Sam Barham: a charming little town in the Côte d’Azur

Sam Barham is a British model whose career has frequently satisfied his passion for adventure. The first big-budget commercial in which he featured was shot in Chile, and since then his career has seen him enjoy a great variety of locations all around the world. Who better than he, then, to reveal a stunning, tucked-away gem in the French Riviera?

I recently went out to Villefranche-sur-Mer for a photoshoot. A photographer and I have been trying to link up to create some imagery, and he knows the area really well. He was out there with a few days to spare, so I met up with him. It was super easy to fly out. I grabbed a 6am flight from Gatwick and by 9:30am I was in Villefranche-sur-Mer, where I spent the whole day.

The town is beautiful – it has that Italian Cinque Terre vibe. It’s situated between Monaco and Nice, and has a lot of history. There’s something special about old European towns like this: you walk through the streets and you feel the stories seeping from the walls. That said, it’s somewhere you could spend the whole day doing nothing, just sat in a coffee shop watching the world go by. I was very lucky. I went when there was beautiful sunshine and the water was warm, but it was before the school holidays, so it was still relatively quiet and calm. 

The place is having a bit of a revival. It’s mostly more mature people living and retiring there and, unfortunately, life cycles happen, so there’s a new community coming in. So, there’s a nice diversity of classic older restaurants mixed in with new fusion places and so on. You can sit right on the waterfront and have some beautiful dinners, or you can find a small tapas place or restaurant among the little streets. Even when you first turn up, you feel like you’re already part of the community, because it’s so small. You feel like you could’ve been there five years.

It’s also an amazing place to be a biker, and I’ve ridden nearby. As part of the Great Malle Mountain Rally last September, I took on six countries in six days, travelling 1,500 miles across the Alps, all the big mountain passes, and ending up in Monaco and Nice. So, although I haven’t ridden in Villefranche-sur-Mer itself, I know that the roads above, where they’ve shot scenes for one of the James Bond movies, are just incredible. You don’t have to be a massively skilled rider. The conditions are normally sunny, so the roads are always great.

Follow Sam on Instagram: @sbarham

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