We docked in Nice instead of Monaco (due to potentially choppy seas); but we figured not a problem, we’d take the train. We walked forever and never did find the station (or a local person who seemed to know where it was), but did find the bus stop, so we stood in a long line, finally got on a very crowded bus and stood all the way to Monte Carlo. We ran into a British couple from our ship who had tried to take the train (and had paid 15 euros for a cab to get there), only to be told a strike somewhere else was causing problems and there wouldn’t be a train for at least two hours. Ah, the perils of travel . . . .
In any case, we got to Monaco minutes before the changing of the palace guard and literally sprinted up the steps to the top of the “rock” to catch the action at 11:55. This is a beautiful, tiny country featuring some Belle Époque architecture and an almost vertical system of streets, stairs and pretty dense high-rise buildings. Everything is very green and, of course, the centerpiece is the lovely waterfront filled with yachts of every size.
We wandered around a bit, took some photos of the beautiful harbor, and then set off to find the restaurant I had selected and reserved for lunch. Once again, no small feat in this mountain municipality. Finally, we arrived very hot and bedraggled at Le Saint Benoit, also with a pretty view of the harbor. Waiters were very good with the ice water and eventually we cooled off enough to order. I had the special of the day, which was the local fish (Bream), served with small vegetables it was really delicious. For dessert we shared an amazing chocolate pastry.
Thus fortified, we set off for the famous Monte Carlo Casino. I was there while in college, not old enough to get in and had been so disappointed. This time, I was disappointed that I did get in ;-). We were dressed nicely (pretty much everyone else was your typical tee-shirt and shorts tourist); we were extremely hot, since the day had really warmed-up and we had walked and walked (A/C was minimal); the dealers and croupiers never smiled; you pay 10 euros to get in; and basically you can only go into one room for table games and two rooms with minimal slots.
I played roulette and didn’t like that each chip is valued at $5, so this is not conducive to spreading them all over the table in my usual style of play! My husband played black jack and enjoyed the difference of the dealer taking a single card at the end of each deal (a $25 minimum). All-in-all we broke even.
We managed to find the bus to Nice quickly and this time got a seat and good A/C for the half hour ride back.
Notes: The 100 bus travels between Nice and Monaco and is 1.5 euros per person. There are 6 stops in Monaco. The train is a bit more and apparently a bit more erratic. Both the bus and the train run along the beautiful coast. Check the schedules and stops in advance.
FYI – The famous Hotel du Paris, by the Casino, is closed until December 15, 2014 for renovations.