Saturday, February 17th 2018 – Monaco
A late start was called for after a good night’s sleep. We aimed for a 10:00am breakfast, missed by 15 minutes, and finally got our act into gear to go out a little after 11. We’d decided that, despite the fact that we pretty much know Monte Carlo like the backs of our hands, we’d take the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour which started just outside the hotel on the corner of the harbour. This was also despite the disappointment they inflicted on us in Krakow back in December. We hung about the busstop and then bought a 48 hour ticket so we could use it all weekend. Again, after Krakow, we decided we’d have the full tour in one go first to make sure we actually did get it.
Despite the cold, it was dry so we decided we’d sit on the open top deck to get a clearer view and were then whisked around the Principality in the space of around 65 minutes, past the Casino and Sainte Devote, reaching the Palace in the Old Town at 11:55, just as the rather low key ceremony of changing the guard took place. It’s the sort of thing that you might want to see if you were there anyway, but I can’t imagine anyone rushing up the hill especially to see it. Even the Danes do it with more oomph (Travel 2017 – Copenhagen, Weekend 1, Day 2).
Anyway, we stayed on the bus and were treated to an extra stop at the Cruise ship terminal. Now this is something new that certainly wasn’t there last time we headed to these parts. It’s ironic that any cruise ship that comes in is likely to look pretty shabby next to one of the world’s flashier super yachts – or floating gin palaces as my late father-in-law used to call them – the Lady Moura. She’s berthed in Monaco most winters it seems, and if you want to boggle your mind, just Google the specs (including the gold plated name stuck on the back).
From there we trundled through Fontvielle, and eventually back onto the Grand Prix circuit and to our starting point. It was starting to spit so we got off, and went to take a look at the new Yacht Club with a view to getting a hot drink somewhere. The Yacht Club is really rather splendid, but I suppose you’d expect that from a Foster + Partners building. It looks rather like a yacht itself, and contains several shops, some spaces for events, and a wine bar, but of hot drinks not a trace.
There was some sort of regatta underway, and there were boats of various sizes all over the place.What it was all about remained a mystery however, and we went on our way.
We stomped round all sides, and got side-tracked into a souvenir shop where I bought an umbrella (it had just started to rain again) and we also picked up a fridge magnet. We may need to get a bigger fridge if we keep on like this – or we could just start adding them to the freezers too! As it was wet, cold and soggy we retreated across the road and walked along to Il Boticelli, where the welcome was slightly insane and very bubbly, and we thawed out over a capuccino each before ordering a glass of rose wine each, and sharing a pizza reine which is ham, mushrooms and cheese.
When we arrived we were dripping wet. By the time we’d finished the pizza, the rain had stopped, so we paid the bill, used the Bateau Bus across to the other side of the harbour which is free with the bus tickets. Then we picked up the bus from the cruise liner dock again, heading for the Villa Sauber, which now houses one part of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco.
This is now a permanent museum space, and had some very interesting things going on. This included several pieces by Michel Blazy, a locally born artist who works with perishable materials like the food in this exhibit, Nature Molle from 2004 that has been slowly biodegrading ever since. It’s curious, and looks like a strange landscape as things slowly shift and morph and rot.
Also on display was Collection de Chaussures (2015-2017), which was apparently co-produced by the museum, and the Direction des Affaires Culturelles de Monaco for the Biennale. It’s described as “a metallic structure acting as a frame within which is diffused a light and an irrigation system that ensures the health of the different species of plants situated in 27 pairs of used sneakers”.
There were a number of other things to see as well including LAB#2, where I particularly liked the work of Damien MacDonald. I especially liked the draughtsmanship on show in his work, though everything else was interesting too.
We finished our visit by exploring the garden outside as it had once more stopped raining. It’s a glorious art deco building, with some fabulous detail (the subject of one of the artists in the LAB#2 exhibition), and the gardens are lovely too.
The bus was due back so we hopped on again and stayed with it back to the old town, where we were on a mission to buy a box of chocolates for the lovely person who looks after the house and the cats while we are away. We were aiming for the Chocolaterie de Monaco, having tried their chocolates in the hotel. We also stopped for a hot chocolate as the day had turned very cold once again. I recommend the Chocolat Viennoise.
This being Monaco it wasn’t cheap, but then nothing is. We headed back from the chocolate shop, clutching a very posh bag, with a Coffret Princess Charlene inside. We reckoned Steph would love it (she did). Having failed to locate the entrance to the carpark at the Mediterranean end of the rock (which is a good way to get back down to harbour level) we walked back via the small outdoor theatre in what used to be the Fort Saint Antoine. The weather was looking pretty gloomy by now, so it was definitely time to get back to the hotel to clean up and get ready to go out for dinner.
It had been an interesting day and we’d seen a few of the more touristy things that exist in Monaco, despite the 90-plus building and roadworks going on in the tiny Principality. We stopped off at Stars’n’Bars on the harbourside for a swift glass of wine just for old time’s sake as well; we’ve spent a lot of time in there over the years. It doesn’t appear to have changed much; this may or may not be a good thing… From there we used the Bateau Bus again.