France - St Jean Cap Ferrat - Riveria

by Kimp 10. January 2015 05:09

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Today

When the world's wealthiest people want to go on a tranquil holiday, they often beat feet for a very small peninsula in the French Rivera named St Jean Cap Ferrat. On the end of St Jean lies a small cape, named Ferrat. This attraction makes the real estate in this area the second most expensive in the world. 

It has a wonderful unspoiled charm to it, with an abundance of large healthy trees and a craggy coast that enhances its tranquility. Luxurious grand villa's. Cobalt colored water. Picturesque Mediterranean sea views and gardens. All bathed in the world's finest sunlight. 

But its finest gem, is that it still has the same casual fishing village feel to it, that it once was. To me, it feels like the Otis Redding song, "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay", watching the time roll away. Just sitting on the dock of the bay, waste'n time..

Where there is wealth, there is art, and here it's displayed in tasteful manner and setting. Someone commissioned a few very nice pieces for public consumption. The kind of philanthropy that can be shared by all.

A picturesque walking promenade, outlines it's perimeter, interconnecting its three beaches and the small marina where you can find many restaurants serving up the freshest fish, adorned in Mediterranean style and taste. Wash that down with some local French wines from France's finest vineyards which are not far away. 

Tina Turner built a villa named Anna Feur (Tina's real name is Anna May Bullock and Fleur is French for flower) on a hill in "Villa Franche Sur Mer" overlooking this peninsula. She sold it a few years ago, but as I ate my meal very slowly, wanting to savor and prolong the experience as long as possible, I couldn't help thinking how sweet it would be to be sitting here, listening to Tina serenading her husband out by her pool, with a little "Let's Stay Together" or "Simply the Best". I simply love the queen of rock and roll. Tina is such a great symbol of the power and strength of women.

Both Bono and Elton John have Mediterranean villa's nearby this peninsula as well.

After lunch, I took a slow stroll all of the way around the perimeter taking in all of it's beauty and serenity.

About two hours later I was on my way to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. A rose colored villa filled with antique furniture and art. Surrounded by nine gardens classified by the French Ministry of Culture as one of the Remarkable Gardens of France. The villa is located on the isthmus of the peninsula (a prime location), and both the villa and the garden's are open to the public.

However, I was a little tired and decided to attempt a shortcut. The Peninsula is a hill with winding roads. The roads are lined on both sides by tall fences obscuring the estates. Even when I could see over the fence, the tall trees obstructed everything. Trying to find my bearings was impossible. I thought I was going in the correct direction, while in fact, I was hopelessly lost.

I thought I was going into the public villa's entrance because the gate from the road was open. In a short while, I came upon a sign with a picture of a pit bull on it, reading, "I am on Guard". Just below that were the words "Enter at your own risk" quoted with two skull and cross bone symbols. I figured that probably meant after hours, so I ignored it and walked on past. On my way up to the villa I could see the most beautifully manicured giant trees and hedges I had ever seen, outlining a walkway that lead into a beautiful arbor. To me that looked like confirmation that I was at the right place.

I'm turning my head all around taking in the scenery, not looking where I was walking, when my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of a couple of dudes, that I had walked up to. I turn around to face them and as my eyes directly meet theirs, I stopped dead in my tracks. 

Very nicely pressed jet black suits, shiny black shoes, dark glasses, ear pieces, and one of them was talking into his walkie-talkie. They looked just like American Secret Service dudes. All I could think of was that maybe the French President has a retreat here, like the American Presidents at Martha's vineyard. I'll bet that dudes calling for the reinforcements, for the snipers to take a bead on me, and for the police backup. I thought for sure, I was going to end up riding in the back of a police car to the station for questioning.

As I am looking around to see if there were more of them, I caught a glimpse of the villa. That's when I noticed it was mega billionaire, Paul Allens. I said to the sharply dressed men. "Sir I am so sorry, I didn't realize I was on private property. If you don't mind, I'll just head out the same way I came in.". They seemed OK with that, so I quickly turned around and made my way back to the road. I sure hope nobody got fired for leaving the gate open.

Paul, a lifetime bachelor, is often called the accidental Billionaire. A cofounder of Microsoft and the smarter of the two founders in my opinion. Paul was the technical lead and Bill Gates was the business brain. Just as Microsoft was starting to gain momentum , Paul was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphnoma. He took several months off, to fight it. He beat it, but never returned to work. He did however retain his seat on the Board of Director's.

Paul bought the Portland Trailblazers (pro basketball team) and devoted much of his new found spare time to their development. While Paul was hanging out around the basketball court, Bill Gate's worked very long hours leading Microsoft through some very difficult times. As a result Paul rose to as high as the third Richest Person in the world worth more then $40 billion . However, Paul has an affinity for spending money and now (2014) he is in position 55 with about $17 billion. To be fair, Paul  has donated about $2 billion to charity and has pledged to will at least 50% to charity upon his death. That is, if there is anything left when he dies. Just kidding. Paul is often about 10th on the yearly list of the 50 most generous people in the world, donating heavily to his many charities, so he isn't spending it all on himself. Paul is extremely intelligent, but I think he probably got or created some bad investment advice along the way, which is where a lot of his wealth went.

Paul now owns a piece of prime real estate on the peninsula. He also owns the Seattle Seahawks and is part owner of the Seattle Sounders Football Club (soccer). May he live a long, fruitful and pleasant life. He certainly deserves it.

History

In the earliest of times, the Greeks and Romans used Cap Ferrat as a stopping point when en-route, to and from, their settlements in the Western Mediterranean. 

Then for about 400 years, pirates used it as a base camp. They could hide there, see anyone coming from any direction and plan either an attack route or an escape route.

Around 1400, it and its surrounding areas, were given to the Duke of Savoy as part of a peace treaty.

In 1860 it was given to France as part of another peace treaty. The French quickly built a small fishing village, named St Jean on the cape. Shortly after that, the kings and wealthy people started arriving.

King Leopold II

One of the first to build a villa on Cap Ferrat was King Leopold II of Belgium. While he was the king of Belgium he talked the Belgian parliament into lending him enough money to start a private colony in the Congo in Africa. He claimed that he was going to the Congo for scientific and philanthropic reasons. Later he convinced the European governments during a conference, that he had done enough good work in the Congo, to lay claim to it, as his private colony. They agreed.

Turns out, it was all a ruse. At first he was killing the elephants and exploiting the Ivory. In the late 1800's when rubber prices dramatically increased, he enslaved the natives to work on the rubber plantations. Meanwhile he used some of the profits from that endeavor to build several very expensive villa's in the area of Cap Ferrat. These were to be occupied by his many mistresses.

World War II

The Nazi's occupied this part of France during WW II. In 1944 they suspected that the allies would mount an offensive here, so they gave the inhabitants 2 hours to evacuate,  riddled the entire peninsula with land mines, and fled.

I am guess all of the mines have been located and removed, but one can never know for sure. Can they?

Craig

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