August 27, 2013

Monte Carlo: Disneyland for the Affluent and Wannabes

Here's the view from my balcony on the ship, anchored off Monaco. I'm about to have breakfast.

This would be one of our longest days in port -- from 8am to 8pm. Most passengers planned to spend the day exploring Monte Carlo, with its palace and casino.

Not me. Thirty-five years ago -- when I first started using Eurail passes to explore the continent -- I came to Nice because it was the cheapest place to stay on the French Riviera.

I returned occasionally to Nice, too. I could stay there and keep within the limits of Frommer's Europe on $25 a Day. I'd rent a bike and ride along the beautiful coastal path to the pricier Riviera towns, like Cannes.

I had read about the scenic Grande Corniche drive from Nice to Monte Carlo, so I hopped on a bus and headed out. The drive -- featured in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic movie To Catch a Thief -- was as picturesque as billed. But once I arrived in Monte Carlo, I looked around for about an hour at this fairyland for the wealthy and headed back to the real world of Nice on the next available bus.

When I was planning this trip, a travel agent said that Monte Carlo was her favorite stop on our Venice-Barcelona cruise. She liked having "security cameras on every street corner." Her remark confirmed what I had suspected: we had vastly different travel priorities.

As I surveyed the Monte Carlo skyline during breakfast this time, I knew I'd made the right decision about what to do next. The ship would sail for Marseilles that night, but my son, his gal and I wouldn't be on it. Instead, we got off the ship, rented a car (a BMW -- this was Monte Carlo, after all), and left town on the Middle Corniche, which doesn't have as much traffic as the Grande Corniche.

We headed for Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where I'd booked a hotel for the night. 

The next day, we'd drive to Marseilles and rejoin the rest of the family on the ship for the final overnight leg to Barcelona.

I'll recap that part of the Grand Tour tomorrow. But for now, I'll say this: those two days away from the ship were the best part of the 11-day cruise.

1 comment:

Dick said...

John,-- Wehave been to St. Rent many times and I agree that it is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever visited. Enjoy the rest if your trip.