The start of 2017 hasn’t been wonderful in terms of weather on the French Riviera, at least from what I’ve been told as I’ve been travelling for 5 consecutive weeks so far for work to some much colder parts of Europe, namely Paris, Vienna, Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin, Düsseldorf and Cologne. However, this weekend was hopefully a sign of better times and after a lovely day yesterday in Nice (see the carnival pictures and video I shared on the French Riviera Blog Facebook page), I decided to enjoy the afternoon with a very pleasant 45 minute run around some of the major sights on the western part of Monaco and therefore enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
I figured, in the spirit of this blog, that it would be nice to share the pictures as it’s a really nice tour that takes in plenty of the most beautiful views of the Principality, just be warned that it does go uphill and downhill a lot so I did this at a very slow pace given my appalling fitness condition!
Enjoy the photos! Next week if the weather is still decent, I might go and check out the last weekend of the Fête des Citrons in Menton, if so I’ll share my experiences soon!
For over a hundred years, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco has been one of the jewels in the crown for tourists in the Principality thanks to its famous aquarium and an international reputation. However, there is much more to this venerable institution than just a spectacular shark tank and some exotic stuffed animals – walking around the impressive marble walls of this beautiful building, you are treated to a journey through time and space and can really sense the passion of the man whose brainchild this museum is, Prince Albert I of Monaco. This in-depth article will obviously guide you through the main attractions of the museum but first it’s important to understand the historical context and the contribution that the museum is still making to the conservation of the oceans around the world. Continue reading →
The Monaco Grand Prix is probably the biggest and most prestigious regular event on the French Riviera calendar, ahead of the Cannes Film Festival and the Carnival of Nice. Each year, it brings a magical atmosphere to the Principality, really kick-starting the summer season with plenty of private parties on the yachts in the harbour, a very cosmopolitan atmosphere and huge amounts of visitors (and therefore VAT income for the Monegasque government!). Of course, the Grand Prix completely changes the face of the Principality for 3 months, as the roads are full of temporary grandstands, crash barriers, tyres and blockades which are prepared two months in advance and take a month to dismantle afterwards, so there are huge logistics behind the event, the statistics provided by the Automobile Club of Monaco are impressive (see the “presentation” tab). Since the turn of the millennium, there has also been a Historic Grand Prix, which runs every even-numbered year two weeks before the main race, rather interesting to remind spectators of the race’s heritage as the first Monaco Grand Prix was run in 1929, though the first official race in the Formula 1 calendar was in 1950. And in 2015, the first electric Grand Prix, run by FIA under the name “EPrix” took place took two weeks before the F1 event and now also runs every two years.
I have always believed that one the greatest wishes that all frequent global travellers such as myself have is the ability to teleport in order to avoid the hassle of getting from A to B and just enjoying the stay in B instead of wasting time getting bored in some random means of transport without a decent wi-fi connection… Unfortunately at the time of writing, this is somewhat impossible (perhaps it won’t be the case in a few decades or so), so the best one can do is to try to optimise travel times and make the journey as smooth as possible!
The French Riviera is no exception: the destinations listed on my blog may be in a pretty small geographical area, but getting from, for example, Cannes to Monaco at the height of the summer might be a rather sweaty, crowded, time-consuming and unpleasant experience if you don’t play your cards right.
In this short practical guide, I would like to share my experience and tips on how to get around the French Riviera with as little hassle as possible (and even perhaps squeeze out just a tiny bit of enjoyment!) so that you can enjoy your time in the actual destinations that I describe elsewhere. I will cover the three major means of transport, which are the train, bus and car, but will leave out the snazzy methods such as water taxi, limousine and helicopter, which are reserved for the elite. The same applies for taxis which are a rip-off and therefore also an elite mode of transport unless there is no other choice.
Monaco: gorgeous, but not as expensive as you may think. Follow the advice below for a rip-off free experience!
No, Monaco is not as expensive as you may think… Some of you may be contemplating a trip to Monaco in the near future but have this impression of the Principality as a place where you cannot get by with under 1.000€ per day. Naturally, if you do have the desire to spend that amount, you can easily find hundreds of exotic ways of getting rid of large sums of money in a couple of minutes!
The good news is that Monaco is also a place where normal people, not just multi-millionaires, live and work, and that there are therefore plenty of ways for the common of mortals to have a wonderful sample of what the country can offer on a very reasonable budget. Follow the advice below and you’ll find that, contrary to popular belief, Monaco is much cheaper than most major cities in Europe on several different levels.
The facade of the Prince’s Palace lit up in red to celebrate the birth of the Royal twins (C) Palais Princier de Monaco
Those of you visiting Monaco this week will have noticed, in addition to the usual beautiful Christmas decorations on Casino Square and the ubiquitous Christmas market on the harbour, a certain air of joy in the air and spontaneous celebrations throughout the Principality.
This is all because of a historic event that has taken place for the first time since 1958, with the birth on Wednesday 10 December of the first children of TSH Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene:
HSH Gabriella Thérèse Marie, Countess of Carladès (born at 5.04pm).
HSH Jacques Honoré Rainier, Hereditary Prince and Marquess of Baux (born at 5.06pm).
The Old Town of Monaco isn’t really renowned for the quality of its restaurants: between the souvenir shops, you can find snack bars and different restaurants which, without being bad, aren’t particularly memorable, with a few exceptions – until the summer of 2011, when a very notable “exception” opened up.
La Montgolfière isn’t your run of the mill tourist restaurant – if you are looking for very well-executed traditional Mediterranean fare but with a slightly exotic twist and a charming location, this is the place to go. This tiny and very quaint establishment, located on a small pedestrian street in the very heart of the old town of Monaco, a few steps away from the Prince’s Palace and the town hall square, only seats about 20 people and it is staffed exclusively by the Monaco-born chef, Henri Geraci and his wife Fabienne.
The Jardin Exotique (Exotic Garden) of Monaco is one of these places which is stunningly beautiful but is generally neglected by most visitors to the Principality, simply because it is so far out of the way. Located on a rocky promontory at the north-western entrance of Monaco, jutting out over the Old Town and the Fontvieille area, most people just admire it from a distance whilst visiting the Palace Square without travelling up there, which is a bit of a shame. At the same time, the isolated location is part of its charm, affording stunning views over the whole of Monaco.
If you only have a few hours or a day in Monaco, I will be the first to tell you to stick to the main attractions, like the Old Town, the main port and Monte-Carlo, where the world-famous Casino is located. But if you are here for a bit longer or on a repeat visit and have a couple of hours to spare, I would definitely recommend a trip up the hill for a visit of the Exotic Garden and the newly-opened New National Museum of Monaco next door at the Villa Paloma.
Typical medieval alleyway in the Old Town of Monaco
This is basically part of the walking tour I recommended to guests staying at my hotel a few years ago. Allow about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace, excluding food pitstops or visits of monuments.
The tour starts at the Place d’Armes: the central market square within easy downhill access from the train station (turn right when exiting the train from Nice towards the “Fontvieille” exit” and go through the tunnel with travellators then follow the signposts and the crowds of people). The typically “Provençal” (ie. slightly overpriced but with lots of good quality “Mediterranean” produce) market is open every morning until around 12pm, so could be worth a quick stopover to have a nice coffee or to grab a snack – there are several reasonable places inside, including one selling “socca”, a typical regional pancake made of chick pea flower. The Place d’Armes is also a great place for people-watching and to see real Monegasque locals going about their daily business (quite a feat especially in the summer), and where most gossip is exchanged about what is going on in town.
This is also known as “Monaco Ville” or “Le Rocher” (the Rock) and is the government and historical centre of the Principality, as well as being one of the two main tourist sites. The old town of Monaco might seem a bit too clean and glitzy for connaisseurs of other more authentic villages in the region, such as Sainte Agnès, La Brigue or even Villefranche – it is Monaco after all… However, if you follow the advice below, it is always possible to have a nice walk around, trying to avoid the hordes of tourists and souvenir shops. That is why the best time of day is dusk, once the souvenir shops have closed, the streets are quieter and the crowds of tourists have taken their coaches either back to their cruise ship or to drive round the harbour and “visit Monte Carlo” in 15 minutes.