‘A day along the French Riviera with the rich and famous in lavish Monaco’

Mar 18, 2021
The Port Hercule and Montecarlo from Monaco Ville. Source: Getty Images

It was something I had really been looking forward to — sailing into Monaco’s impressive harbour, Port Hercule — and it didn’t disappoint. An amphitheatre of hills and high rise apartments looked down on the main actors of the piece — the hugely expensive private yachts of the rich and famous, and now us, on the Rotterdam.

We’d been to Monaco once before on a road trip through France and Italy and had witnessed this awesome sight from the point below ‘The Rock’, as the old city, Monaco-Ville, is known. Yet, being in this expensive and exclusive city had a powerful effect upon us, making us feel insignificant and unworthy to be there. Certainly we could not afford some of the high prices in the shops. We had only spent a short time there — parking was difficult — and then we continued on to Nice. This visit, with the expert guidance of Marcine from Marsatis Tours, our small busload of cruisers managed to see some of Nice as well as the charming, medieval hilltop village of Èze, in France, before returning to the main sights of Monaco-Ville, Monte Carlo, and our ship.

Monaco and Nice
Monte Carlo is one of the four sections of Monaco, situated along the French Riviera north-east of Nice, France. Source: Liz Sier

The coast road to Nice has some spectacular views, although the morning light and mist made it difficult to capture on camera. The city itself is rather grand along the Promenade des Anglais, with many fine, expensive hotels, such as the Negresco. Marcine dropped us off for individual exploration of Vieille Ville (Old Town, Nice, also known as Vieux Nice) on foot after a quick drive through.

We started with the Marché aux Fleurs in Cours Saleya — hundreds of flowers displayed under striped awnings — a riot of colour. A flower market has been here since 1897. Open every day except Monday, this market now offers mainly fruit and vegetables, and authentic local products from inland Nice. From there we strolled along the promenade past the beach volleyball courts as far as Jardin Albert 1er and then back up to Place Massena whose roundabout was adorned with a huge statue of Apollo and sculptures of horses as fountains. There was to be an expo in the gardens and many soldiers were making reconnaissance of the entire area, weapons at the ready.

Back near our rendezvous point with the bus, at the Place du Palais de Justice, we stopped at a café for a cuppa and discovered the city of Nice provided free Wi-Fi in that area. Just the thing we cruisers need, as on board the connections are so slow and expensive.

eze monaco nice
The renowned tourist spot, Èze. Source: Liz Sier

Next stop in the bus was Èze. This charming medieval village is perched on a hilly clifftop midway between Nice and Monaco. Taking a small, rocky path from the roadway below, we reached a lookout offering a panoramic view of the sea and coastline. The two lookout towers at the entrance, the doorway and the gunboat are all classified as historic monuments. I would have loved to have more time to explore this pretty little village, climbing up steep, narrow, car-free, winding cobbled streets, popping in and out of arts and crafts boutiques and taking lots of photos.

ese monaco nice
The buildings in medieval village of Eze Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur have been recently turned into small shops and cafes. Source: Liz Sier

One of the attractions in this village is the former Château de la Chèvre d’Or, now a first-class hotel and restaurant with private gardens and spectacular views. It is recognisable by the golden statue of a goat atop one of its roofs. Some of our group went to the famous perfumery Fragonard, while we found an outdoor restaurant serving delicious savoury crepes. All that walking up and down the little lanes had given us quite an appetite, and we were keen to try these iconic French treats.

Further around the hilltop, the bell tower of Sainte-Croix Chapel of the White Penitents stood out from the cluster of buildings that make up the village. It stands within the exotic botanic garden, where an impressive collection of cactus, plants and rare vegetation surrounds the remains of an ancient chateau. The precipitous village cemetery is still in use on one side of the gardens.

The Rock Monaco
The Rock of Monaco is a 62m tall monolith on the Mediterranean coast. Source: Liz Sier

Back into Monaco along the Corniche road we found a terrific viewpoint above the city where we could see our ship and understand why the old city is called ‘The Rock’. Then our driver took us there for some free time to wander, where we admired the Palace of the Princes of Monaco, the official residence of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco built in 1191, and took even more photos of the scenery.

At heart of the Principality, on the site of a fortress stands the Prince’s Palace. It is the official residence of the Prince of Monaco and one of Monaco’s most impressive landmarks. Source: Getty Images

After walking through the narrow shopping streets we finally arrived at the magnificent Cathedral where we queued for the chance to see the tomb of Princess Grace.

Monaco is also world renowned for two other attractions — the Grand Prix and the Casino de Monte Carlo. We travelled along the roads that make up some of the Grand Prix racing circuit and our driver actually did a mock racing start, which gave us a bit of a surprise. The Casino wasn’t open yet and some of us were not attired formally enough to even go inside, so we checked out the Cafe de Paris casino and restaurant instead.

Monte Carlo Monaco
Monte Carlo’s legendary marble-and-gold casino, Casino de Monte Carlo, is Europe’s most lavish example of belle époque architecture. Source: Liz Sier

All too soon our day was over and we headed back to the ship. The experiences and sightseeing in Monaco and surrounds were even more wonderful than that visit years ago, so I left feeling like we had been well rewarded.

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