Thursday, August 6, 2009

7 Days on the Cote d'Azur, Part 4: Three Countries in One Day (Wed, 7/29)

The last full day of the trip saw us sticking to the coast, yet heading east of Nice to Monaco and beyond. We began the day by driving up to the little village of La Turbie that has quite an old monument. An ancient monument, to be exact-- erected by the Romans to commemorate Caesar Augustus's victory over the wild tribes of the Alpes. It was built between 13-12 B.C.!

The remains of Caesar's statue-- can you see his head?

We had great views of the sea and Monaco from up on top of the monument, but the best part of it was the drive we had to take to get there-- we went up the Grand Corniche, which is one of the roads Grace Kelly drives on in Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief. It was fun to twist and turn on the same sinuous path she took back in the 50s and which led her, incidentally, to her future husband, King Rainier of Monaco. More on that in bit...

After La Turbie, we decided to drive down to Monaco, but when we saw how close we were to Italy, we couldn't resist. We hit the gas and headed to the border, stopping in Ventimiglia for a beverage before turning around and heading back to France.

Italy, dead ahead!

Cocktails on an Italian terrace with a view back to France.

Instead of heading right on to Monaco, we made another detour to the coastal town of Menton. It is apparently famous for its lemons, especially the limoncello made from said lemons. We wandered around the town square a bit, found a cute little shop selling the liqueur, bought some and headed on. We've yet to sample our purchase, however, so I'll have to let you know.

And finally to Monaco. What a beautiful place! Monaco is a principality whose ruling family, the Grimaldis, have been in power since 1297, making it the longest lasting dynasty in Europe! While Monaco is not part of France, it is essentially run by the French government in some confusing arrangement wherein the Prince allows a French minister to do all the daily business of running a country. Bizarre, but it works. The country/city is beautiful! Incredibly clean, friendly, and obviously loaded. We enjoyed a nice stroll through a mountain/sea side garden that led us up to the cathedral, where we visited the tombs of Princess Grace and King Rainier. From there we went for a look at the palace:

Prince Albert, the current ruler, lives here. As he is unmarried, he is one of the most eligible bachelors in Europe, but everyone pretty much assumes he will remain so, and that the line will pass to his sister's kids (they live down the street from the palace). I guess thus will end the dynasty!

After visiting the palace, we headed down to sea level to see the casino and port up close. The casino was not as big as expected, but still very impressive, especially with all the Bentleys, Porches, and Lamborghinis parked out front!

We wandered inside to see the decor (designed by Garnier, who did the Paris Opera House) and lose some money at the slots. I wanted to play Black Jack, but the gaming room had a cover charge, no thanks.

From there we went to the port to see the yachts up close. Wow! I can't even begin to imagine how much money we were looking at. Here's a shot of the yachts from above-- I'll let your imagination run with how they looked up close.

After that, we went and had a lovely dinner at a little restaurant a few blocks from the port and then it was back off to Nice. We packed up and headed to the train the next day for the long trip back to Paris. We had a great trip. Voila!

For all the photos of the voyage, click here:

Nice and the Cote d'Azur


  1. Loved reading this one Kate, so interesting! Can't believe the Prince of Monaco is still single...hmmm....:) Glad you had a good time. I love that you went to Italy for a drink! :) - Meg

  2. I have always wanted to go to Monaco! So jealous! Looks like you had a great time!