Monday, February 19th 2018 – Monaco
It was our last day but we had plenty of time (and a late check-out at the hotel) so we took our own sweet time getting packed and ready to check out, having a cup of coffee while we enjoyed the views from the room over the harbour, and eating the remains of our birthday cake from the evening before at Le Mirazur. It was very sticky, but still very good. After we’d done that, and wrestled our cases into shape, we were ready to check out.
The weather was still pretty good so we dropped our cases in the hire car, and walked down the harbourside to Tabac corner, the scene of our earliest visits to Monaco back in 1988. I’m delighted that the sign is still there (as indeed is the small shop that sells, along with the things you’d expect from a tobacconist, a fine selection of tacky souvenirs).
There is also a rather fine statue of the winner of the inaugural Monte Carlo Grand Prix back in 1929. The race, on 14th April 1929, was won by William Grover-Williams (calling himself simply Williams at that stage, presumably on the grounds that it was a common name so wouldn’t give his identity away), driving a works Bugatti Type 35B. Seeing the statue would tie in nicely with our plans for the first part of the say, to see the Bugatti exhibition at the car collection in Fontvielle.
But first another first for us. Without a race track and all its paraphernalia in the way we were able to get across the road to Sainte Devote, the tiny church tucked away in a gap in the hills. Saint Devota is the patron saint of Monaco, and the chapel seems to be regarded as the parish church for the area. I didn’t take any photos inside, because there were quite a few people intently set on their devotions, and despite being an atheist, I like to think I’m polite. I let it be and took photos outside instead.
Behind the chapel is a path leading to the railway station, which again we’d never seen (though we had seen the evil steps that lead up the cliffside, and had once even tried to flog up them back in the 1980s. We’d been overtaken by a little old lady with her shopping bags, which was pretty humiliating!
Anyway, we weren’t going up it today. Instead we collected the car and then spent a frustrating 30 minutes driving round Fontvielle trying to find a vacant parking space (not easy) which was only settled when we finally battled our way past the roadworks and found our way into the shopping centre car park, which was pretty near empty. We eased our way out and found our way to the Car Collection of H.S.H. the Prince of Monaco, as it’s somewhat long-windedly known. It’s on the Terrasses de Fontvielle, and is contained in a massive exhibition hall that was far too warm for us. However, we were not to be deterred – for a couple of petrol heads it was always going to be of interest, and as the Bugattis were also on display it had to be done. The cars range from the very early:
To exhibits that are very much pre-internal combustion engine.
To the racing cars of many vintages:
Needless to say quite a few of the oldest exhibits were originally bought or acquired by Prince Albert I with his passion for the new and modern. I won’t bore everyone with more car pictures, but it’s a collection well worth visiting if you are at all interested in automotive engineering, and the things that go with it, including a brilliant collection of flower vases from early cars.
It was now lunchtime so we walked along the Fontvielle harbour side looking for something to eat.
We ended up at an Italian restaurant, the Amici Miei, where we ordered a plate of pasta each and some rose wine. First they brought us some pissaladiere, which we probably didn’t need but which was tasty.
The pasta with prawns, courgettes and tomatoes was good, solid, comfort food and a massive portion. I finished it because we really weren’t sure when we’d get to eat again.
Lynne had the mushroom and truffle ravioli. They might have been good but she wasn’t sharing so I’ll have to just assume they were! She finished them anyway.
After that we drove out towards the French border and parked up just beyond the Monaco border.
From there we walked back to the entrance to the Jardin Exotique. Again, this started as the brainchild of Prince Albert the “Ooh Interesting” I, who bought the land and commissioned a garden to house some interesting specimens of plants that had been brought back from Mexico in the late 1860s. We bought our tickets and set off into the garden.
There are some very dramatic plants in the garden, which rambles over several levels, with little bridges, stairways and outlook points all over the place.
It’s fascinating but the afternoon had turned cold, and we really weren’t dressed for the conditions.
There were lots of fabulous views, but as the wind got ever stronger and colder we gave up and climbed back up the stairs to the exit.
We did stop to appreciate the koi pond too. They seemed to expect us to feed them, judging by the way they all swarmed into the corner where we were standing. Sadly we had to disappoint them.
With one last look at the scenery, we stopped in the shop to warm up.
From there the plan had been to drive over to Antibes, but traffic in Nice fouled that plan up completely so we ended up at the airport slightly early, sitting in the slightly less than wonderful business lounge and at least making sure we got our money’s worth on the rose wine. We were back in the UK by 22:00 and home to three cling-on cats not much later. It had been a very good trip if somewhat on the short side.