Monaco : Visiting the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera)
A choo choo ride to Monaco.
Well not exactly a choo choo ride per say as the trains are now modern versions and it goes whoosh instead. We were excited about Monaco and had planned the EuroChameleon route carefully so that we could visit this small (yet wealthy) country while we were in France. Deciding on staying in Nice was a good thing as we we were able to take a train from Nice Ville to to Monaco Monte Carlo but not before having a lot of confusion at the train station.
Getting to the local train station was easy because it was just 10 minutes away from the hotel. We had pre-booked tickets from Nice Riquier-Monaco online, both ways for Euro 5.60 per person before we headed to Europe. This was where the confusion happened because we were in Nice Ville (not Nice Riquier). After printing out the tickets at the machine (it’s easy, just follow the instructions on the sticker), we boarded the train to Nice Riquier which was 3 minutes away, went down to scan the tickets to Monaco, waited for the next train to the city about 40 minutes away.
What we learned from this:
- We could have gotten the tickets easily from Nice Ville to Monaco without having to pre-book them online. Unless of course it was on discounted price.
- We were confused with our location which was Nice Ville and not Nice Riquier, so it’s wise to check which stations are available in your area. We had booked from Nice Riquier but we were in Nice Ville instead.
- We didn’t have to get a ticket from Nice Ville to Nice Riquier AND THEN get on the train to Monaco. We could have just used our pre-booked ticket to go direct to Monaco.
- Go early to check the timetable and check which trains go to Monaco as there are express trains and normal trains (crowded with quite a lot of stops) available.
Met a French speaking Englishman on the train to Monaco.
On the train to Monaco, we met an Englishman who has been living in Nice for 11 years but wished to get out due to the reality of life in France. He summed it up as an illusion, pretty facade but underneath lies racism, corruption and such especially if one lived there. He asked where we from and when we told him Malaysia, he exclaimed “Ahh I love your food!”
He continued to tell us a story of how he went on a road trip in UK with his girlfriend and on the way they found this lovely farm out of nowhere with a Malaysian flag on the wooden fence. It turned out to be a restaurant and they decided to stop to give it a try. The restaurant had a very homey feeling, cozy in fact and they received a very warm welcome from the Malaysian lady who was the wife of a local there. She invited them in and served them delicious Malaysian curry which he said was an unforgettable experience. We chatted for a few more minutes before he got down at his stop, telling us to look out for a posh underground tunnel in case we’re not sure which station belongs to Monaco.
There it was, the posh underground tunnel of Monaco station.
For once I was glad that the station was an underground tunnel because it concealed us from the cold wind that. We followed the crowd up the escalator, tapped our cards at the yellow stand and walked into the station area. A lady at the information counter showed us the way out of the train station through the elevators and escalators. We ended up at Pont Duport Server bus stop figuring out how and where to go next.
Observing the locals and tourists hop onto the local bus from where we were, we took a few minutes to study the bus lines before getting on to one that’s headed towards the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. A day pass here for the bus costs Euro 5 and it’s much more affordable than paying Euro 1.50 for each way. We made that mistake before deciding on getting the day pass and hopping on the different lines in Monaco.
What we managed to see in terms of places of interest.
Taking the bus up to the Palace we saw the view of Monaco below us with glorious yachts and boats parked in an orderly manner. We felt misplaced in this wealthy city where the people drive in luxurious cars (Bentley, Porsche, Lamborghini and the likes) and dressed in money. Surprisingly the locals were nice and friendly, replying us with a smile whenever we had questions on directions in Monaco.
Our first stop before the Palace was Jardin Exotique de Monaco, a park located at the top of the hill with a view of Port Monaco below. We didn’t go in to the park as we were worried about time (this is what happens when you rush during travel) but we did go into the foyer area where we’re allowed to take photos and view a selection of plants that could be found in the park. It’s basically a garden filled with succulent plants or cactus in many shapes and sizes. They come from as far as Mexico, Central and South America, South Africa and Eastern Arabia. It’s a nice place for people who appreciate gardens and nature.
Jardin Exotique de Monaco | Address: 62, Bd du Jardin Exotique, Monaco | Tickets: Adults Euro 7.20 (includes Exotic Garden + the Observatory Cave + Prehistoric Anthropology Museum) | Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm
We took the bus (line 1 or you can take line 2) down the hill and up again to Place de la Visitation bust stop or Teminus Monaco-Ville. From here where we walked through back alley lanes for 5-10 minutes before coming out to the Prince Rainier Palace, home to the Grimaldi household. Alas it was closed when we were there and the weather was so gloomy it started to drizzle. We did have a chance to walk around the Palace which overlooks both the port and the Mediterranean . Guards and cannons are seen at the entrance of the Palace which was restored over time. A statue of Francois Grimaldi stands outside the palace commemorating his capture of the fortress disguised as a monk in 1297. We missed out on the Mirror Gallery, the York Room, the Yellow Room, and the magnificent Throne Room which I had looked forward to for this visit.
Prince Rainier Palace | Address: Monaco-Ville, Monaco | Tickets: Adults Euro 8.00 | Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm, April-October only (However best to check the timing beforehand).
Since it started to rain, we walked back to the bus stop and headed to Place d’Armes, a central market square selling local produce close to the shopping area of Cordamine and Port Hercule. It’s also a nice place for a coffee or snack break as there’s ample of cafes around the area.
Place d’Armes | Address: MC 98000 Monte-Carlo, Monaco | Opening Hours: Every morning – 12pm
After the coffee break we went down again, closer to the port and walked around the Fun Fair area where a row of stalls selling doughnuts, drinks, ice cream (yes even in the cold weather) was opened. Right next to it is a Haunted House covered in cotton and a Merry-Go-Round which opens in the evening. From where we stood, we could see the grand yachts and boats up close as we were close to the port area. It’s like a giant car park on sea!
It started to rain and we quickly got onto the next bus to the Monte Carlo Casino. Just as we arrived at the bus stop, the rain poured heavily and we were squeezed with other passengers under the tiny roofed shelter. Deciding to continue walking to the Monte Carlo Casino, we opened up our disposable raincoat which were a 2 pieces of yellow plastic covering ourselves from head to toe. We looked ridiculous to the locals and they smiled, a few trying to hide their giggles at our outlook. We continued anyways, drenched by the time we got in front of the Casino. We managed to see limousines lined up to drop off their owners or passengers, umbrellas quickly being whipped out by the staff o bring them in safely while we stood under a tree trying for shelter. The rain was too ridiculous for us at this point and we decided that it would be the end of our trip in Monaco.
Monte-Carlo Casino | Address: Casino de-Monte Carlo, Place du Casino, Monaco | Opening Hours: 9am – 12:30pm (visiting of the Games Room before the Games operate) | Tickets: Euro 10 per person | Dress Code: Correct attire mandatory, jackets after 8pm
What we missed out on.
If the weather was clear that day, we could have gone to more places such as walking around the Formula 1 Grand Prix tracks, riding the Azur Express to visit the Monaco Port, Monte-Carlo and its palaces, as well as viewing the Prince’s car collection which has everything from carriages to Formula 1 race cars. It would have been nice to also see the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium as well as view the inside of the Prince’s Palace. Otherwise, Monaco proved to be a nice city where we get to pretend to be rich folks (in our plastic raincoats) even for that one day.
About Yafieda Jamil
A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.