Ah Monte Carlo, a city where Bentleys are common and yachts are the size of cruise ships.
I was curious to see the glitz and the glam, but I admit that was a bit nervous about the budget for our day trip to Monaco. According to my research, it seemed an NFL player would probably be considered a pauper by their standard of wealth.
While Monaco is synonymous with wealth and opulence, I did not anticipate the overwhelming number of of high-rises. However, I suppose it’s understandable since the entire country is about the size of Central Park with a population of over 37,000 people, not including tourists.
Visiting a Principality on a Peasant’s Budget
Beginning our journey in Nice, we found the best way to get to Monte Carlo was by train, which was less than 20 euros for two roundtrip tickets. The bus would have been cheaper, but I really wanted to take the train along the coast .
Well, that and I seem to have developed a very inconvenient motion sickness that plagues me on busses, ferries and in some cars – especially when our driver in Croatia drove us to the airport like he was trying to win Formula One. Let’s just say that thank goodness I had gift bag that I turned into a sick bag on that ride.
Basically, my body thinks it’s JLo and should only ride on yachts and private planes. Unfortunately, my bank account thinks it’s more like JLo’s assistant’s third cousin’s neighbor from the Bronx. But I digress…
The ride from Nice to Monte Carlo was gorgeous! The train was actually pretty comfortable, but the view was nothing short of spectacular. We rode on the second level of the train to gaze at the picturesque blue waters and gawk at the mansions lining the coast.
We made the rounds to most of the major hot spots and learned the following interesting tidbits about Monte Carlo:
- There were pictures of the Prince and Princess everywhere. I don’t know if it’s mandatory or out of respect… or fear? I’m usually not one to gossip, but the stories out there about the revered couple are nothing short of a telenovela. According to the internet, she has tried to escape, he’s forced her stay, she cried at their wedding, he has baby mammas left and right… Makes the “happy couple” pics all over the city kind of creepy.
- It is as luxurious and expensive as they say it is, but if you’re not intent on declaring bankruptcy over a shopping spree, it is a great place to people watch and window shop.
- Wear comfortable shoes because it is San-Francisco-hilly and there are stairs everywhere. Allegedly, there are also escalators, but we didn’t see any during our short visit.
- There is a 10 euro fee to just to walk into the casino. As ex-Vegas residents, this seemed very bizarre to us. So, we decided to skip the Monte Carlo Casino and visit a casino where we knew we’d win…
Not only did we stumble upon a pizza place in Casino Supermarket, we also found a 1 euro Nespresso machine. Talk about hitting the jackpot! An espresso anywhere else is usually 4-8 euros, so this was a victory.
And I know this is probably just some random pizza joint in a city full of five star restaurants, but I kid you not, the pizza from Pizza System was incredible. We ordered the Romana pizza with mozzarella, arugula and creme fraiche. I had never had crème fraîche before, but now that I have, let me assure you that crème fraîche = game changer.
Between the train, pizza and coffees, our day trip to Monte Carlo was about 30 euros. Not bad, for one of the most expensive cities in the world.
On the way back, we rode into the setting sun and arrived back in Nice just as the last rays disappeared past the horizon.
Since we ended being a bit underwhelmed by Monaco, the overall experience was a nice reminder that sometimes it’s not the destination, but rather the journey that makes a memory extra special.