My writing includes my personal travel experiences, destination, history, and cultural information.
In my first article about Monaco, I briefly covered the history of this sovereign state, discussed the "Curse of the Grimaldis", and outlined the Monaco of today. I also shared my James Bond ish adventure on my first visit. Today, I will discuss, in more detail, the attractions or must-see places of Monaco. I will also fill you in on the details of my journey to Nice and my final impressions of this glorious mecca.
So, settle in for your virtual Monaco experience and read on!
The Pink Palace:
Officially referred to as Palais Princier de Monaco, The Prince's Palace of Monaco, the palace is the residence of the royal family. Originally built in 1191 as a fortress, throughout history, it has come under attack many times. Through all this turmoil, it has successfully managed to stay in the hands of the Grimaldi royal family.
The Palace has been the setting for royal weddings, christenings, and deaths. It has also been the scene of the passing of the proverbial baton as new heads of state have come to power. Knights have been knighted there. Royalty and celebrities from all over the world have enjoyed state dinners and danced at spectacular gala events.
Does the Grimaldi Family Curse Hit the Palace?
But, for all its history and beauty, even the palace renovations have come under scandalous rumor. When Rainer III was negotiating the terms of his future marriage to Grace, with John Kelly, Grace's father, the royal's financial health came under intense scrutiny. The Palace was said to have practically been in ruins from years of neglect due to the financial instability of the royal family. Witnesses tell us that the amount of the dowry requested by Ranier III from the Kelly family was solely for the purpose of restoring the Palace to its former splendor. While this may or may not be true, what is true is that after the wedding, the palace was indeed restored. And this restoration was overseen by none other than Princess Grace HRH. Was this controversy part of the curse said to have been placed on the Grimaldis?
My Time at the Palace:
On the tour that I participated in, the Palace, the Rose Garden, and the Cathedrale Notre-Dame-Immaculee were the itinerary. Because my tour was a morning tour, I had the opportunity to witness the changing of the royal guard.
Included in the tour of the Palace itself was the infamous Throne room. It is in this room where Ranier and Grace had their civil wedding ceremony, which is a requirement prior to the public wedding ceremony. The civil ceremony is a private affair, done in French, and it is when the official "Titles" are announced. Grace was given 142 royal titles when she wed Rainier.
The Rose Garden:
Grace died in an unfortunate car accident in 1982. It is rumored that there was marital discord at the time of the accident. But the building of this Rose Garden seems to contradict those rumors. In 1984, Rainer III ordered the installation of the garden as a memorial on the palace grounds to his late wife. It is also said that after the completion, he visited daily until the time of his death in 2005. I am told that there are more than 4000 rose bushes in the garden along with a beautiful statue of Grace.
Cathedrale Notre Dame Immaculee, which took 26 years from start to finish, was the last stop on the Palace tour. The bodies of St. Devote, Patron Saint of the Monégasque, Grace, and Rainier are laid to rest there. In 2011, a pipe organ with 7000 pipes and four keyboards was built and installed. It is said to be the most powerful organ in the world. During the tour, we also saw fabulous 16th-century paintings procured by the Grimaldis through the years. The Cathedral was also the site of the public wedding ceremony of Rainer and Grace.
The Train From Monaco To Nice:
On my third trip to Monaco, we felt like we had been there, done that. We decided to test our adventurous spirit. We took a city bus to the train station and bought tickets to Nice. Nice is less than 10 miles away from Monaco, so the ride would be short and give us plenty of time to spend in Nice.
It was a bit confusing finding the proper track and the proper train on our first attempt. Hilariously, we stood there and watched the train we should have been on leave without us! Since this is basically a commuter train, it ran every 20 minutes or so making the wait less painful. Amazingly, the train station was immaculate (no graffiti), non-chaotic, and had beautiful frescoes on the walls. The train was also very clean and exceptionally comfortable. Breathtaking doesn't come close to describing the views on the way to Nice! No longer French train newbies, we had no problems on the return to Monaco that afternoon.
My Time in Nice:
With Nice being the 5th largest city in France, I was surprised at how compact it is. Almost everything is located within the city center. Walking from the train station to the center was about a 10-minute walk. Unlike the train station in Monaco, the Nice station was a hive of activity with people running about, a busy tourist information center, vendors, etc.
Headed to the seaside promenade, as we made it into the center, of course, a cup of coffee was a must! The croissants weren't bad either! We had a lively conversation with the server who thought our French pronunciation was atrocious! He was a big jokester and thought it hilarious when we hit back with comments about his English accent! In the end, it was great fun and he was gracious enough to point us in the right direction to the promenade.
The Huge Controversy of Fontaine du Soleil:
Leaving the cafe, we walked along Blvd Jean Jaures and happened onto the Fontaine du Soleil, the Famous Sun Fountain of Nice. There is huge controversy over this depiction of Apollo and the planets of Mercury, Earth, Venus, Saturn, and Mars. So much controversy that at one point the fountain was dismantled and stored.
The story of Apollo is one where He carries the sun across the sky in front of the planets on a horse-drawn chariot. The fountain depicts the planets in the basin and the horses in a crown-like fashion atop the head of Apollo. The people were incensed at this incorrect depiction. If that wasn't bad enough, Apollo was nude and several special interest groups took exception to the size of his "manhood". The original sculptor tried to reduce the size by taking a hammer and chisel to the statue. Apparently, that wasn't enough to placate the people of Nice. In 1970, 24 years after the unveiling, the fountain was dismantled and stored. By 2007, the bronze planets were placed back in the basin. But Apollo, made of marble, was still absent. By 2011, Apollo was reunited with the sun and the planets, and peace was restored!
The Seaside Promenade:
The 4-mile seaside walkway is officially named Promenade des Anglais with many people simply referring to it as La Prom. Having a history steeped in the charity of the French aristocracy, the construction began in 1820 and was completed in 1860.
A few times in recent history, it has been included in the route of the Tour de France In 2016, it was the site of a horrific tragedy where a van ran over several Bastille Day partiers where 86 people were killed and 450 injured.
But mostly, the promenade is a place for people to walk by the sea, relax and get together with family and friends. Stairs lead down to the very rocky beaches. Surprisingly, there were a number of people sunbathing laying right on the rocks. Folks, I've been to many beaches that were pebbles, but these were rocks! Big rocks! Anyway, we did just like the Nicois and found a bench, sipped on some cold beverages, and relaxed.
Église Notre-Dame du Port de Nice
When it was time to head back to the train station, we got a bit confused and ended up on a different road. This turned out, however, to be fortuitous as it lead us to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Nice. You can't spend time in any European city without hitting at least one church! Right? The destination traditional lighting of a candle for Mallory, a prayer, and back on the trail to the train station we went.
Comparing Monaco to Nice:
While being two unique cities, there were many similarities. The hustle-bustle of both was contagious, and the cleanliness was amazing but there was one thing that stood out the most! The happiness factor of the people we encountered in both areas was palpable. People were friendly, they smiled, and they tried to assist.
Monaco is more of a resort playground for the wealthy whereas Nice is a place where people live, go to work, and experience a normal everyday life. Both have their place in tourism.
Part of traveling for me is experiencing life the way a local does and for this reason, I have to pick Nice as my favorite, given the two choices. Monaco was fabulous and dreamlike, Nice was normal life happening before my eyes.
One of the things I love about traveling is the spontaneous adventure. The day we arrived in Monaco and decided to go to Nice instead was an "on the fly" decision. Events like missing the train, getting directionally confused, or finding the controversial Sun Fountain are all part of the journey. It's my feeling that those are the things that make memories. Not, the 1000th church you've been into or the over-priced restaurant where you ate mediocre food. The adventure is the journey and the destination is the setting.
The French Riviera has been the playground for the rich and famous for decades. But that doesn't mean that you have to be rich or famous to go. These areas which are located on and around the Riviera, generate the majority of their revenue from tourism dollars. Prices for the "normal" traveler are affordable and offer good value to your travel dollars.
Would I go back to either or both again? You betcha! And, furthermore, if you haven't been to either, I highly recommend both destinations. Maybe you can experience your own James Bond moment!
Until Next time, friends, remember, "To Travel is to Live!!"
© 2022 Dee Nicolou Serkin