Wednesday, December 02, 2009

CRUISING - Day 2 - VILLEFRANCHE/NICE

This morning our ship will be tendered at Villfranche, France.  this means that we won't be docked at the shore but will be taken to shore by boats. 

Many of our shipmates will take this opportunity to visit Monaco, and a variety of other small towns in the area.  If you've ever taken a cruise before you know that the ship always arranges several excursions for each port.  Sometimes, given the time contraints, it's worth it to pay the slightly higher costs, but other times, when the ship is docked not far from what you really want to see, there's just no point. 

We really have no interest in Monaco, the casinos of Monte Carlo or the Gran Prix course, so we plan to arrive in Villefranche, take the bus to Nice, about 4 miles away, and wander through the old town.  I'm hoping to be able to wander through the local market, since from what I've heard, France's markets are much better than Italian markets.  I'm sure there will be plenty to see and do in Nice, given it's long history.  According to what I've read, the first known human settlements in the Nice area date back approximately 400,000 years. Nice (Nicaea) was probably founded around 350 BC by the Greeks of Massilia (Marseille), and was given the name of Νικαία ("Nikaia") in honor of a victory over the neighboring Ligurians (Nike is the Greek goddess of victory). The city soon became one of the busiest trading ports on the Ligurian coast.


During the Middle Ages, Nice participated in the wars and history of Italy. As an ally of Pisa it was the enemy of Genoa, and both the King of France and the Emperor endeavoured to subjugate it; but in spite of this it maintained its municipal liberties.  In 1942/3 the city was occupied and administered by Italy during World War II.

Perhaps after lunch we'll take the bus back to Villefranche and spend a little time there.  Because Villefranche is a smaller town, and because it's December, I'm not really sure how many shops will be open or what there'll be to see or do, so we'll just play it by ear.   Here's what I've read about Villefranche:  The site of what is now Villefranche and surrounding Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has been settled since prehistoric times. Celto-ligurian tribes roamed the area and established farming communities on the surrounding hills. The Greeks and later the Romans used the natural harbour as a stop-over en route to the Greek settlements around the Western Mediterranean. After the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, the Romans built an extension of the Via Aurelia (Aurelian Way), which passed through the settlement of Montolivo.


Villefranche's bay is notable for reaching a significant depth only a short distance from shore. As a result it has become an important port over the years. Since World War I, the United States Navy has called on a regular basis, making Villefranche the home port of the U.S. 6th Fleet from 1948 to 1966. Since the 1980’s Villefranche has been used by cruise ships and is the most visited cruise ship port of call in France.


The ship is scheduled to depart at 6 p.m., and of course we'll have to take the tender back to the ship, so being in Villefranche in the afternoon means we don't have to worry about missing the bus from Nice or otherwise (literally) missing the boat!

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