The Harbour (Port Hercule)
Up on the hillside, where the apartment blocks stop, France begins.
“Anyone been to Monaco? I'll be on a train passing through on Saturday, therefore; off the train, wander around for about 2 hours, back on the train and continue onwards? Does it deserve more than 2 hours if you won't be gambling, drinking champagne on an oligarch's yacht, watching a grand-prix (that's later in the year), or inaugurating yourself in a tax-avoidance scheme?”
Those are the questions I posed on Facebook. The responses were generally positive-ish: It is worth a bit of time just to see views of the harbour from the palace and gardens, to see such an abundance of supercars and superyachts, go there during some kind of race and the atmosphere is great but it’s impossible to get around, actually, have a quick look then move back into France or carry on to Italy as soon as possible.
Now I’ve been there I think I pretty much agree with the advice. But nipping in and out isn’t quite as easy as expected.
Left luggage facilities are illegal in Monaco. Therefore, if you want a quick look around before getting back on the train, you must carry all your gear
with you. That wouldn’t usually be a problem for me the way I pack. However, this little 2‑week holiday incorporated; some mountain time, thus walking trainers, fleece, waterproofs, etc; a wedding in Tuscany, thus suit, shirt, shoes, etc, and; a week wandering around stunning Italian towns and cities, thus travel clothing far smarter than a usual backpackery trip.
I met a pal at Monaco train station at 10am having come straight from Nice Airport, which I flew to from Luton having taken a bus from London after a train from Doncaster that left at 10pm. Yes, I was a little tired. More so because I arrived in Monaco half an hour early so decided to climb Monaco’s highest peak while waiting.
Monaco’s highest peak is actually a point on the border with France at the side of a road. Over the road the landscape keeps rising, but that’s France. Getting to the top involves lots of stairs, a few escalators, and a couple of lifts. Quite the most pointless half an hour of my life while carrying 2-weeks of luggage on a pretty hot day.
We were there the weekend prior
to the Monaco Grand Prix. This is perhaps a good time to visit because there was a buzz about the place as stadiums were being set up and support teams were arriving but, unlike the following weekend, you could still get around and actually fit into the tiny country.
And it is tiny; measuring about 2 km long and less than 0.5 km wide, it is the world’s second smallest country. It is also the most densely populated country in the world which is easy to believe when you look at Monaco from afar and it appears as just a solid cluster of apartment blocks.
What is there to see? I wasn’t too interested in the casinos, nor the Ferraris parked outside, the old town doesn’t seem that old, the cathedral is quite plain, the palace is grand but just like any other posh villa/palace anywhere in the Mediterranean, the dense forest of apartment blocks could be anywhere in the world. However, the gardens are lovely and the views they afford are very pretty. Blue ocean, white apartments, green hills, posh yachts down below in the harbour, it’s definitely worth getting off the train
Setting up for the Monaco GP
Popped in for a cup of tea with Lewis.
After a couple of hours of hauling our bags around the sights in 30C temperatures, we thought we’d earned a stop in one of the old town’s cafes. Two beers, two coffees, and a bottle of water = 45 euros. We went back to France for lunch.
Tot: 1.4s; Tpl: 0.082s; cc: 10; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0187s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb