Ah Monaco … So good I went twice!

My friend Helen came to visit me a few weekends ago.

I had worked with Helen in London … ahem, 30 years ago … and we had not seen each other for about 10 years. We had kept in touch irregularly for about 20 years but lost contact in the last few years. Thank goodness for Facebook and the reconnections it enables. So, it was really great to see her again. It is lovely to meet someone I have a history with and just connect again like we’ve never missed a beat – especially when I had been feeling a bit disconnected.

What to do with a friend you haven’t seen in 20 years?

We decided to go to Monaco on a Sunday.

The weather wasn’t great. It was very cold and kept raining on and off all weekend. Every now and then the sun would peek out to shine and felt great, but way too short-lived. We had some sun for a quick chocolate chaud stop in Villefranche Sur Mer on the way. A glorious little old harbor where we could sit beside the sea. Shame the hot chocolate standard wasn’t up to the quality of the view. Very disappointing. I hate it when your hot chocolate is barely lukewarm.

Villefranche Sur Mer

Helen and I

Now you might ask Monaco or Monte Carlo?

Well, Monte Carlo is the city of Monaco, but now the whole province of Monaco is pretty much one city so people refer to it as just Monaco. Except for the casino – that is the Monte Carlo casino and what made the province as rich as it is in more recent history.

Monte Carlo Casino

Monte Carlo Casino

The differences in Monaco 30 years ago versus today.

I had last been to Monaco nearly 30 years before, right after the Grand Prix there. At that time you could not go inside the Palace so I was keen to do that this time. Helen had not been at all before, so it was all new to her. To be honest, it was all new to me too because it had changed so much since I had been there. My goodness, it has become very built up.

Monaco is clean, pretty and well protected.

Thirty years before there had been hardly any houses on the mountain as we drove down into Monte Carlo. Now it was completely covered with high rise buildings … everywhere. We couldn’t help but notice how very clean and tidy and organized it was. There were even little garden beds of pretty flowers … at the bus stop. It was very cute, if not slightly OCD. There were also police everywhere, and amazingly they were mostly really good looking – not sure if that is a requirement for the job. Apparently, there is one police person (although we only saw men) to every 60 inhabitants of Monaco … so don’t do anything wrong there!

Time to take the Choo-Choo around town

We took a bus from the train station to the old city and then jumped into one of those little tourist train things to show us around the city. We were so tired of walking from the day before around Nice and my knees were sore.  The little train was a cute way to be shown all the fabulous sights of Monaco – like the casino, the old ramparts, the fancy buildings and shops along with interesting little stories about it being under French and Italian and then it’s own rule, but it’s still sort of French. It was fun.

The big let down…

We got off the train at the palace to go inside … only to find it wasn’t open for another week. Bummer! We just missed it. I decided I would have to go back another day.

So, we stopped for lunch…

…at a little restaurant in the old town part. It was lovely and a very good lunch too.

My favorite French meal.

Surprisingly, it seemed a bit cheaper than Nice la vieille ville (the old town), which is very expensive for France. After lunch we wandered through the old town, looking at the gardens and spectacular views, as the town is up so high and right on the sea.

It was stunning and all so very perfect and quiet and still. I felt like I was on a movie set and that the camera dolly was going to come rolling down the street any minute. In that fantasy, Princess Grace would have then stepped into the scene. It was a surreal feeling though because it just did not feel real. Monaco is like that. So super perfect that it doesn’t seem real.

The Grand Prix is a huge thing in Monaco…

Monaco is the home of the very first Grand Prix and the start of all the Grand Prix circuits. It is on at the end of May and something they are really proud of. I will be leaving the Riviera before it starts.

I did manage to get back again a few weeks later with a fellow student Julia and Clemence from the school.

Spring was nowhere so the weather had improved and it was a beautiful day of the stunning blue sky and warm sun, without being too hot.

This time we walked all around the lower part of the city. We went into the casino building but couldn’t go inside the actual casino as they were closing for lunch or something. Really, I didn’t think casinos closed for lunch! Maybe there was some special event on there. It sure is a beautiful building inside and out but it was very hard to get good photos.

We walked around the sea edge with fabulous views, did our own little photo shoots (see my pic on the wall ;), and enjoyed the stunning views over the amazingly blue Mediterranean Sea.

It really is incredible how blue and clear the sea is.



Finally, the Royal Palace!

I got to see inside the palace like I wanted. It was lovely, like most old palaces. Very ornate. I think we only saw a few rooms as that is all that is open to the public and the royal family still live there. It was great to see though. 

It still had that same eerie perfect feel to it as there were not that many people around yet so it was still quiet – not like it will be in the height of summer. 

So Monaco is very beautiful and everything looks superb. Definitely worth a visit and a good look around. May is a good time to go there I think … well according to me it is.