A day trip to Monaco was the next thing on our agenda. We took the train – a fast and regular service that passes once an hour through Cannes, Nice, Menton and on to Monacco. We had our pick of seats as we climbed onboard, as it passed through the centre of Cannes and onto Nice it became more and more busy with standing room only.
The train stopped for a short time in Nice then we were on our way again. A stunning stretch of coastline from this point on with the mountains, the sea glistening and twinkling with its many shades of blue and loads of people sunning themselves on the beaches. The odd luxury yacht bobbing about here and there completed the idyll.
One hour later and we arrived in Monaco. We emerged from the train several levels below ground so joined a queue to take the lift up a few levels. We stopped briefly at one of the terrace areas to check out that view.
Coming out from the station we realised everyone else must have found a better route, we were the sole people on the street. We later discovered there is an underground walkway linking the station to Monte Carlo – walking made easy, that would have eliminated our hill hiking in the fierce sunshine. We found it on the way back – it made life so much easier.
We arrived late morning and made our way first to the Royal Palace, keen to watch the Changing of the Guard. You can spot the palace from a way off, it is part of the old town and sits on a promontory called “The Rock.” It is a lovely yellow building, still home to the royal family.
We raced up a steep hill and a gazillion steps, sweating, huffing and puffing to reach the top before the Changing of the Guard at 11.55. We made it with five minutes to spare but still managed prime viewing spots. Children were allowed to sit in front of the barrier which was great for Son.
It was so incredibly hot and with not an ounce of shade to be had, I was seriously considering seeking much needed shelter from the sun and leaving my prime spot – five minutes of this was long enough for me and relief was my feeling that we had not arrived earlier. The sound of the drums and trumpets that signaled the start of the guard change was definitely music to my ears.
The guard change took about ten minutes, involved some marching around and about a dozen soldiers as well as a couple of drummers and trumpet players. Not on the scale of some guard changes I’ve seen but impressive nonetheless and I would have felt we’d missed out had we not experienced this.
The crowds dispersed quickly and we used this chance to take some pictures of the palace and have our lunch. We ate this in a shady place, just across the road disturbed by some aggressive seagulls and pigeons who would not take no for an answer, then wandered through the old town.
This is the only part of Monaco to have retained small, winding, medieval streets and lanes. Picturesque for sure – the rest is a bit of a concrete jungle – but the souvenir shops and ice-cream parlours were (in my opinion) especially tacky and let the whole place down. It is pedestrianised and some of the previous century houses still remain but we didn’t linger too long, keen to make our way to the cathedral – one of my Monaco highlights.