Maybe being 50 is not quite so bad after all. This is a (very temporary) detour from ‘depressive’ news. I thought I’d share a spectacular weekend with you and any would-be travelers to the Principality of Monaco.
As I was always fascinated with Monaco and the Grimaldis, there is surely no better excuse for an impromptu trip than turning half a century. So armed with a wad of dough given to me by my family at the ‘don’t-mention-the-party’ party, we set of to Monaco – it would surely be rude not to spend it. Yes and before you ask, I relented and brought the lily-livered husband along for the ride.
We flew into Nice’s Cote d’Azur International Airport and took the short bus-ride from the airport into Monaco (40 mins on the 110). Not even the bus driver dropping us off as far away from the Hôtel de France as is geographically possible, could dampen our spirits; we were in absolute awe. What becomes immediately apparent is that this tiny country, the second smallest in the world, has one of the world’s wealthiest populations per capita and is home to only the beautiful people: the glitterati, the nouveau riche, the old riche, whatever which way rich. As most of us minions won’t make the forbes rich list, once you accept that the world is very unfairly divided (into glamorous
millionaires billionaires and us plebs), then you can just sit back and inhale this beautiful place.
As my (arguably) better-half has a passion for fast cars and I have a thing for beautiful doorways, we were both in our element. The architecture was spectacular and fast expensive cars were everywhere: Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Porsches. We even saw a rolls-royce; I haven’t seen a Rolls since the one that sat outside the Mirabeau restaurant in Sandycove in the 1980s. Now those were the good old days.
Our hotel, the ‘Hôtel de France’ on Rue de la Turbie, Monte Carlo, was perfectly situated around the corner from the Grimaldi Palace and five minutes from Hercules Port, where yachts the size of the HSS were parked inconspicuously (eh, no) cheek by jowl. Sometimes we just sat along the port, with a cocktail in hand and people watched. I was particularly fascinated with an elderly lady in a wheelchair being waited on hand and foot by two minders/carers. She looked every bit the wealthy heiress, but I didn’t recognise her. She and her minders looked pretty content though – who says money can’t buy happiness? The many nightclubs along the harbour went side by side with a childrens’ playground, numerous little pools and an amusement park. The atmosphere was electric, warm and felt very safe – although judging from the antics of some of the dancers, there was more being inhaled than just the atmosphere.
We eventually made our way to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, official home of the Grimaldi Royal family. The tour was surprisingly inexpensive, as were the lovely cafes and souvenir shops that surrounded it. The Palace itself was truly beautiful, packed with every priceless ornament and piece of furniture that you could possible imagine. Taking photographs was banned. While I was tempted to take a sneeky photo, a mutter about “respecting peoples wishes” from yer man made me reluctantly reconsider. Spoilsport!
As we were so near Italy and having previously read this guy’s blog, we decided to take a trip to Ventimiglia which is approximately 30 minutes by train. I’m so glad I read this man’s account first – it was easy-peasy and well worth the trip. Fabulous cafes, markets, beaches and an old-town Italian experience. The beach was fab, but very rocky and the sea was very rough – I only saw the danger sign after we had been roughed around by the sea a bit. There was an unfortunate incident with shorts that I won’t go into, but suffice to say the day was memorable and a gorgeous day out. We also got to sit upstairs on the train – who knew double-decker trains existed? Better than a Lamborghini any day, I’d say.
All in all, Monaco was absolutely spectacular and I can’t wait to return some day. There are a few things that really surprised me about Monaco, one being that the Society of St. Vincent De Paul have an office there (Pic 1 below), two that houses like this exist (Middle Pic) and three, any train station can have a view like this (Pic 3).
This was one little country that I will never forget and a holiday that I will treasure forever. Monaco is truly a very special place.