Monaco & Nice

Trip Start May 25, 2008
Trip End Jul 04, 2008

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On our way out of Santa Margherita this morning, managed to take some very nice, different photos. Then, the scenery towards Monaco was stunning....very hilly, but always with the sea in the background and, as was the case most days, another fine sunny day.
As we rounded one particular sweeping right hand curve, to our left below us was the tiny principality of Monaco...population approx 32000! As we drove closer to the focal Rock of Monaco (141m elevation, and ) where the Palace sits along the edge opposite the ocean, our tour director explained a little of the local history (there is nowhere we have been to in Europe that is not steeped in history!), as well as what the vibe of the little place is like during Grand Prix week.
Our coach pulled up in a multi-story, purpose-built parking complex which appeared to have been designed around some quite high coaches, judging by the height between levels. Elevators took us to the top of the structure, where we exited & walked past the maritime museum, in front of which was a tiny yellow submarine used by the great Jacques Cousteau.
Wandering alongside the main road from here, we passed Princess Caroline's residence, part of the 'Old Town' which covers the large rock outcrop called Le Rocher (the Rock). Proceeding further up the slightly sloping roadway towards level ground, we found ourselves in front of the reigning Grimaldi families' church, St Nicholas Cathedral, consecrated in 1875.
Monaco was on the tailend of celebrating the April anniversary of the wedding between their Prince Rainier & Princess Grace from the USA, while we were there.....which leads me to describe the sombre atmosphere as we walked around the inside of the lovely church (photos attached), until we came upon the tombstones of both the Prince & the love of his life, Grace. Very touching it was and, even though Prince Rainier himself passed away in 2005, his daily habit of placing a single red rose on the tombstone of Princess Grace (deceased since way back in 1982) is continued by his family (Prince Albert of course rules). For a long while, the Grimaldi's were allowed to rule their independent nation as long as they could produce a male off-spring....time appeared to be running out for the family until in 2002 a new treaty between France & Monaco meant the independence could continue regardless of any future heirs!
After leaving the church, we meandered across to the other side of "the Rock" to where the castle sits, in time to see their changing of the guards......much less pomp than at Buckingham Palace, but no less serious an affair for those involved! Similarly, a great crowd had gathered just in time for the spectacle. From the square in front of the castle entrance, we made our way to a vantage point which overlooked the steep dropoff to the ocean behind us, then went across to a spectacular viewing area which allowed us to take in the view across their famous marina, which was filled to overflowing with yachts of every shape & size, though none appeared to be in our price range, strangely enough?
Using the excellent zoom on my camera I was able to grab a shot of the Monte-Carlo Casino in the distance, as we had no time in our schedule to go visit it.
The tour group enjoyed a leisurely light lunch at various points around the square, before hitting the coach again for our next little leg to Nice! Anywhere along this famous coastline, the scenery is fabulous, so it was no real surprise when our tour director pointed out a home at the base of cliffs dropping into the sea, which was owned by the members of U2.  Several other celebrities own homes, estates, mansions, etc around this area.
Our arrival in Nice was pretty special as well. The high winding road tended to drop in elevation until we rounded another long corner to see the Promenade Des Anglaise, a very wide (7m?) walking 'pavement' which stretches the whole way along the waterfront of Nice...several kilometres probably. The coach stopped in front of the truly 'posh' Radisson SAS hotel which was to be our home for the one night......very 'nice', pardon the pun!
The day was not over yet however, as we had a few hours before we were to meet again for 'even better scenery' on our short trip to a restaurant which was so high it overlooked just about everywhere in the area......we were impressed thinking about how the scenery could possibly be any better than what we had already witnessed!?
To fill in the time before dinner, what better way than a swim in the Mediterranean? It was damn cold, but extremely refreshing, once you got accustomed to the temperature...the tough part was negotiating your way into & out of the water....the drop off at the water's edge was so pronounced that the beach surface of pebbles (not sand) kept falling away under your feet, meaning the most effective method was to be on all fours (I kid you not)! Certainly not graceful, but practical.
Our drive to a 5-course dinner allowed us to get a view of the stretch of roadway off which Princess Grace & her daughter crashed so many years ago (daughter survived). We were not disappointed with the views from on high, overlooking huge bays & inlets along the way.
Bed was welcome tonight after another day chock full of incredible scenery.......even thinking about the room "rack rate" of 700 Euro, per person, did not make it hard to fall asleep!! Photo uploads later today
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