Nice & Monte Carlo
This time I am filling you in about my time in Nice, as well as my day trip to Monte Carlo.
I left Montpellier (I so have a soft spot for that city) at around 9.15am, and travelled by train via Marseilles ( around 60 minutes stopover) to Nice arriving just after 3pm. I walked from the station, down the main street leading to the Promenade. After a few minutes, I came to the narrow street called Rue de I’Hotel des Postes. This was another hotel taking up only a portion of the building, in this case, half of the third floor. And there is no lift, no lift, NO LIFT. This was why it was vital for me to re arrange my packing when I was in Montpellier. I was aware of the third floor/no lift set up, but from what I had read, both online and in Lonely Planet books, it was entirely worth the herculean effort needed to carry my bags up three really, really high storeys, (we’re dealing with a seriously old building here!).
Well, indeed it was. Hotel Wilson is a fabulously quirky place to stay at if ever you are in the beautiful town of Nice. Again, I have a single room. It’s small, and I don’t have a bathroom (it’s across the corridor), but I have a balcony with French doors and shutters. I also happen to have the Mona Lisa hanging in the corridor, just beside my room…. Posh! Breakfast in the eccentrically decorated dining room is provided. This morning I had orange juice, hot chocolate and a selection of croissants, baguettes, pastries, etc. All this for around 40 euros a night.
I am getting ahead of myself. Yesterday, after checking in and slipping into something more comfortable, (cooler) I set off on a wander. Back to the main street, and headed towards the famous Promenade. It really wasn’t very hard to find. Past the open pedestrian square on both sides of the carless road, past the modern fountain on the left where children play under the water as it shoots up in an erratic pattern, past the round, classical fountain, past the gelati stalls and you come out on the promenade, and on a Sunday afternoon, a vast array of the population of Nice are just walking, roller blading, bike riding, you name it. I saw a few parents teaching their kids how to skate, skateboard, or bike ride. Some folks were just sitting in the large shaded areas. It felt like most people there were locals.
I actually couldn’t help myself, I just got drawn in to walking, to nowhere in particular, just walking. I smiled at the sunbakers in the public area, laying on their towels on what we would call at home, ‘river pebbles’. Of course if you want to be a bit posher, you can pay sixteen euros to sunbake on a sunlounge under an umbrella on a private beach, (attached to a bar or restaurant, to cater for you other needs).
Walking towards the Hotel Negresco, I came across what is still there of the flower, candle and stuffed toy memorial temporarily set up to pay respects to the victims of the senseless truck attack just over three months ago. It’s very surreal standing where it all happened. Police and the military are very obvious in Nice at the moment. Bags are searched before you go into shops like H & M, security guards are stationed at the front of a lot of shops, etc.
This morning, after breakfast, I walked to the station and for a cost of €7.80 I got a return ticket to Monaco, just a heads up if you do get a return ticket, make sure you check the brand of train you are about to get on. I didn’t on the way back and pretty much had to pay five pounds or wait until the next SNCF train was going back to Nice.
Once I arrived at Monaco station, I got my phone out and got walking directions to the aquarium. I knew it was perched on a cliff, I just didn’t think out the walking to it! I booked entry to the aquarium (Musee oceanographique de Monaco) and palace before I left Australia. I walked straight into the aquarium, I was lucky to see ten people while I was in there. As I left there seemed to be some tour groups arrive. But my experience was incredible as I almost had the entire place to myself. I first went down to the two levels dedicated to the aquarium. Absolutely awesome. As you go past the first large tank, you see a ‘porthole’ in the floor. I looked to see why it was there, expecting a view of a tank or something. No, it was actually a window looking down to the ground, far, far below.
I was really impressed with the aquarium part of the Museum, I was taken with the range of sea creatures. I had never seen Piranhas before and had only ever seen Nautilus at the Noumea aquarium in New Caledonia. They have some amazing jelly fish that were strangely hypnotising the way the made their way through the water.
Also on display was and exhibition called ‘sharks, a thrilling experience’. I was totally alone in the gallery, marvelling at the various skeletons, etc when all of a sudden there was a noise that startled me. Then, a very magical thing happened. Music started, so did a light show. The entire room lit up in a myriad of colours in time with the powerful music. The skeletons hanging from the ceiling seemed to come to life with colour. It was amazing, even more so because I was the sole witness to the show.
Next I found myself at a touch tank, it’s inhabitants?… sharks. They were about 80cm, but still, I thought I would leave them at peace. I went through all five levels of the museum / aquarium and thoroughly enjoyed it. At the very top, there is a kiosk and deck where you get amazing views of the tiny principality.
Not too far away, perched on the same high rock, is the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. By the time I had got there after admiring the beautiful gardens high up on the cliff, it was approaching noon. I remembered reading somewhere that they do a change of the guards each day at 12. I decided to wait and watch. With about 10 minutes to go, there was a bit of a kerfuffle among the crowd, it seemed that Prince Albert walked out of the Palace and got into a black limo before driving off.
All that excitement, aside, I watched the changing of the guard and then slipped in the palace before the small crowd dispersed. Sadly, no photos are allowed during the self paced tour with recorded commentary on a personal handset. The rooms are incredibly historically intact. The works of art are pretty amazing, and the throne room, (location of Grace and Rainier’s civil marriage ceremony) is quite an experience. If by chance, you ever get to go through the palace on a tour, ever so subtly touch what looks like the wallpaper. It’s not paper, it is fabric, and you can feel that it is stretched across the walls, rather than stuck on. And it’s also in amazing condition…. I know, if everyone goes around touching it, it won’t be!
I bought a €5.50, 24 hour bus pass. Trust me, if you have just walked down from the station, then up to the aquarium, then down to the bottom level, the thought of walking up to the station is not fabulous. So I hopped on a bus, actually, I was looking for shops, but I figured that it’s a tiny place so I couldn’t end up too far out of my way! Well yes, actually I did end up going in the opposite direction to what I was expecting, but hey, there are only six bus routes in Monte Carlo, and the all just do a pirouette at the end of the route and go back to where they came from. So I stayed on the bus until it went down the hill again. I then walked through the lush park on the way to the Casino.
From the Casino, I found a shopping centre that, to me, was way over the top. I decided to just wander for a while and then I found a bus stop, worked out that I was after bus number 5, after only a few minutes, I at the railway station. As I said earlier, just double check with trains that they are the same brand as you have the ticket….. Yes, I made the rooky mistake.
Tomorrow, I am getting a train to the Cote d’Azur airport, then flying to Athens.
More adventures soon!