I was supposed to meet up with my friend Morgan on a Friday morning in Nice – I was taking the overnight train, while she was flying in early in the morning. But when I arrived in Nice, Morgan had missed her flight and couldn’t come in from Paris until the afternoon. I therefore had most of the first day to myself.
With that in mind, I decided to take the bus to Monaco for the day. As I was waiting at the bus stop, I met a lovely lady who lives in Nice and works in Monaco. Monaco is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and it is very to expensive live in, she said. She was a great tour guide pointing out all the towns and ports we passed along the way.
The bus carried us right alongside the coast so I had the most scenic route, just as the coastal towns were waking up and the sun was warming the beaches. The bus also passed through the seaside towns of Villefranche and Beaulieu. It was so much more beautiful than taking the highway or the train.
|To take the same route as I did, take the orange Ligne D’Azur bus 100 from Le Port in Nice. It starts at 6am and runs until 8pm, taking about 30-45 mins. Buy your tickets directly from the conductor; each way costs 1.50€. You can find the timetable and list of stops here. When going from Nice to Monaco, sit on the side opposite the driver, and from Monaco to Nice, on the driver’s side, in order to get the best views.|
Monaco is a city-state, the second smallest in the world after Vatican City. Its name comes from the Greek Monoikos, stemming from the words Monos (single) and Oikos (house). Legend has it that the Temple of Hercules was constructed here after the namesake Greek god passed through the area. This temple was the only “house” of the gods in the area, hence it was called Heracles Monoikos and the town surrounding it was called Monoikos, later changing to Monaco.
There is no real defined border between France and Monaco. But I knew I had crossed over when the bus passed both an Audi and a Porsche dealership side by side. I had arrived in Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo is the largest quartier of this microstate, and is the Monaco that everyone is familiar with – the flashy casinos, the racy cars, James Bond, and the expensive yachts lined up along the port. Just after I arrived, it started to rain a little. I didn’t care much, but all the wealthy residents sure did. They sought cover inside ritzy hotels and fancy boutiques, thus abandoning the streets, and leaving me to explore the now uncrowded city. I was umbrella-less but it didn’t bother me. I tied my scarf up over my head the way the Hollywood stars did in the 50’s – I actually blended right in. Most of the shops also had covered patios in front of them, so I really didn’t get that wet as I walked along the port and gazed in at the boats on display. The captains anchor the yachts right up along the boardwalk and like to be watched as they wine and dine. Not many were doing that today, but the amount of millions I saw stationed up along that port was impressive enough.
As I was only in Monaco for a half day, I checked out the nooks and crannies of the city centre on my way up to Prince Albert II’s royal palace. It sits on top of the Palais Princier Quartier, keeping watch over its harbour city. The palace was built in 1191 as a Genoese fortress, but now serves the royal family.
Also near the royal palace are the Saint Nicolas Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum. The Cathedral is where all the previous Monégasque rulers are buried, including the previous Prince, Ranier III, and his ill-fated wife, Grace Kelly. Grace Kelly made Monaco very famous during her life, as a beautiful American actress who married a prince. She died in 1982 after suffering from a stroke that caused her to crash her car.
Even with the cloudy skies and the drizzling rain, Monaco is still gorgeous. There were flowers blooming and splashing fountains along the garden walks above the harbour. There were balconies featuring panoramic views of the city below and little stairways led to ancient theatres and Roman architecture.
I adore this little country, even if I can’t afford its fancy boats or its splashy casinos. There is lots else to explore than what you see in the James Bond film, even if you are on a student budget. Monaco may be small but good things do come in small packages, right?