While Roger spent a few days in London on his way to Vegas for the Shot Show, I decided to spend a weekend in Monaco. I had spent the last week working in the South of France and was heading to Moscow for work the next week. There is a direct flight from Nice to Moscow on Sunday afternoon so it seemed like a good way to kill a weekend.
Friday 18 January 2019
I enjoyed the drive from Montpellier to Nice. There is something almost calming about driving along the wide open freeways in France. There are usually three lanes going each way and, at this time of the year anyway, there is little enough traffic that you can set the cruise control and rarely have to brake. The scenery though doesn’t change that much over the three and a half hours. All was going well until I got to Nice. I had planned to drop the rental car off at the airport and catch a taxi to Monaco. Sounded simple enough but neither the navigation system in the car, nor Google maps got the right location and I spent about 90 minutes driving through the narrow streets in Nice before I finally arrived at the airport!
That over it was an easy 30 minute taxi drive to my hotel in Monaco. Despite Monaco not being part of the EU there are no border posts. I was starting to get a taste of what Monaco would be like though – it is the first taxi I have been in where you can see the meter moving even when the taxi is stopped. They definitely know how to charge in this part of the world.
I was staying at the Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo, right across the street from the Casino Royale and a beautiful hotel with lots of marble and luxury furnishing. It was extremely large and over many levels with a somewhat confusing layout. By the end of my two day stay I think I was actually starting to find my way around without having to backtrack too much.
Saturday 19 January 2019
After a leisurely breakfast in the stunning restaurant, with it’s gazebo style central feature, I headed out to explore the city. At only a couple of kilometres square it is pretty small but it does rise up out of the sea so there are a lot of stairs. In many places there are even escalators and elevators to make it easier for pedestrians. I wandered along the marina passing numerous luxury yachts.
I was heading towards the palace, home of Prince Rainier, which I could see on the hill.
As I headed up the hill I was a little amused by the sign I saw in many places along the way – kind of reminded me of the Trumpet “togs, togs, undies” ad from NZ a few summers ago.
Arriving at the top of the hill I was struck by the architecture and how clean everything was. Being winter it was relatively quiet. I cannot imagine how crowded it must get here in summer with all the rich and famous converging on the place. There are lots of gardens and parks around, one of the few things you can do here at no charge.
I decided to visit the Oceanographic Institute. I was very impressed both with the impressive building and with the variety and quality of the exhibits. The aquarium was also one of the best I have been to.
I wandered back through the gardens into the Monte Carlo area. I had planned to kill a few hours at the casino before heading to the spa where I had booked a facial and a body treatment to fill in the evening.
Unfortunately (or fortunately given my luck) the casino didn’t open until later so I had to make do with a quick visit to check out the interior.
I enjoyed my treatments in the spa and then had a quiet evening. On Sunday morning I headed back to Nice after breakfast to catch my flight to Moscow.
What would I say about Monaco? Interesting place to visit but I have absolutely no need or desire to go back again. At 25+ euros for a small bottle of sparkling water and a block of chocolate the place certainly lives up to its reputation for being expensive. I cannot help but wonder how such a small Principality has maintained its independence for so long.