"Is this Utopia ????" Monaco by sirgaw
Monaco Travel Guide: 1,063 reviews and 3,076 photos
It was at the tourist train station that I produced my Australian seniors card in the hope of getting a discount, where the male cashier said, "If you are under 26 we'll give you a discount. We look after the young here, this is Utopia!"
Perhaps he was right and on our all-too brief visit to the second smallest country on Earth we saw nothing but neat and tidy streets completely free of the litter we had seen in other parts of Europe.
We were staying in Nice and wanted to do 2 one day trips - one to Monaco and the other along the Chemins de Fer railway. We had heard that Monaco is expensive and so opted to stay in Nice - in hindsight perhaps Monaco might have been a better option as we actually found the few items we bought in Monaco were cheaper than Nice - and yes we were surprised.
Our visit to Nice was marred as the French rail workers decided to go on strike and our only option in getting to Monaco was by bus - not that I minded as I wanted to experience one of the best of the worlds sea view drives.
The Nice bus station was awash with people all clamouring to get onto the strings of over-crowded buses. The bus company tried to shift the masses but I guess it was a loosing battle against the tidal wave of humanity. Eventually we got on and lucked in by being towards the front of the queue and therefore a much sort-after seat and so settled in for the 45 minutes or so of staring at the every changing vista of small towns that mingled into other small towns with a magnificent back drop of mountains cascading to the Mediterranean sea.
We arrived at Monaco and someone gave us a few pointers on what to see - first up the hill towards the princes palace and the old quarter - and having seen the hill decided the local bus was a better option rather than tramping. We arrived at the old quater bus station and started wandering around. First stop was the Chocolaterie de Monaco (see separate tip) followed by a visit to the Monaco Cathedral (see tip). Hunger started to overtake us and we found a myriad of small shops selling souvenirs (like the Monaco Pirate tee-shirt - and no I didn't buy one) and off course eats. We chose to eat el fresco and took out made up salad rolls and can of drink each to the park right on the cliffs edge and almost beside the famous aquarium.
Although I'm not a fan of the tourist trains that snake their way around cities, they are a reasonably priced option to a coach tour and so we decided to take a tour complete with taped commentary. Seeing we had limited time in Monaco this was probably the best.
We got to do most of the world famous Monaco Grand Prix circuit although our tourist train was only travelling at a fraction of the speed of the F1 racers. We went through the tunnel, saw the swimming pool and then up through a couple of hairpin bends to the casino corner.
After we left that train off to the Palace to see if anyone was home - no we were not invited. Damn, that's another person to scratch off the Christmas card list, but we did see some of the tapings of the good life - ah if there is such a thing as re-incarnation I want to come back as a Prince - well I can dream can't I?
We walked down a steep hill and through the commercial section of Monaco and just to give my bank manager the you-know-what's, decided to use an ATM and draw out some cash - at least that will show up on my bank statement to prove that we were there.
We walked along and tried to get into the Monte Carlo Car Club rooms - and got shown the door. Another casualty for that Christmas card list.
Somehow we got lost and couldn't find the casino, but a few wealthy helpful locals soon put us on the right path to damnation and after checking in our camera and hand guns, we were allowed to wander almost at will in the foyer area of the casino. The slot machines area was the only place we would have been allowed to enter dressed as we were - more casualties for that list.
. . . and so as we wandered back to the bus station through manicured gardens we gazed at the trappings of wealth in the form of a motorcade of bright red Ferraris right outside the ginger-bread style Hotel de Paris and their sign "Avenue des Beaux-Arts" with such luminaries as Cartier and Louis Vuitton listed, we thought of an overcrowded bus trip back to Nice.
The bus station was almost a riot of anticipation as a bus pulled in at the wrong spot. Those who had waited in line by the sign post suddenly found themselves at the back of the queue and tempers were frazzled. Our grey hair helped in lucking in for the second time and we snared a comfortable forward facing set of seats - then "she" came in.
There's an old saying, "You can choose your friends, but not your relatives." Maybe they should add travelling companions to that saying. She was either very drunk or drugged and we really couldn't work out which, or maybe it was a combination of the 2. Whatever it was produced a woman who gnawed on a sandwich that would make a wild animal look twice in horror, who lolled all over her seat, fell onto the bus floor and having tried to engage others in conversation she eventually fell asleep - much to everyone's relief, but on the shoulder of a complete stranger (see photo).
It must have been the flash of my camera that woke her up and she muttered something along the lines of "Most people fall asleep in a bus," to which someone replied, "Yes but not many fall on the floor of the bus." I offered to sell the photo on eBay - more laughter.
We finally arrived back at the Nice bus station and decided to bolt away from the young woman and into the labyrinth of back streets of the old quarter and find a cheap eats for dinner.
I think next time - that's if there is a next time, we'll stay in Monaco where we were told, there is one police officer for every 57 people in the country. Maybe it is Utopia - for the police.
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