Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Hotel Welcome in Villefranche sur Mer, France

© Copyright Millie Brown 2011
Hotel Welcome on the bay of Villefranche

Hotel Welcome in the french fishing village of Villefranche sur mer is a very special small hotel, it sits only a couple of metres from the waters edge on the Quai Courbet, with the  Chapel of Saint Pierre diagonally opposite.

The hotel has welcomed many greats from the 20th Century, including Jean Cocteau, the French writer, artist, designer, poet and playwright who fell under the spell of Villefranche in the 1950's. He made the Hotel Welcome one of his 'homes' while he moved between Villefranche and other small towns along the Cote d Azur. It was during this time that he decorated the interior of the Chapel of Saint Pierre, work which he dedicated to the fishermen of Villefranche, (Saint Peter being the patron Saint of fishermen). 

Cocteau painted five scenes in the chapel, two depicting life on the Mediterranean and three scenes from the life of St Peter.

'A mon très cher Welcome, où j'ai passé le meilleur de ma vie'.
(To my very dear Welcome, where I passed the best of my life')
Jean Cocteau

© Copyright Millie Brown 2011

All of Hotel welcome's  35 rooms  have beautiful views over the bay and very early in the morning, the only sound that could possibly disturb you from your slumber  would be the jangling sound coming from the small fishing boats moored only metres from your pillow.

The staff here are professional, helpful and never intrusive, Nothing is too much trouble and the atmosphere is relaxed but efficient, always a successful mix!

If any readers do enroll at the Institut de Français (see my previous post) you will be asked to arrive on the Sunday prior to the commencement of school, so you will require at least one nights stay at a hotel before being taken to your apartment on the Monday (first day of school). I wholeheartedly recommend that you book your night here, and in doing so you can be pretty sure that it will be the best possible start to your stay in  beautiful Villefranche. There are of course many other alternatives but nothing in my eye comes close to the Hotel Welcome.

If you dont stay at the Welcome be sure to seat yourself at their terrace wine bar in the early evening and take the time to enjoy the setting, its pretty special. 

Millie x

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

Other posts on Villefranche sur mer

©copyright Millie Brown 2011

Monday, 27 August 2012

Institut de Français, Villefranche sur mer, Cote d Azur

© Copyright Millie Brown 2011Villefranche sur mer beach, Cote d Azur

I cannot think of one solitary thing that I do not love about the French fishing village, Villefranche sur Mer. Nestled on the shores of the mediterranean with the hills and ski slopes behind, it sits on it's own deep harbour between the city of Nice and the seaside town of Beaulieu. It is quite simply, breathtakingly beautiful.

In the twenty odd years I have been visiting, it has not lost any of its charm, soul or beauty. Maybe one teensy tiny setback for me is that it does receive many more visitors than when I first discovered it back in the 80's.

Call me selfish and I will agree and admit, yes just a touch! When it comes to such a  jewel, I am sure I am not alone in wanting to keep it all to myself (a difficult thing to do with the likes of Rick Steves and other such writers constantly having their 2 cents worth and reaching millions of potential visitors whilst doing so)! I on the other hand, can quite safely write about it to my hearts content, in the safe knowledge that my blog readership does not reach millions (as yet)!

My first visit to Villefranche was back in the mid 80's, I arrived full of hope and energy and with the sole intent of starting my studious journey into the french speaking world.  If any of you have the same earnest desire to learn French then I can think of no better or more beautiful place in the world to start you on your way.  Learning a language is many things.....its, exciting, challenging and just a little bit exhausting and frustrating at times, all the more reason to make sure you are in the best of hands.

© Institut de Francais (Image taken from their website)

L'Institut de Français is renowned for many reasons, it's incredibly effective method of teaching along with it's high teaching standards, its level of professionalism and its location etc etc (I could go on forever)!  In fact I can not speak more highly of this school.  If you are truly motivated to learn to speak French and are prepared to put in the hard yards that are required then you will truly be on your way when you enroll here

The method of the Institute is audio visual and means that  while you are developing your ear and your auditive memory,  you will  be 'breathing' the language in as you did when you were learning your maternal language. 

It is intense, it is total immersion, and it is all part of their successful approach.  Be ready for 8 hours a day 5 days a week and no English allowed.  This may sound confronting if you are a beginner, but believe me, it works, and on top of that they make it fun.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2011
Villefranche Market Day

The lunch table full of beginners is often the funniest and craziest.  (Ps Do NOT think you can cheat at lunch with a few English words here and there, c'est interdit), even when you are desperate for some of that bread that sits 6 people away from you, do not think for one minute that it will be ok to ask for it in English, because it quite seriously is not, and a teacher will be on each table to keep you under strict 'French' control (albeit in a fun french way)!

© Copyright Millie Brown 2011
Villefranche fisherman at work

The Institute's method is also designed to give you the student the opportunity to apply what you have learnt in the real world in real situations, and where better to do that than in this divine fishing village on the mediterranean.

Unlike being in a big city (such as Paris) the inhabitants and commerçants of this village will not help you out by practising their English.  They will however encourage you and help you along with your French, and this is how you will learn to speak the language, by speaking it.  Who cares what you sound like or how many mistakes you make, if you can't laugh at yourself it is just going to be all that much harder and not nearly as much fun.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2011
Villefranche shoreline dotted with cafés, restaurants and bars

Along, with the stunning scenery, village life, wonderful food and beaches, I can most definitely promise you lots of laughs, fun and a great learning experience.

Millie x

Other posts on Villefranche sur Mer

French straw market basket; market day, France

 © Copyright Millie Brown

Grab your straw french market basket and get to your nearest village for market day, as this is when most villages in France no matter how small or quiet come alive.

Cafés and bars are bustling with locals and visitors. The market stalls are overflowing with not only food, but clothes, shoes, bags (including the quintessential straw french market bag and the less glamorous but functional market trolley), toys,  fabrics, kitchen utensils, and in some village markets even livestock (poultry mainly).

Local producers showcase and sell their produce, locals do their shopping, and visitors have the opportunity to buy and taste the region's specialties as well as have a chat and mingle with the locals themselves. 

I adore these provincial markets not only for the shopping but for the wonderful photo's colourful village life at its noisiest, yummiest and best. 

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

The straw market baskets are omnipresent!

Purchase your Straw Market Basket here

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

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Millie x

Villefranche sur mer, France: The early morning swim

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Villefranche beach on the Cote d Azur

Each morning I join a few other early risers on the beach in Villefranche sur mer to enjoy the empty and peaceful waters of the mediterranean. 

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Coyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

By 8am the Villefranche  beach starts filling up, people are staking their ground for the coming day as I head back to avoid the crowds and grab my café crème.

Millie x

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

Previous posts on Villefranche sur Mer, France

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Charming fishing Village of Villefranche, Cote d Azur, France

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

Villefranche sur mer situated on the South East coast of France (the Cote d'Azur) is a true gem. Nestled on the shores of a deep harbour between the city of Nice and the beautiful small town and Peninisula of St Jean Cap Ferrat, it has the sea at it's feet and the mountains at it's back.

Unique for it's charm and beauty, the fishing village of Villefranche has seemingly not suffered the over development that some of the larger towns have along this coastline.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

I fell in love with this village many, many years ago, and whenever I am here as I am currently, there is simply nowhere else in the world I would rather be.

Each morning I open my shutters to the smell of freshly baked bread and croissants, grab my beach bag and head along the cobbled streets to the beach for my early morning swim.

The refreshing waters of the mediterranean ready me for the heat and humidity of the day, (with every day seemingly hotter than the previous one), it's August after all.  Then I selfishly find myself counting down the days until many of the 'others' will leave and head back to their homes for la rentrée  leaving me with more of Villefranche.....(guilty as charged)!

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

Thursday, 2 August 2012

8 hours in Bordeaux, France

Strolling and visiting the World Heritage listed city of Bordeaux, France, is an absolute pleasure.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
The gorgeous Grand Théatre situated in Place de la Comedie
 built between 1773 and 1780
by the French architect Victor Louis

The exhibition 'La Route du Baroque' is currently on at the Grand Théatre (13 July to 2 September 2012), and it's worth getting a ticket just to be able to wander around the beautiful interior and see the auditorium at your leisure.

Have lunch or afternoon tea in the elegant Café Opera (photo above) inside or on the arcaded terrace.

 © Copyright Millie Brown
For me it was lunch at something a little more casual.
 La Boulangerie de l'Hotel de Ville

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

Fun and games at Maurice Verdeun.
This shop is a young and old boy's paradise, full of model cars in every size and make, as well as model trains, planes and boats and every other toy in between.  Situated in the Gallerie Bordelaise.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

It seems fire engine red is everywhere in Bordeaux.


12 Cours du XXX Juillet
(near the Place de la Comedie)

Le Grand Theatre
 Place de la Comedie

Exhibition 'La Route du Baroque'
13th July to September 2nd

Café Opera
Place de la Comedie

Maurice Verdeun
36 Galeries Bordelaises

La Boulangerie de l'hotel de Ville
rue 3 Conils

Shopping Streets

rue St Catherine
rue Voltaire
rue Franklin
Cours de l'Intendance


Place de la Bourse
Place Sainte-Colombe
Place du Palais
Place Fernand-Lafargue
Place saint-Michel

 To Visit

Porte Cailhau
Cathédral Saint-André & Tour Pey-Berland
Basilique et flech Saint-Michel
Eglise Notre Dame
Palais de  la Bourse
Botanical Gardens
Natural History Museum
Centre Jean Moulin
Musée des Beaux-Arts

This is a city known for its architectural beauty and peaceful and shaded squares, making it a perfect city to visit on foot. However there is also a great tramway system  to help move you from place to place if your travel weary feet need a break.

I hope all of you get to spend at least one day in this most beautiful of cities, Bordeaux.

Millie x

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