The more observant among you may have noticed that my previous post, about my time in Marseille, had very little to do with Marseille – instead, I spent my time exploring the Calanques between Marseille and Cassis. I’m sure Marseille is lovely and all, but a couple of brief walks around didn’t yet anything of spectacular interest, so…
This post is about my time in Nice (which, by the time I’m lazily getting around to posting this, was now more than a month ago, in mid-July), and has very little to do with Nice. Not because Nice isn’t pleasant enough – I’m sure it’s peachy. The atmosphere was jovial and lively. People were having fun. The weather was great. The food was good. The seaside was appropriately blue and popular. (That said, the Australian in me still struggles to understand how Europeans can get so excited about beaches that don’t have sand. If you agree, and you find yourself in the area, I recommend heading around the corner to Villefranche-sur-mer. It’s a small village within walking distance of Nice – or if you’re lazy, it’s one train stop away – and it has a beach much more to my taste.)
But proceeding leisurely to the point, somewhere in the middle of Nice is a local bus stop with a number 100 bus which, for the princely sum of bugger all, will take you to Monaco. Which, let’s face it, has a bit more “ooh, have to go check that out” appeal. So two of my days in Nice were actually spent on the other end of that forty minute bus ride, in a different country entirely.
Monaco was intriguing, but when it comes down to it, both days spent there basically consisted of ogling the very expensive cars in front of Casino Monte Carlo (which, by the way, is smaller than you expect) and ogling the very expensive boats in the marina (which, by the way, are every bit as big as you’d expect). In fact, everything in Monaco just looks expensive. Even the people. Especially the people. (Well, except for the hordes of wide-eyed tourists like myself. We just look cheap and tacky.)
Making the most of your time in Monaco basically consists of finding the best vantage points from which to ogle the expensive things. The casino is best ogled from just in front of it (duh) unless you happen to have turned up besuited appropriately to gain entry. Tip for any aspiring gamblers: shorts, tshirt and thongs (that’s flip-flops, for the uneducated among you) unfortunately don’t cut it. (One of the more entertaining aspects of admiring the casino’s frontage is the sight of the establishment’s impeccably dressed doormen denying entry to plaintive would-be guests. That and the meerkat-like straining of said would-be guests attempting to get a peek inside.)
Once finished with the casino, you can then appreciate Monaco’s supremacy in another field: the quest to host Formula One’s most boring race. Since Monaco’s race is a street circuit, you can walk around the roads and tunnels where some of the world’s fastest (and, of course, most expensive) cars parade quickly around in pretty much their starting order 78 times until someone gets bored and waves a chequered flag at the guy who was on pole.
That done, you’ll want to get on with some more ogling, and for the superyachts, that’s best done first from a café next to the marina (preferably with coffee), and then from up the hill in front of the castle. On your way to the latter vantage point, make sure to appreciate the statue of François Grimaldi the Cunning, the first Grimaldi to rule Monaco, over nine hundred years ago. (The Grimaldi family is sovereign in Monaco today, and although the reign has not been an unbroken one since François’s day, it’s been all but.) Enjoy the gloating story told on the sign nearby, narrating his epic bravery in entering the city disguised as a Franciscan monk, and heroically stabbing a few unarmed clergymen to take over and begin his rule.
And that’s about it for Monaco, really. Enjoy the boat-envy.
Oh, one point about Nice, though, before I go. There’s a lovely cliff walk out east of the city, which I recommend. Follow the coast around towards Villefranche-sur-mer, and before you get too high up the hill, look for a sign next to some stairs pointing to the cliff walk. (Better yet, ask someone other than me for better directions.) It was quite a pleasant wander around the rocky headland next to Nice. Right up until rounding the last corner, where we strolled around to be confronted with the slightly unexpected sight of an old-ish gentlemen maintaining a nice even tan on the back of his testicles. The walk apparently terminates in a concreted nude beach. (Actually, ‘beach’ is not really the right word – it’s more of a random concrete platform next to the water. But whatever.) I have nothing against people getting their kit off in the sun, if that’s their thing – but I will admit to having been a little unprepared to walk straight into a collection of old farts browning their brown-eyes. About face, and back to the scenery. You have been warned.