I’ve been on an “I’m dreaming of the South of France” kick lately. Villefranche-sur-mer is another sun-drenched Mediterranean village that’s worth checking out. Villefranche is nestled between Nice and Monaco. You can walk from here to Cap Ferrat to see the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
The name Villefranche refers to the tax-free status the community received in the 13th Century. The idea was to attract people to the area so that the coast would be less tempting for pirates to sneak ashore. These days Villefranche is much more frequently invaded by tourists who arrive in enormous yachts to enjoy the 300 days of sunshine that the region basks in every year.
When I was there in 2008, there was a splashy news story that the most expensive house in the world had just been sold in the hills above Villefranche for just under 500 million Euros. One of the notable buildings is St. Peter’s Chapel, restored in 1957 with the financial and artistic help of Jean Cocteau who lent his talents to the murals.
Today’s expression, c’est le coq du village (seh luh cock due veelaje) literally means “it’s the rooster of the village.” We’d say “he’s the cock of the walk,” refering someone who’s got it good. Villefranche has had a privileged position for centuries and the good days are still here. It’s so picturesque that Disney has replicated the colorful facades in all three theme parks. Cockadoodle Doo! Or as French roosters say cocorico!
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