Monaco, Nice and Eze

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.

Port HerculeWe had 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. But the casino side of the 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. 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 bus load of cruisers managed to see some of Nice as well as the charming, medieval hilltop village of Eze, in France, before returning to the main sights of Monaco-Ville, Monte Carlo, and our ship.

Hotel NegrescoThe 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 Vielle 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.

Nice Flower marketNice Fruit market

beachside Promenade des AnglaisApollo Fountain Place MassenaFrom there we strolled along the beachside promenade as far as Jardin Albert I 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. (And this was well before the dreadful event of July 2016.)

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 wifi in that area. Just the thing we cruisers need, as on board the connections are so slow and expensive.

Ezelaneway EzeNext stop in the bus was Eze. 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 coast-line. The two look-out towers at the entrance, the door-way and the gun-boat are all classified as historic monuments. We had barely enough time to explore this pretty little village, climbing up narrow, car-free, winding cobbled streets, popping in and out of arts and crafts boutiques and taking lots of photos.

Château de la Chèvre d’OrAccommodation in this village is available at the former Château de la Chèvre d’Or, now a first class hotel and restaurant, with private gardens and spectacular views.

White Penitents church EzeFurther around the hilltop, the bell tower of Sainte-Croix Chapel of the White Penitents stands out against the  exotic botanic garden, where an impressive collection of cactus, plants and rare vegetation surrounds the remains of an ancient chateau. The village cemetery is still in use on one side of the gardens.

Some of our group went to the Parfumerie 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.

view from Corniche lookoutMonaco PalaceBack to 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 Prince’s Palace and took even more photos of this spectacular scenery. Monte CarloPort du FontvielleCanon near the palace face out over the old port, Port du Fontvielle, which also has its fair share of luxury boats.

Monaco Old CityAfter walking through the narrow shopping streets we finally arrived at the magnificent Cathedral.

Inside we queued for the chance to see the tombs of Princess Grace and Prince Ranier.  Princess Grace tomb

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.

Casino de Monte CarloThe 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.Cafe de Paris

All too soon our day was over and we headed back to the ship. The views from there were equally as wonderful as that visit years ago, so I left feeling like we had been well rewarded. Now it was only one more sleep till we would be back in Barcelona and our cruise would be over.View from ship

Monaco Shore Excursion: Small-Group Monaco and Eze Day Trip – $109.80Experience glamorous Monaco and medieval Eze on this full-day shore excursion from Monaco. Soak up Mediterranean views on your coastal drive to Eze, a lovely hilltop village where you’ll discover the French art of perfume making at the Fragonard perfumery. Then head back to Monaco for a sightseeing tour of the Prince’s Palace, Monaco Cathedral, the famous Formula One Grand Prix race circuit and Casino Square in Monte Carlo. This small-group shore excursion is limited to eight people, ensuring you’ll receive personalized attention from your guide.
Monaco Hop-on Hop-off Tour – $24.40See the best of the Principality of Monaco on a hop-on hop-off tour by open-top minibus. Discover Monaco at your own pace and hop on and off as many times as you like at any of the 12 stops. See Monaco’s top attractions, including the Cathedral of Monaco and the Monte-Carlo Casino. With regular departures and the option of either a one- or two-day ticket, this hop-on hop-off tour is the perfect way to explore Monaco independently.
Private Nice Sightseeing Tour – $47.96Discover the picture-postcard city of Nice on the French Riviera on a private morning or afternoon sightseeing tour by minivan. Enjoy panoramic views over Nice from Mt. Boron, visit the Castel Park, and see the famous Promenade des Anglais.

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