on my own, nobody knew I was there, and if it had hit me in the head… I was afraid more of them would start falling, so I took a quick picture of the fruit, and as soon as there was a break in traffic, ran across the street, and started going up the steps of the Montée des Mandarines.
I kept going up, passing beautiful scenery and cool and gorgeous villas.
Eventually I got the top of a loooong set of stairs and stopped to admire the view for a bit.
I was standing on what looked like a main road twisting its way back down to town and decided to follow it back.
It was getting really hot at that point, so I took my time, strolled along while looking at houses and taking pictures of the view and random things that caught my eye.
All of a sudden, I slipped on something and danced around like mad, trying to not fall out into traffic and / or land on my camera. Once I got my balance back, I turned to see what it was I slipped on. It was the same fruit that almost hit me in the head earlier! It had in the meantime been run over by a car, and I could see now that it was an enormous avocado. The whole thing was so absurd, and when I thought about how ridiculous I must have looked, I burst out laughing and walked back home giggling to myself. 😂
Getting to Beaulieu-sur-Mer
Beaulieu-sur-Mer is a quick train or bus ride from Nice, or a quick walk from Villefranche-sur-Mer. If I were staying in Nice and wanted to visit for a day, I’d take the No 15 or 100 bus to Villefranche (great views along the way), spend some time there, and then walk over to Beaulieu, taking either of the 2 routes I mentioned above.
PS. If you love an image in this post that you don’t see in my store, and would like it as a print, just get in touch and let me know which image it is, and the size you would like. I’m always happy to make a custom print when possible.