There is a passage in Sebastian Faulks's excellent novel 'A Week in December' where one of the lead characters describes the way in which the famed Rothschild dynasty made its fortune. Apparently, a key element of their success was their use of carrier pigeons to ensure they received information from around Europe quickly so that they could be one step ahead of other financiers in their dealings. Quite how accurate this little anecdote was is open to interpretation. However, it certainly had my girlfriend and I wondering whether something so small could help create the splendour upon which we were gazing as we bobbed around in the water.
One of the main beaches in St Jean Cap Ferrat - the closest to the port and actual town - is overlooked by the magnificent Villa Rothschild, which makes it one of the most dramatic places in the world to catch some rays. The quaint little port of St Jean is at the southern end of the beach and the villa is to the north. The villa is set in a series of rather dramatically sculpted gardens and it is from a series lush palms that the beautiful building stares out to sea. The buildings are decorated in rather warm pastels that fit perfectly with the Mediterranean climate.
Not only is the villa rather impressive, but some of the passing traffic is also a little more chic than normal. By 'traffic' I do not mean cars, although there are plenty of Bentleys and Ferraris in St Jean, rather I mean the yachts that come in and out of the port. As St Jean is quite small, the really big craft stay out in the bay. However, there are scores of smaller ones flitting in and out. We spotted two fantastic 1950s motor launches as well as a wonderful wooden sailing boat. You could easily pass an hour or so boat spotting as they all parade past.
The beach itself is also very nice, although not the most comfortable in the Riviera. It is very spacious, which allowed us to find a nice spot with plenty of breathing space. Unfortunately, like most beaches on the Cote d'Azur, it is not made of sand. It consists of tiny gravel-like stones. These are soft enough to lay on without any problem - they are far more comfortable than the rocks in Nice or Cagnes Sur Mer - but are a little painful underfoot, so sandals are recommended. Rather problematically, these small stones give way to large rocks just as they enter the water (I guessed that the large rocks are natural and the gravel has been added for beach-goers). This makes getting into the water a little painful.
St Jean Cap Ferrat is a fantastic place to go to the beach. The view is wonderful and the beach itself very nice. It can be reached by car or by taking bus number 81 from Nice.