This was a port I had been looking forwards to since we first booked the trip. There are very few places in the world that are genuine bucket list items for me, but Monaco is one. We had hooked into a private tour organised by Ros, well before we left NZ as a group of just 8. By request, the tour increased to a total of 20 I think, but the other 12 were in a different van with their own tour guide. We arranged to meet at 7am in Magnum's (bar) and Ros had prearranged with the Passenger Services dept that we would be on the first tender boat to shore.
The flash yachts – complete with colour matching helicopters, Maseratis parked alongside, meant that we were definitely not back in Cochin... Or even Darwin...
Our guide and driver for the day, Sylvie, was brilliant. We walked along the pier to her van and she explained the options for the day, so we got exactly what we wanted. As it was early in the morning (relatively), we had two main advantages. Firstly, we managed a full lap of the Monaco F1 GP circuit. Now to those of a more religious persuasion, the Old City of Jerusalem was their moving experience. For me, sitting on the starting grid where my heroes, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss, Fangio, Jackie Stewart etc. had once been, was mine! Sylvie stopped the van at Casino Square for a photo shoot, but at that time of the morning, the glitterati (and their exotic cars) were still been asleep. We had to make do with just a couple of black Ferraris, a couple of Porsches and a hot Ford Focus. It was just a few days after the Monaco Royal wedding, so there was still a fair bit of evidence around, from the funfair down on the waterfront to the flags and flowers. This first half hour was an absolute delight for me and although I was in the rear seat of the van, Ros kindly took better pics of the starting grid and the finishing line for me.
Sylvie drove up to the guard who was stopping traffic travelling past the Royal Palace, fluttered her eyelashes and sweet talked him into letting us drive up past the Palace – something that would not have happened on a Princess 53 seater coach. On the climb out of the city, she stopped again, so that we could take pics of the fantastic harbour area. From then on, I really would have gone along with anything. I was totally happy and contented.
Our next stop was the stunning cliff top village of Eze. Maybe now you'll understand the heading of this blog a little better, though no doubt the other bloggers had similar thoughts as it did crop up in conversation. We had time to climb up to the top, though there was a €5 charge for the gardens at the summit. A small price to pay for such spectacular views and photo opportunities. We also managed a coffee/juice/comfort stop whilst Sylvie waited at the village at the bottom of the climb. Not a tough climb but not suitable for wheelchairs or even (Zimmer) walkers. On the way down, shops were just beginning to open and I took the opportunity to purchase a souvenir Monaco tee shirt – or two. I put the red one on immediately - which pleased Randy as then he could see me more easily.
On then to Nice (see, that subject line again...) and Sylvie stopped just above the town for another excellent photo stop.
We opted for a group photograph or two, but in Arnold's case, it looks more like a grope photograph... Sylvie parked on the edge of town and we walked just a couple of minutes down towards the market, but first, it was to Sylvie favourite bakery (she lives in Nice), where we loaded up with our own choice of lunch, before stepping into the fruit and veg market. So far on this trip, we have been to several countries and experienced several different cultures (and religions) but so far, as interesting as they all were, none of them really appealed as a place to live. Today was different (and not just Monte Carlo either). This market, tho0ugh not large, has to be seen to be believed. Bearing in mind this was mainly for fruit and veg, (plus spices and several other allied products) it was a knock out. The few pics we publish here just cannot do it justice. I came away with an individually chosen glace fruit selection – I passed on the petit fours. Not as sweet and syrupy as what I am used to, but what a variety. A whole stall of different dried mushrooms, the most amazing selection of tomatoes and so on. Yes, I could live here quite happily, though the Nice beach surface is terrible. The only sand was the volleyball court. However, the beach scenery varies from the really body beautiful to the over-cooked wizened walnuts (if you get my drift).
We ate on the move (our choice) and headed for another hilltop village much loved by artists.
St Paul de Vence
Once again narrow streets and interesting photo opportunities at just about every step, but more small shops and galleries – not to mention a somewhat out of place "Lily's Diner" - and a small church at the summit that was being prepared for a wedding. There are several hotels in the village and it is very much a tourist trap, like most places deemed popular. This means that crowds – particularly when two or more cruise ships are in the vicinity – can alter the character, but that is unfortunately the same for holiday destinations world-wide. Several of the countries and towns within them only survive on the income from tourism, as just about all have given up their own manufacturing to the Chinese.
Sylvie got us back to the tender back to the ship at 2:58pm. Spot on, as the last tender was due 3pm.
What a great tour with a wonderful guide and great company. This was a five star day – and it wasn't over...
Back on Board
Sailaway was 4pm, with the quiz at 4:30pm. Barbara exacted her revenge again on the person who writes in to complain by doing another PowerPoint quiz. Terrible with hard questions too! Such a shame that just one passenger writing in to complain, is so upsetting. I escaped before the answers were read out to go to see the ship's Doctor. The neck/shoulder problem can't be fixed (I need a chiropractor – which is what I thought anyway) but she did prescribe some pills to help relax the muscles and help me sleep. We'll see!
We celebrated Ros's early birthday as she and Arnold are getting off tomorrow in Barcelona and spending her birthday in Paris. We gave her a card from all at the GBLT group... (Don't ask...) As the theatre act was British, I wore my Union Jack shirt. We went to last year's cruise top act, the "Beatles Celebration". (Last year of course, they were stranded on the ship as they couldn't get off in Dublin as planned!) Wearing Beatle wigs and speaking with Scouse accents, it was just about all music, with minimal patter and the crowd just loved it. The most enthusiastic reception of any act so far. An encore was essential...
We weren't up to dancing so just a hot chocolate and listening to the music. So tonight, is it one 5mg pill or 2? H'mmm. If they make you that dopey (no comment!), with a residual effect, one should suffice.
A great day in all respects and one I'll probably remember for a long time.