Thursday, October 19, 2006


On Monday, we decided to take a day trip to Monaco, as we realised it's too close to Nice to give a miss. And indeed, Monaco is located about 18 km from Nice and it's a 18-25 minutes on the train. A return ticket costs 6.20 euros. The train traverses a lot of tunnels that cut into the rocky shores, but in between the tunnels, you can admire the beautiful houses, right on the shores, built on rock, some of them right on the edge of the rock. It's a spectacular sight and I bet prices are spectacular too.
Monaco Monte Carlo train station is an underground station. In fact, it's a tricky one, as the lower level has an exit at the bottom of a rock, while the main exit/entrance is at the top of the rock. But the impression you get is that it's underground.

As you get out of the station, you're struck with awe. It's a very dramatic urban landscape. Because Monaco is basically built on a rock, and in layers, each layer higher than the other, from the sea up into the rocky mountains/hills behind. Everything is packed, the roads are narrow and buildings tend to be high and that can be a bit claustrophobic. It also exacerbates the problem of pollution, because cars transit the little state quite a lot. But the city is very very clean - it doesn't compare with Nice which I thought was a bit dirty.

As you get out of the train station, you walk to the right for a while and sooner or later you bump into the old castle of Monaco situated in the district called Monaco Ville. The castle is in a very good condition, and you can climb to it following a road in shape of an S. Once you get up there, the Palace is right in front. We watched the change of guard at 11.55. It's quick, it takes 5 minutes, but on a Monday there were about 300-400 people watching. I can't imagine what's it like in the weekend.

Next to the palace there's the old town, with narrow streets and a lot of restaurants, souvenir shops (a lot of Formula 1 souvenirs) and other touristy stuff. We had lunch there, a 16 euro menu including a starter (salad, pasta or one of the other 2-3 options), a main course (rump steak, escalope etc.) and a dessert. Not bad for the money.

The Oceanography Museum is just a stroll away from the Old Town and it's a famous place. The famous Jacques Cousteau used to be the director for many years. It's a sort of museum documenting a scientific expedition of Albert I, at the beginning of the century. It was in the north, close to the north pole. And then Albert 2nd followed in his father's footsteps. It's mainly how the museum started. In the basement however they have big fish tanks with a lot of fish from all over the world. They get the water straight from the Mediterranean sea with a system of pumps. From the top floor of the museum you have panoramic views of Monaco.

On the other side, there are steps taking you down from the castle, close to the marina. From there we took a walk to the other side of Monaco, it's a quarter called Monte Carlo. This is one of the 4th quarters of Monaco and it's famous for its Grand Casino (featured in James Bond film .. even in the next one: Casino Royale, which happens to be this Grand Casino in Monaco). Entrance to the Grand Casino sets you back 10 euros, so, as we weren't big gamblers we gave it a miss. Next to the Grand Casino there's another smaller casino with free entrance. It mainly have fruit machines. We wanted to try it out, and here's a funny situation. We only had a 50 euros note left, which was our money for food and bus back to the airport and everything. And we only wanted to spend 1 euro, or 2 euros. We didn't know how many chips we would get for 1/2 euros, but we imagined we could have fun even with such a small amount. Anyway, the guy at the office didn't speak English ... and he gave us straight away 25 chips of 2 euros each. He thought we want to spend all our 50 euros in one go. We tried to explain that all we want is 2 euros. But he kept understanding that we want 2 euros coins. Finally, he gave us just one coin, 2 euro coin and the change back. He probably thought: cheap bastards. Hehe. Anyway. We went to a machine and we were wondering how many games we would get for our 2 euros. We introduced the coin into a machine and we pressed reshuffle. 2 seconds later, it all stopped. We didn't win anything. And that was it. Game over. 2 euros in 2 seconds. That must be the most dramatic spending spree on this trip. How often do you spend a euro per second? If we were to continue at this pace, in one hour we would spend 3600 euros. So, we decided to stop at that point.

We headed back to Nice in the evening, got on a bus that took us to the airport and from there, London was 2 hours away. Au revoir France!


Post a Comment

<< Home