Mid-way through our cruise, it was time for me to finally visit France. Admittedly, I always thought that my first trip to France, would include Paris, but since that wasn't in the cards, I was determined to soak up as much France as possible, with our two, brief port stops along the French Riviera.
French Riviera = How Fancy, Ooh La La!
The first stop, Villefranche, is a port close to iconic cities; Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo. Here is our first view from our cabin balcony. It was very serene in the early morning hours.
This was the port that I was most excited to visit and it's the one stop, that I completely dropped the ball. I stressed over and debated which excursion to book, ultimately not booking anything. Such a missed opportunity here. For me, excursions are key to enjoying port stops.
The first fail of the day: not booking an excursion.
The second fail: not reading our evening Cruise Compass.
Villefranche was the one port where we had to take a tender off of the ship. Had we properly planned for the day, we would have woken up early and picked up our tender tickets. As suite guests, we were offered priority tenders, but we had to go early to take advantage of this perk, as noted in our Cruise Compass. We didn't realize this, and when we finally picked up our tender tickets, we were on tender twenty-five. We were ready to go, but we had to wait over an hour to get on the tender.
We killed time in a lounge, waiting for our tender number to be called. The lounge was closed and inexplicably playing Christmas music. We had to hunt to find a bar that was open to get something to drink. Our enthusiasm was waning,
For the tenders, they use life boats from the ship to shuttle passengers back and forth to the shore.
I've landed in France!
I love this shot of a guy gawking at a sculpture in the port terminal.
Here are a few snaps that I took as we exited the port terminal.
In America, we have terrible stereotypes that the French are rude and that they don't like us. I found neither of these stereotypes to be true. Everyone that I encountered was very friendly, even when I butchered the few words that I know in French and quickly asked if they spoke English, which they always did. We arrived the day after Fourth of July, which had been celebrated in Villefranche.
It was lunch time, so our first priority was picking a restaurant. We ended up at L'Oursin Bleu, located along the waterfront.
The restaurant didn't have air-conditioning and we sat on the front patio in the semi-shade. It was steamy hot. So hot, that my sweat felt like beads of boiling water against my skin and my clothes were ring-ably drenched in perspiration. It was unpleasant. However, I was determined to enjoy my first French meal in France. This meant ordering champagne, when I really needed water, and trying to enjoy a big meal in the heat.
L'Oursin Bleu specializes in seafood.
The adults ( except my mother-in-law, who is vegetarian), started with a cold, seafood salad. This salad was comprised of potatoes, artichokes and beans, tossed with squid. I love seafood, but this dish wasn't my cup of tea. The mix of gummy and starchy textures, didn't work for me. My mother-in-law had a tossed green salad, which looked delicious.
I was under orders from my friend Shannah, to eat a croissant in France. Luckily, I could meet her challenge, with these mini-croissants. They really do taste better in France. Those stuffed olives were amazing too.
L'Oursin Bleu was not a pizza restaurant. They did have a surf' n turf pizza on the menu, but this was not like any pizza that the kids were used to seeing. Dan tried to order a simple, margarita pizza for the kids, but the results were not kid-approved.
Dan did enjoy his surf n' turf.
My father-in-law, Dave, ordered a seafood platter, which he very much enjoyed. I think that he may have even declared it to be the best meal of the trip.
I had a whole fish with a pesto sauce. Fish is my favorite food and I eat it frequently, but I have very little experience with eating a whole fish. It's not something that I've often encountered in American restaurants and my inexperience showed as I had difficulty navigating the bones. Dave noticed my flub, ( they can't take their American daughter-in-law anywhere!) and gave me a lesson in how to handle eating a whole fish. As soon as I got the hang of it, I really savored my meal. The flesh was tender and the pesto was a perfect compliment to the delicate flavor of the fish.
As I looked through the pictures for this post, I realized that we went nuts with all of our desserts. I can't even remember what we ate, but it looks like we enjoyed ourselves. Take a look, your mouth will water.
Thank you to Jan and Dave for treating us to our fancy French lunch! Look at the bill presentation, even that had style.
After lunch, Jan, Dave, and Zoe caught a tender back to the boat. Dan, Felix, and I, quickly explored the town. What I loved most, was the pretty pastel colors of the buildings, especially the tangerines and lemon colors. It looked like sorbet.
Sorbet or maybe macaroons...The colors of the buildings matched the colors of the macaroons that I bought from the L' Oursin Bleu Boutique. I asked the shop keeper to pick out an assortment of their most popular macaroons. They were absolutely divine. My favorite was the lavender flavored macaroon. Decadent.
The heat got the best of us much earlier than I would have liked and we caught a tender back to The Explorer of the Seas. Here are some pictures as we headed back.
We spent the afternoon enjoying the view of Villefranche from the cool of our shaded balcony.
I was mesmerized watching yachts whisk around the harbor and looking at the million dollar hillside homes. One house even had a boat garage with a water entrance. This is a playground for the mega-rich and it sure is stunning.
Not bad for my first impression of France!