Monaco and the French Riviera

Ahh the French Riviera. My initial reaction conjures up thoughts of sophisticated Europeans strolling promenades, sandy beaches, vast resorts and quiet charm.

It in fact was almost the opposite of what I had envisioned. In our three stops along the French riviera in Cannes, Nice, and Monaco, we experienced a more urban feel that mixed working locals with the tourists that flooded the promenades.

We were in Cannes for about an hour while they were preparing for the Cannes film festival the following week. The harbor was already filled with yachts for the season and a promenade was decorated with tents for media and sponsors.  We spent some time on the beach taking in the views before heading out to Nice for the evening.

Our hotel was called the  and had a distinctly modern and nautical style and was located in a neighborhood where locals lived and worked. We headed to dinner at Le Sejour Cafe. It was my first experience with French Riviera food. I ordered the house specialty – St. Peter’s fish. Although the plating was beautiful (more so than typical Italian dishes), I thought the fish was quite bland. However, our night was redeemed after an enjoyable evening strolling the Old Town area of Nice. Yes, they were full of tourists,  al fresco international dining, and street artists, but it was more lively and exciting compared to some of the sleepy towns in Tuscany.

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The following morning we drove out of the city center to the Chagall Museum. This was the highlight of the trip. The museum was built in a house per Chagall’s wishes and is the first museum to be established during an artist’s lifetime. The audio guide in the museum enhanced our experience immensely, especially with Chagall’s biblical paintings. The audio was able to tell a story about the different characters in the large murals. The smallest details in the painting could change your perception of the painting after listening to the audio guide. The museum also did an excellent job of highlighting Chagall’s inspirations including his hometown in Belarus, his Jewish culture, music, and the circus.

We made a quick stop in the Anglais Promenade by the water and had a typical French lunch including a croque-monsieur, crepe, and a nicoise salad. We even got to view the morning market in Old Town where the neighborhood shopped for fresh vegetables and gourmet treats.

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Our last stop of the day was Monaco- one of the wealthiest countries per capita in the world. As you drive in, it is easy to catch sights of Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, and Ferraris lining the streets. The main reason for visiting was to visit Monaco’s famous Casino that was featured in the James Bond movie. However, we ran into a slight problem. The Historic Grand Prix was taking place and many of the roads were blocked off and the casino was closed to the public until 8 PM. Although we got a glimpse of the vintage cars racing around the harbor, it also caused a headache because it was impossible to find our way around the city with detours on every corner!

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We at least made it up to Monaco-Ville, the original walled city perched on a rock with panoramic views of Montecarlo. The old walled city was quieter and much more quaint than the new city, which was congested and more modern. It had a beautiful piazza with a church and a palace where the royal family lived.

After waiting four hours, he casino finally opened up and we were able to walk along the ritzy promenade where the expensive cars are parked. I could not go into the casino because I was watching JoJo, but I was told it looks like an opera house on the inside. Overall, I wouldn’t say Monaco is a must-do on a travelers list as there isn’t that much to see unless you want to gamble. However, the boys did get to play in the James Bond casino and we got to check. a new country off our list.

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