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The French Riviera Travel Guide

  • Photo: SurkovDimitri / iStockphoto

St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

One of the most exclusive addresses in the world, the peninsula of Cap Ferrat is moored by the luxuriously sited pleasure port of St-Jean; from its portside walkways and crescent of beach you can look over the sparkling blue harbor to the graceful green bulk of the corniches. Yachts purr in and out of port, and their passengers scuttle into cafés for take-out drinks to enjoy on their private decks.

On shore, the billionaires come and go, and trade gossip about town resident Paul Allen, wondering if he will play host again to Brad, Angelina, and their brood at his fabled Villa Maryland, the great historic residence that lords it over one of the hilltops here. Another local tale involves Villa Leopold, sold in 2008 for a whopping world record price of $750 million to a Russian who then tried to get out of the deal. But forget about celeb-hunting here: the residents of Cap Ferrat fiercely protect it from curious tourists; its grand old villas are hidden for the most part in the depths of tropical gardens. You can nonetheless try to catch peeks of them from the coastline promenade if you strike out from the port. From the Place du Centenaire walk to the main street and take a left on Avenue Claude Vignon, and follow Chemin de la Carrière (meaning "rock quarry") until below the Grand Cap Hôtel du Cap, just before Pointe Malalongue and the lighthouse (phare). It's a bit tricky and uneven here, but follow the little path to the left (otherwise you'll head toward the Cap's middle) until you get to the beach Passable (you should see Villefranche from here) and turn left to take Chemin de Passable. At the tourist office turn right on Avenue Denis Séméria to get back to the village. The 7-kilometer (4-mile) walk passes through rich tropical flora and, on the west side, over white cliffs buffeted by waves.

Two other footpath maps can be found at the Tourist Office at 59 avenue Denis-Séméria: the shorter loop takes you from town out to the Pointe de St-Hospice, much of the walk shaded by wind-twisted pines. From the port, climb Avenue Jean Mermoz to Place Paloma and follow the path closest to the waterfront or the Promenade Maurice Rouvier, which runs along the eastern edge of the peninsula. You'll stumble on reasonably priced cafés, pizzerias, and ice-cream parlors on the promenade of the Plage de St-Jean. The best swimming is a bit farther south, past the port, at Plage Paloma. Keep trekking around the wooded area, where a beautiful path (sentier pédestre) leads along the outermost edge of Cap Ferrat. Other than the occasional yacht, all traces of civilization disappear, and the water is a dizzying blue.

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