Sunday 21 June 2015
The train from Firenze stopped at Milano. A quick walk to the train a couple of platforms to my left, I was on the train bound for Monaco. The train company screwed up the system of seat allocation by slotting in an extra carriage, which meant I was initially left to sit in 2nd class. It doesn’t bother me which class I sit in but the conductor offered to move me to first class as the train company messed with the carriages. It was only in the next carriage, so I picked up my belongings and moved along to carriage 12 to sit in some wider seats with air conditioning.
After arriving at Monaco an hour and a half late at around 9pm, I started to itch! At first I was cursing those pesky mosquitoes which seem to always be attracted to my sweet meat. However, what I think it came down to though on reflection is FLEAS! I did notice that pets were allowed on the Italian train from Firenze to Milano. The bites weren’t that of a mosquito. Anyway, as I scratched my way out of Monaco train station I was blessed with an amazing view.
I met Bastian who showed me to his apartment that I was renting out for 2 nights. I know I was late meeting him due to the train being delayed but he too seemed tardy with his timekeeping. 6 flights of stairs later and sweating like a P.I.G, I was handed the keys before venturing out to the supermarket to pick up some dinner for the evening.
Monaco is built on hills so there were plenty of steps to climb and descend. Since the area is rich in money, there were public elevators all around which made getting from one place to another very easy. On my way to the supermarket (casino), I passed the beautiful Chappelle Sainte Devote lit up at night.
So, what to have for dinner when in France and in particular, Monaco! I chose to buy some cheese, red wine and “caviar”.
Monday 22 June 2015
Breakfast this morning was more of the same from last night. Sufficiently cheesed and caviar full, I ventured out to capture the views of Monte-Carlo. Since seeing the Chappelle Sainte Devote from the outside last night, I had a look inside today. Very small, it was still a lovely building.
Walking along JFK Street, I got a view of the beautiful harbour and all the Sunseeker yachts that were berthed.
Climbing to a viewing platform, I got a real sense of all the houses, flats and apartments that were built on the hillside. I hadn’t realised that it was so hilly.
I was advised that there was a coupon booklet in the tourist information centre which gave me money off the entrance fee to the aquarium. Since it was right opposite the famous Monte Carlo Casino, it was a good excuse to head that way. Next to the casino was Hotel De Paris which attracted some very flash cars. You definitely get a sense that there is a lot of money floating around here.
With a coupon booklet in hand, I paid a visit to the Musée océanographique de Monaco which was founded by “Prince Savant” Albert 1st of Monaco. For 11.50 EUR, I was in and wandering down 2 levels to see an array of different fishes in the aquarium. Sharks, Tuna, Jellyfish, Hermit Crabs, Octopus, Piranhas, Starfishes and many more species were on the display here.
The highlight and popular area in the aquarium was the tank where a SCUBA diver was cleaning the glass from the inside whilst sharks were happily swimming around. The diver was certainly happy to be doing her job with an audience.
As I snaked my way back up to the ground floor, you could stroke a baby shark. After a couple of hours in the museum, I walked over to the Prince’s Palace to capture another view of the harbour.
I was recommended to walk (or should I say that in reality it was taking public elevators) up to visit Le Jardin Exotique de Monaco. For 4 EUR, I thought it was worth a shot. The exotic garden was originally created by Prince Albert I of Monaco. Designed and opened in 1933 after 20 years work, it remains largely unchanged to this day. What no one told me was that this place was almost entirely made up of cactus plants!! I don’t mind one or two but a whole venue dedicated to them is a bit much. The plus point of this place was that it was on a hillside giving me amazing views of the sea.
Happy hour at the Brasserie de Monaco between 6pm and 8pm showed me that they brewed a tasty Pils. Having a light bite of fish and chips, it was a perfect sundowner for me after a day of walking and sightseeing.
A quick change back at the apartment and it was Monte Carlo or bust at the casino. Inside was grand with its high ceilings but it seemed very quiet even at 11pm. Perhaps it was a Monday night, or the 10 EUR entrance fee or perhaps the 15 EUR starting price for a cocktail. Either way, it felt like it was a place that people wanted to be seen at. After a small wager, I wasn’t entirely lucky as I called it an evening…
Tuesday 23 June 2015
Breakfast was the remainder of the bread, caviar and cheese from Sunday evening. Unfortunately, there was no more wine to go with it. That was fine since I had a 9:42am train to catch. I’d arranged for Bastian to meet me at 9am so that I had plenty of time to walk to the train station and settle down onto the platform. Being on form with his lateness, he arrived at 9:25am! This was not how I liked it. I was then shown to the platform by him as I handed back the apartment keys and he, in return, gave me my deposit back. I wasn’t quite sure I was led to the right platform so I shouted over to the lady attendant on the other side. Good job I did as I was standing on the wrong one. With sweat pouring by this point having to lug a 25kg rucksack, I rushed over to platform C with 2 minutes to spare. Next time, I’m going to tell the owner of an apartment to meet me 2 hours before departure!
I boarded the train and settled down into my cream leather seat as I gaze out into the distance admiring the sea and sand of France. My destination was west…