When cruise ships visit Monaco, baby boomer travelers have several choices for exploring. They can wander the streets of Monte Carlo, the elegant European gambling capital, perhaps stepping inside the casino made famous in the James Bond films. If there’s time, boomer Francophiles might want to book a longer cruise excursion into Provence, where the French countryside is awash in lavender, if your timing is right.
Another option is to peek into the lives of the rich and famous along the Côte d’Azur. On a Seabourn Sojourn cruise from Rome to Ft. Lauderdale, Alan and I choose the ship’s cruise excursion to Èze and Villa de Rothschild, when the luxury cruise ship stops in Monte Carlo. While it’s not the most active of excursions, this tour is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on the Côte d’Azur, leaving time for exploring the port area upon returning to the ship. After our tour bus negotiates the tunnel that leads from Monaco into France, the village of Èze comes into view. Perched on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean, the quaint town is a maze of shops, restaurants and boutique hotels.
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In the parking lot at the entrance to Èze, our bus joins a fleet of vehicles, most carrying baby boomer cruise passengers. An English speaking French guide leads a walking tour that negotiates the steep, winding streets as well as a flock of other tourists. Narrow alleyways provide ample opportunity to peek into boutique windows, art galleries or the open door of a restaurant. At the top of the hillside, visitors pay a fee to visit Le Jardin exotique, the cactus garden that comes with a Mediterranean view and a crumbling chateau. If there’s enough time in port, active baby boomer travelers should consider the hike up the mountain trail from Èze Sur Mer to the village of Èze (allow 1-1/2 hours each way). Of course, you’ll need to make your own transportation arrangements from the ship. Be prepared for a steep climb. Villa de Rothschild at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is the second stop on our Côte d’Azur cruise excursion. An inside tour introduces boomers to the antique collection of American heiress, Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild. Marie Antoinette played at the whist table that sits in the living room. The collection includes a room filled with porcelain as well as an elaborately embroidered spread in the baroness’s bedroom.
The gardens are the real draw at Villa de Rothschild. We walk the paths through a variety of botanical themes, including an extensive rose garden that overlooks the bay of Villefranche. Dancing fountains are the centerpiece of this outdoor extravaganza. Every 15 minutes, water arcs into the air, choreographed to classical music. On the bus ride back to the Seabourn Sojourn, our guide points out the homes of the rich and famous who summer on the Côte d’Azur. Boomer travelers will recognize the names Paul Allen, Julian Lennon and Tina Turner. During a busy schedule of active touring, Alan and I like to rest our baby boomer bodies with a day of exploring history and culture at a slightly slower pace. Our excursion to Èze and Villa de Rothschild did just that.