Friday, December 30, 2011

Mon coeur à Monaco

Today I arose slightly earlier and braved the luke-warm shower before breakfasting on tartines de confiture d'abricot (bread and apricot jam). The plan for today was Monaco, but I spent rather a long time trying to figure out where to get the bus from and how to pay, and ended up walking around the point between Nice the town and the old Port. More luxury yachts here, and one of those stone harbour enclosures with a lighthouse at the end.

Finally I found the bus and used my day pass (which I'm pretty sure wasn't actually meant to go all the way to Monaco) to get on. the bus was packed, but I managed to get a good spot to take pictures from as we wound our way along the coast.

The scenery was spectacular, with dry mountains plunging down to meet the sea and villages clinging to the rocks high above perfect beaches. The road was very familiar, either from James Bond or Grand Turismo or maybe both. We went through a few tunnels that I'm sure I've driven a virtual Elise through, and arrived at last in Monaco - a very small country within France. I took the bus a bit further and had to walk back and then get a bus through Monte Carlo and up to Monaco-Ville.

At least I've done my walking for the day.
Harbour and Monte Carlo from Le Rocher

Nice was once an independent state, but was conquered in the nineteenth century by France. Monaco still stands as an independent state today, and to see its position you can understand why. The main town itself, with palace and cathedral and shops and apartments, is set high on a rock jutting out over the ocean. If anyone ever tried to attack you, you could just retreat to the main town and close off the access route, then laugh and throw stones as the opposing army tried to get at you. The palace itself is a hodgepodge of ancient castle and more modern additions perched on the land-side of le Rocher (rock), and has a guard standing in a booth outside, like many palaces do. I walked all the way around the edge of the town, staring down at the waves crashing on the vertical cliffs, and found a pohutukawa tree in flower in the jardin exotique. Christmas tree!

View from the edge of the Rocher down to the sea

There was another German market down in the valley, so I wandered through that and considered the ice rink, but decided to save skating for another day when I don't have a large bag to carry. German markets, by the way, are 'German' because the stalls are done up as little wooden houses like you'd expect to find in a Bavarian forest. I have yet to find any stalls selling Bavarian sausages, however.

I'd seen a little church set in a chasm as I went by in the bus (foot of the chasm being at sea level), so I went to take a closer look. The church looks like a toy, framed by cliffs on either side with bridges spanning the chasm behind and in front. In any other place it would be a smallish church, but here it's dwarfed by the scale of its surroundings. Quite incredible.
I had another long search for the bus, a long wait at the bus stop (where I managed to take a few more pictures of the castle) and then a ride back along the coast on the packed bus.

Back in Nice, I was determined to take advantage of the day pass I'd paid 4 euros for, so took the tram the entire length of its route just as the sun was going down. There's a very impressive, very modern building at one termnius (Las Planas) that looks to be entirely for the trams but seems like it should have some much higher purpose as an exhibition centre or opera house.

So now, after a nice rice-rocket-chorizo-tomato dinner (works really well if you slightly burn the chorizo and create large clouds of smoke in the kitchen), I'm getting to know my latest room mates and thinking I should really get to sleep...

: )


what do you think?