Nice and Monte Carlo

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Europe » Monaco
July 31st 2015
Published: May 30th 2017
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We decide to have breakfast down in the old town, but we get lost and end up in the port instead. We seem to be having a lot of success getting lost here. We walk past a large war memorial carved into the rock and then up Castle Hill for views along the long spectacular beach. The hilltop is a mass of botanical wonders around the ruins of the old city walls and an ancient church. We walk on into a very sad Jewish Cemetery dedicated to victims of the holocaust and the French Resistance fighters.

We walk back down the hill into old Nice, where the streets are all very narrow, and lined with expensive looking cafes and boutiques. Issy left her sunshade back at the hotel, so she goes into one of the boutiques to spend a couple of Euro buying another one. The one she had picked out costs more than $50, which seems just a tad extravagant for a bit of straw with a couple of strips of velcro attached to it. At that price we decide that shade can wait, and we quickly move on.

We walk along the beachfront Promenade des Anglais. Sand is in short supply on the famous beach, but there's clearly no shortage of people willing to fork out large quantities of their hard-earned to rent sunlounges on the pebbles. The sand areas seem to be reserved for volleyball courts; I hope the players' knees appreciate the luxury.

We catch a train along the coast to Monte Carlo and emerge from the station high on a hill overlooking the harbour. We thought the boats in the harbour in Nice looked expensive, but the boats in the Monte Carlo harbour make them look like row boats by comparison; large spas on the decks seem to be a standard feature. The whole place feels like it's dripping with money, and we both feel very out of place. We pass the local Ferrari and Lamborghini dealerships which both look to be doing a roaring trade. We're pleased to find that we can buy cans of Sprite and hot dogs; we were a bit worried that the only things on offer for lunch might have been caviar and lobster washed down with a bottle of Dom Perignon, and with a price tag to match. The cars parked outside the casino are all either Lamborghinis, Ferraris or Bentleys. The streets are all very windy and not that wide, and we struggle with the concept that they race a Grand Prix through here every year. The square in front of the casino is full of palm trees and other exotic plants, including a woolemai pine, all the way from humble old Australia. And there's a duck pond. The ducks look like normal ducks and don't seem to care that the land that their pond is on is probably worth several squillion Euros.

We catch a bus up the hill past to the Jardin Exotique. We read that this is a cactus garden which took 20 years to develop; it was opened in 1933 and has stayed virtually the same ever since. The views over the harbour and castle from up here are stunning. Some of the cacti are enormous, and look every bit as if they've been here since 1933.

We catch the bus back down to the station and get back on the train. We noticed on the way here that we passed through a station called Eze Sur Mer. I've read about the village of Eze, which is supposedly to be beautiful, so I suggest to Issy that we get off the train to have a look at it. We walk down the hill from the station and soon find ourselves on the beach. The beach is alright, but nothing special, and there doesn't seem to be too much else around. We find a map. It seems that the village of Eze is a one and a half hour hike up a steep mountain from the station, and is only very vaguely related to Eze Sur Mer. Eze Sur Mer apparently means Eze on the sea; what we were really after was Eze Sur Steep Mountain. This is a bit disappointing.

We catch a taxi from Nice station back to the hotel. The taxi driver asks us where we're going next and we tell him that we're catching the train to Marseille tomorrow. He warns us to be careful of pickpockets. He then charges us twice as much as we paid for yesterday's taxi trip for a ride that is half as long. It seems that he should have also warned us about getting ripped off by taxi drivers.

We walk down into the town for dinner, taking careful note of where we're going to avoid getting lost again. We again chose a restaurant on Garibaldi Square. Unlike last night, the menu is all in French. Issy chose the restaurant because she saw pate on the menu, but when she goes to order it we find out that pate actually means pasta in French, and pate as we understand it isn't on the menu. She is not happy. She uses a translator app on her phone to try and work out what is actually on offer. It's not all that helpful. If it's to be believed one of the items on the menu isn't actually food. Issy says she doesn't want any of the other items, so she orders this seemingly food deficient dish. It turns out to be some form of duck, which is good; she likes duck. We have the same problem with the desserts. One of the items translates as 'half-baked chocolate'. I hope this means that they didn't leave it in the oven for long enough, and not that it isn't very good. I order Coupe Gary Cooper, which the translator very helpfully advises me means 'Coupe Gary Cooper'. I have a nasty feeling that the sauce on it might be iced coffee. I feel sleepless already and I haven't even gone to bed yet. I finish blogging at 3am, and as predicted I'm still wide awake.

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