Monaco was one of these places of which I had few preconceived notions, other than it draws those with money to spend. I mean, it’s known primarily for its gilded casino, Monte Carlo, and you don’t gamble if you’re on a budget, right? Either way, you can spend one day in Monaco living large or playing by the rules of a budget.
Which means precisely what you think it does: I, the cash-strapped entrepreneur and freelance journalist, didn’t gamble on this particular visit to Monaco, though I lived vicariously through my mom and dad and their friends who entered the impressive seaside building and dropped some greenery. Worth noting: It costs 10 euro just to visit the establishment, and you need to be dressed in “smart” attire if you want to get in (i.e. no flip-flops or shorts).
Monaco was our official first stop on the spring Enrichment Voyage after departing from Barcelona last Friday night, which brings me to this: Are you following our 50-day journey all the way around Europe? If not, I’m manning the EV Facebook page and Instagram account and hope you’ll follow both. I’m primarily posting images and short blurbs in real time about all of our amazing European ports, from Lisbon to St. Petersburg.
What I love so much about blogging is the tight-knit community it provides; I’d venture to say I can go anywhere in the world and find a friendly face who I know (albeit virtually). Vicki of Nicer than Nice is a shining example. We “met” through the Internet a few years ago, then lunched in person in San Francisco just days after she got engaged in 2010. So when I saw our voyage would be docking in Monaco, I sent her a note, to which she immediately responded that she would keep the day free and gladly be our tour guide. I’m not sure she knew what she was getting herself into!
Due to rough seas, we were a bit delayed in disembarking, but Vicki was right there to greet us when we finally made our way from the ship to the shore via tender. It was already overcast, and the forecast of 90 percent chance of rain did not bode well for our afternoon. But Vicki is such a ray of sunshine (true story) that a little—OK, a lot of rain—did nothing to ruin our one day along the Cote d’Azur.
Not only has Vicki lived in Nice, just a 15-minute train ride away, for 13 years now, but she works in Monaco and is fluent in French. This was key to us making the most of our 12 hours on land; had we not had a native speaker with us, particularly when it came to navigating the train, I’m sure we would have spent all day looking at each other and trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. Case in point: After Vicki got off at her train stop in Nice, we were en route back to Monaco to catch the ship and couldn’t even figure out how to open the darn train door! We (and by we, I mean my dad’s longtime partner-in-crime Neal) almost got stuck on the train—though sprinted to the next car to escape just in time—which would have put us clean over the border in Italy. I mean, there are worse problems to have than accidentally winding up in Italy, I suppose.
We started our morning by walking up the steep steps that would take us from the port up to the Rock and the Prince’s Palace. When Vicki told us they were steep, she was not joking. We were all huffing and puffing before even halfway there. If going to Monaco, I also encourage you to wear shoes with good grip, as even in my Merrells, I almost wiped out a few times.
Once atop the Rock, we opted not to go into Jacques Cousteau’s famous Oceanographic Museum and aquarium, though we wandered through the gardens and saw some nice sculptures and flora.
We made for the Cathedral instead, only to arrive and find that Prince Albert and his young bride, the Princess Charlene, were inside! It was a Sunday morning after all, and I guess the royal couple are pious like most in their position. At first we weren’t sure exactly who prompted a bodyguard to stand outside the door and prohibit tourists from congregating around the periphery, but Vicki went right up to the uniformed man and, in flawless French, inquired as to who was inside. Unlike in America where everything was hush-hush, he told her outright. Apparently, Albert drives around town freely and the Princess walks around at her leisure; it’s nothing like the iron-clad security we know in the States!
Also, can I just say how something about my mom, dad and I traveling internationally together just brings the royals?
It started raining then and there as we climbed even higher toward the Palace. We didn’t retreat indoors, though; rather, my group pulled out their trusty Semester at Sea ponchos, wisely purchased from the campus store earlier that day, and waited patiently for the changing of the guard to happen. The safety yellow slickers were a godsend for me, as it made it so much easier to keep track of my six restless little ducklings. Being a wrangler in a foreign country is hard, yo.
Only the changing was more than anticlimactic as they did it indoors, just out of our view, thanks to the downpour that started just before the 11:55am daily event. Oh well—always ones to make lemon out of lemonade (or beer out of rain in this case), we used that as an excuse for a mid-afternoon snack of pizza, libations and sugary-sweet crepes instead!
Your mom is adorable. Looks like a fun group!
My mom is a five-foot-tall fireball. I can’t even keep up with her!
Always nice to have a tour guide in an unknown port.
It’s definitely efficient when you’re in a time crunch!
My experience in Monaco (and photos) mirrors your trip almost exactly! I spent a day there a few years ago and not only did I experience gray skies and rain, but the cathedral was also closed!
I always had this vision of Monaco being a blissfully sunny place, but apparently it rains all.the.time. there! Who knew?
Kristin! I am in love with this post! Everything looks breathtaking and was just the break I needed during this hectic work day! I hope you have a blast on your trip! It’s so great that you are traveling with your parents! Best!
Yes! This is only my dad’s second time out of North America, so I’m stoked they could come, too!
Kristin, Jeanie and Greg, Everything looks like fun!!! Monaco would be my DREAM trip. Have fun for me! Everyone looks Fabulous! Luv U
Well, luckily, you know someone who is a travel agent and can make that dream a reality for you!
Yet another one of your trips that blows me away! Still haven’t been to Monaco – extortionately expensive to be sure but worth seeing at least once!
Hopefully, I will have a Parisian tour guide to show me the best local brunch (or bar, either way) in town? 😉
Of course! Email me next week so we can arrange something + a time 🙂
I’ll be traveling to Florence this summer and I’ve really been debating taking a weekend trip to Monaco! You may have just convinced me 😉 How totally and completely beautiful!!
May I make a suggestion? Do a weekend trip to Nice and just take a few hours to visit Monaco. There’s so much more to do outside of it, as it’s TINY. Nice is only 15 minutes by train!
I will most definitely look into that! Thank you for the suggestion 🙂
I love Monaco! I went about 15 years ago when Prince Rainier was still leaving gold-dipped roses on Grace Kelly’s tomb. Swoon!
That has got to be the most romantic gesture ever!
Your photos are great! I passed by Monaco last year, but didn’t have time for a stop. Now I need to go back there and visit it properly 🙂
Definitely hit up Nice if you haven’t–I think it’s even nicer than Monaco.
I surely will. I was so close to Nice last year,I passed it by on the motorway, when I returned to Romania from Portugal. It was such a long journey… there’s never enough time to stop in all the places that look cool.
Loved your shoulder-length, sunglasses-clad model!
She is quite a cute companion to have!
Love it! You were just a few days behind my parents–they just got back from a cruise that started in Barcelona, went to the south of France (including Monaco), and ended in Italy. Jealous!
Dang! We really were following them. We left Livorno yesterday and are headed back to southern Spain now.
Monaco is one of those destinations I always think as outside our budget. But it sure looks lovely…
Exactly. That’s why you either day trip it over from Nice or Marseille or arrive by cruise ship and explore for a quick day!
Wow Kristin, this post just made my day- you’re insanely flattering about my mediocre-at-best tourist guide skills 🙂 I had a blast with you and the gang, I’m so glad we got to hang out for the day and even the non-stop rain couldn’t keep us down! Next time you’re here I will try and arrange some Riviera sunshine for you but I think the crepes and tiny beers more than made up for it this time round!
PS- I love the picture of your mom on the steps, she is so much fun!
It was an understatement if anything. My group is still talking about you. I think they have a major girl crush on one Vicki! See you in May 2014 in Tennessee 😉
Language is often a barrier when going to non-English speaking countries. Good to know that there is someone guiding you. It really pays to make friends to people from various parts of the world.
Im glad your dad finally gets to go with y’all. nothing better than spending quality time with both the parents! #preciousMoments
Yeah, the moments which we spent with family are always best moments. Half of the life we spend in studying and doing job in-between if we go for this kind of trips with them then that means a lot for them and you also.
I think it’s super awesome, what you’re doing! And can I tell you that going sailing with family is the best idea ever…even though I’m not a sailor!
Hi Kristin, I wish I could also have a taste of the Lifestyle of the Rich and the Famous. I hope to visit Monaco someday soon. And oh, I’ve got the same poncho with your dad. My brother from Texas sent it to me. 😀
Wow! Monaco is really an awesome place. Thee lifestyle is fabulous. I enjoy this post a lot. I bookmark this blog for further updates. Thanks for sharing this post.
Loved how the great tour guide just took over and made your day! How lucky for you guys!
Thank you for sharing this spectacular and wonderful destination. Monaco is getting better and better, and absolutely interesting.
Cheers for friends in all the places! After attending my first big blogger event, it was really, really cool to realize how many friends I knew in nifty cities who wouldn’t mind a couch crasher swinging by.
Also – I know pretty much nothing of Monaco, but it looks lovely!
I’ve visited Monaco a handful of times now as one of my family members owns a house in San Remo, which is just a short train ride towards Italy (from Monaco). Don’t get me wrong I think its a great day out, and if you take the correct approach it can be fun. I found it slightly sickening.
I had no idea it was so close to Nice! I love that your parents travel with you. 🙂
Toilet strategy I too am surprised by all the talk of squat holes and filthy toilets in Europe. In two months of travel in London, France, Germany, Czech, Italy, Netherlands I saw squat toilets only once – in a small town Italian train station. And the station was being renovated with new “normal” toilets being installed. The only two disgustingly dirty toilets I recall were in the basement of a Parisian restaurant near the Eiffel tower and in the McDonalds near the Gare de Nord train station, also in Paris. (So much for the maxim about McDonalds offering clean toilets everywhere.) Everywhere else was no different than North America.
I need to quit reading these! MY bucket list keeps getting bigger instead of shorter!
Monaco is a beautiful places.i will to go to there after 2 months.
I am so jealous! I miss the MV Explorer! Your blog was one of the main reasons why I decided to go on Semester at Sea and gave me the inspiration to create my own website! Hope you are having a blast fellow SASer!
Surprisingly, simply strolling the city was my favorite part of our one day visit to Monaco. I loved the colorful, but small public gardens, especially the Jardins Japonais (apparently this one was built by Prince Rainier in memory of Grace Kelly as she always wished for a Japanese style garden during her lifetime), but also walking along the pier was a real delight..spotting the names of the anchored yachts and boats guessing whose is this and whose that one. I genuinely liked Monaco and its atmosphere, maybe the fact that we visited in October helped as it was not so crowded as I imagine it is in summer months.
I’ve newer been in Monaco, but I’am in Yalta (Crimea) now, by a fluke…I’ve looked at your photos when read this post…These two cities are to similar on photos. Of course, Crimea is not a Europe, but with right investments it could be like Monaco!