Nice and Monaco

Trip Start Feb 15, 2008
Trip End May 31, 2008

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nice is a modern city located on the French Riviera, or Mediterranean Coast, and has a population of around 1.1 Million. This glitzy, glamorous location is a premier tourist destination with its major draw card being a temperate to warm climate and vistas of emerald blue water. The main street has been recently renovated and a light rail system added. In reality there is not a great deal to do or explore in Nice, other than shopping or sunning yourself on the stone pebble beach. It's kind of like Beverly Hills only with worse traffic.

Nice or Nicaea, meaning victory, was settled by the Greeks in around 350 BC after a victory over the previous residents. The city soon became a trading port but due to competition from rival ports it struggled to maintain an adequate level of trade. The small port and harbour now solely cater to the birthing of luxury motor cruisers and docking of small to midsized cruise liners. Starting in the second half of the 18th century the English took to spending the winter in Nice and enjoying the panorama along the coast. Nice has changed from being an independent country to being Italian or French numerous times through history and officially became part of France in 1860 as a result of a referendum.

That morning I set off to see what sightseeing or history Nice had to offer. The city's most prominent vantage point is Castle Hill which is an old fortified site previously occupied by the Celtic Ligurians. The site became Romanised in early Christian times and a cathedral was erected, of which the ruins are still visible. The hill on which these ruins are located is now a public park and offers panoramic views of the surrounding coastline.

On another hill nearby, in the upper class neighbourhood of Cimiez, stands an old Franciscan Monastery which was founded in the 16th Century. Next to the monastery is a church which contains some important medieval oil paintings. Some impressive gardens and a cemetery are also situated on the site. Nearby are some interesting Roman ruins which include an arena, amphitheatre, thermal baths, and the Paleochristian basilica. Nice also has a modern art museum called Musée d'Art Moderne which has a giant Boxhead sculpture in the rear garden. Apart from that, wander around the narrow pedestrian streets or buy one of those dark blue 'NICE, French Riviera' t-shirts or bags that so many people get suckered into buying here.

That evening our group took a short bus trip to what is clearly the biggest wanker destination on the face of the earth; Monaco. The Principality of Monaco is officially a tiny sovereign state located in Western Europe. It is the world's second smallest country after the Vatican City and is also the world's second most populated after Macau in southeast China. The territory lies on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and is completely enclosed by France. Monaco is often regarded as a tax haven, and many of its inhabitants are wealthy foreigners. Monaco is also one of the most expensive places on Earth and as of February 2007, Monaco had Europe's most expensive real estate.

Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297, when François Grimaldi posed as a Franciscan monk seeking shelter. Once the residents opened the doors to help, Grimaldi's men captured the fortress. From 1793 to 1814, Monaco was under French control but in 1911, following negotiations with the French, the Princes of Monaco became the absolute rulers.

The Monte Carlo Casino provides one of Monaco's main sources of income; each year cashed up suckers and tourists on bus trips attempt to look sophisticated by tossing their money away at one of Monaco's casinos. The city also hosts the annual Monaco Gran Prix and preparation for this event was underway when we visited. This is a real 'look at me, look at my car' destination where cashed up old men flirt with the pretty young women who doll themselves up when they visit. It normally costs €15 to get into the main casino though the attractive young females from our group, clad in their skimpy black dresses, were quickly offered free entry tickets by the doormen as they passed. Once inside they were bought drinks and one of our girls was even given €50 to give some old Frenchy a peck on the cheek.
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