July in the Cote d’ Azur (French Riviera) can be quite hectic and swamped with tourists so it was difficult to pre plan for some of my destinations. Monaco was one of those and so my crew and I disembarked the ship without any set itinerary.
Known for the glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo, this small country is actually comprised of 5 different districts with Monte Carlo being one of them.
The ship docks at the base of Monaco-Ville (the old town) where the popular Prince’s Palace is located. While we were told that there is an elevator that can take you up the steep cliff to the grounds, we never found it, so ended up climbing up the many steps of the pedestrian walkway. It was a relief to find a shady area to cool off in the plaza that had spectacular views across the harbor.
The palace is impressive having been built in the 13th century at the site of a Genoese fortress. It’s the Royal residence as well as a museum and there is a changing of the guard every day that is a major tourist attraction in Monaco.
Across the plaza, I came to a restaurant with marvelous views overlooking the sea and
within a few minutes I was with the owner sitting at a table on the verandah and eating some tasty local stock fish and other Monaco specialties. Phillipe Bonafede runs this 60 year old family restaurant called Castelroc, that although is loved by tourists, is a long and established favorite for the locals. It is the only one with authentic Monagesque dishes that are seasonal and locally sourced.
After that visit, it was time for more walking around this hilly area known as “the rock”. Passing St. Nicholas cathedral, the oceanographic museum and meandering through the lovely Princess Grace botanical garden, there were plenty of photo opportunities along the way.
Meandering back down the hill and into Monte Carlo we stopped in at Patisserie Riviera on the Boulevard des Moulins for a drink and a rest. The pastries looked too good to pass by and so the owner gave me one of their local favorites, a chestnut cream pastry along with some French macarons.
Feeling energized, (or was it just a sugar rush), it was more walking to the fabulous Place du Casino. The place was mobbed with tourists as well as people attending some special event that evening so I only was able to get a quick glimpse inside the casino. But, it was spectacular. Surrounding the casino is the famous Hotel de Paris and Café de Paris and this is also the spot of one of the big bends for the Formula One car race.
Although we definitely walked more than we hoped for a hot day, we still had to get back to the ship and now took the road back down the hill, past some amazing shops and through more beautiful gardens until we found the way to the port.
Back onboard, it was time to relax with a cold glass of wine and take in the beauty of Monaco from the comfortable chairs on the ship’s promenade deck.
Cheers and all the best,