Published: April 30th 2011April 29th 2011
My lunch box offered by the hotel
Today I would be making my way a short way out of Nice to Monaco. This is definitely something that I had been looking forward to. In part because my dad was there a few years back and I was looking forward to seeing some of the things that he had seen himself.
As I made my way out the train station (which is out of this world by the way!!), I think that I caught Grand Prix fever! There were already setting up bleachers and stands for the race that is only set for the end of May. I would later learn that it actually takes 2 months to actually prepare for this event that welcoes 22,000 spectators (more than the actual population of this small principality).
I had a small map from my guidebook but I was relying more on the map that I had downloaded on my iPhone. There was a part of me that knew that Monaco was built into the surrounding mountains and therefore very hilly. But there was another part of me that just didn't grasp that concept when planning this part of the trip and looking at the maps. It looked easy
The Grand Prix is coming!!
enough to cover some major ground only on foot ... ahem. Walking from sight to sight is certainly possible but you definitely need some sturdy walking shoes (and lungs!)
This fact I would realize quickly as I was making my way to the Palais Princier. The path to get there winds its way steeply up a hill. The views are spectacular but the walk up is exhausting!!
The first stop (while still on the hunt for the famous pink palace) was a beautiful garden. This garden winds its way up the hill and is a beautiful shaded area filled with flowers and plants. There are also beautiful art pieces. The view is gorgeous as you can see out onto the Mediterranean Sea.
Exiting from the garden, I would then be met by the Cathedrale de Monaco. This is the cathedral where Prince Rainier III married Princess Grace. I guess it’s because it was a royal wedding, I had in my mind that this was held in an enormous cathedral but no. This is actually relatively small considering the important occasion that it held. Both Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace are also buried in this Cathedral. There
Statue at garden by the Palais Princier
are beautiful roses laid on Princess Grace’s tomb. A single white rose rests on that of Prince Rainier III.
From there, I would finally make it to the Palais Princier. I was disappointed to find it under restoration and therefore covered in scaffolding. You are able to visit a portion of the palace (at your own pace with an audioguide). Prince Albert still resides at the Palais Princier … he wasn’t there today … he was an England attending that little wedding!! He does make an appearance on the audioguide with a welcoming message though! I found one of his comments interesting ... as opposed to visits of many palaces that you can visit in Europe this one still has an active staff and is still creating history.
The tour takes you through approximately 15 rooms. Some are incredibly ornate with silk or damask covering the walls and ornate furnishings. Some of the rooms that we were allowed to walk through are still used but more for functions rather than daily life.
Having realized that walking through Monaco would be a challenge onto itself, I decided to grab the Hop On Hop Off tour bus. I had
Statue at garden by the Palais Princier
never done one of those but the beauty is that they stop at all of the major sites. Plus one of the stops was at the train station which would be very practical at the end of the day. They also give you a set of headphones and you get a commentary as you drive through the streets of Monaco (which I would always forget to take off and would always look like an idiot when I was trying to get off this darn bus ... I am my own slapstick comedy at times)
My first stop would then be the Rosaire Princesse Grace. It is a beautiful rose garden developed by Prince Rainier III in memory of his wife. The roses were in full bloom and the park itself is immaculate. There is also a pond where you can find turtles and ducks. Just off the rose garden is the chapiteau where the annual circus festival was being held. Princess Stéphanie is the president of the festival which has been in existence for more than 30 years.
I hopped back on the bus and made my way to the Jardin Japonais. The drive to get there essentially
Statue at garden by the Palais Princier
takes you through a portion of the circuit that is used by the Grand Prix racers plus there is of course a commentary on the history of the Grand Prix. What blew my mind is that the drivers shift gears 4,500 times on average during this particular race!! There is of course a small announcement on the audioguide just as you are about to enter the famous tunnel that the F1 racers zip through on the race. Let’s face it … I know next to nothing about this sport (shocking I know considering that my dad eats, breathes and sleeps this kind of stuff!) but I have seen this particular circuit. And that tunnel looks darn scary when they are racing through it at whatever ridiculous speeds that they attain. Truth be told there was a huge part of me that was hoping that the guy would just floor it so that we could get the real sense of what going through the tunnel must feel like but alas … we just leisurely drove through … yawn!
The Jardin Japonais is exactly that … a Japanese garden. I figured that if I ever came back to Monaco with my
At garden by Palais Princier
parents that my mom and I would be hanging out here while my dad was at the Grand Prix. It is an incredible garden with all of the typical features of a Japanese garden like the lanterns, the zen garden, the koi ponds and the tea house. So beautiful … there are no words really.
My next stop … and quite a 180 from the Japanese garden … was the Casino de Monte Carlo. There’s always something odd about seeing something that you have seen on photo or on television and actually seeing it in real life. My reaction is always that things always seem to be smaller and that was my reaction at seeing the Casino. I actually had the same reaction when seeing the palace as well. The entertaining part of the Casino is seeing the cars parked out front. Actually … the entertaining part is seeing all of the teenage boys drool over and take pictures of these amazing cars. So parked out front was … a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Alpha Romeo, Astin Martin, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar … oh and a Smart Car. There was also a Mini Cooper … my newest obsession.
I hopped back on the bus and essentially looped back to the Palace. I walked around some of the little side streets and poked my head in some of the souvenir shops. I grabbed a sandwich and just ate it at the foot of the palace where there are just some incredible views. Just breathtaking views really.
By then it was time to head back to the train station. When I arrived, I noticed that my train was not listed on the departures board. I found (after a ridiculously long walk through the terminal … you can’t even imagine!) the information desk to only be told that there was a strike so my train would not be coming but that I could grab whichever one. came after that. She gave me an approximate time for the next one. Okay … sure … no problem. I can wait an extra hour … who cares … I’m on holidays. I’ve got three months … well like two and a half now. No problem. So at first there weren’t really all that many people at gate C but then they started coming in and coming in and coming in and coming in
Cathedrale de Monaco
… you get the picture. Hundreds of people waiting for this train … some patient, some not as much. There were a lot of “putain” and “merde” being mumbled (especially after each announcement that told us of another delay). I got to talking to a woman and she basically told me that my chances of getting on the train were contingent on where the doors actually stopped. If they stopped right in front of us … we’re in … otherwise you’ll have to wait for the next one. Divine intervention made it that the train stopped and the doors were literally right in front of me and I was one of the firsts to get on. So I survived my first “grève”! Génial!
There are more photos below