Weekend Trip to Nice and Monaco
Nice, the 2nd-largest french city on the Mediterranean coast, is a beautiful port city that serves as a gateway to the rest of the region. The city is famous for it’s picturesque coast that it’s nicknamed Nice la Belle, which means Nice the Beautiful. Through the ages, the town has changed hands many times, with its strategic location contributing to its maritime strength. In more recent times, the natural environment and mild climate have attracted numerous tourists and upper class families for vacations. More famously, the city’s wholesome scenery has appealed to many notable and accomplished painters, such as Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall and their work is commemorated in many of the city’s museums. On this trip, I also spent a day in the city-state of Monaco, which was only 21 kilometers east of the central Nice. So, how did I find my first Mediterranean trip of this semester?
My most favorite part of Nice easily was it’s old town, called Vieille Ville. I was not surprised by this because like I’ve indicated in my previous posts, the parts of towns and cities that have been essentially left alone and kept authentic are usually the areas that I like the most. This old town was very typical in terms of a European design, as it had narrow and winding cobbled streets combined with very old churches, municipality buildings and colorful frescoes. What was really unique about this old town thought was that it had taken inspiration from the entire Mediterranean region. For example, the main church in the old town on the outside had a Spanish-type design on the outside, but on the inside it look like it had just been finished during the Italian Renaissance with the incredible ceiling paintings. As I walked around the old town, I saw more and more of this phenomenon and realized that the main reason why the old town has this particular feel is because of the artists and virtuoso’s from all over the Mediterranean region that at some point have settled in the city. Without them, Nice wouldn’t have the artistic scene that it is known for today. Vieille Ville was also great for going to in the night, as some of the city’s coolest bars and restaurants become packed with tourists and locals alike.
As much as I loved the old town, you of course cannot visit Nice without exploring the Promenade des Anglais and climbing up Castle Hill to get the best views of the coast it is known for. I was blessed with incredible weather that weekend, so everything was perfectly set for me to see and admire. And boy, this area definitely lived up to the hype. A slight breeze rain through the air and the crystal blue sea water gently rocked backed and forth, setting a peaceful and relaxing tone for visitors. Bikers and runners lined the sidewalks trying to take advantage of the pre-summer weather. The buildings and edifices that ran along the coast shined under the bright sunlight and just seemed to illuminate the entire neighborhood. In fact, one of the coolest part of this coastline was the Place Massena, which is the main square of the area and is famed for its Fountain du Soleil (Sun Fountain). My favorite part, however, of the coastline was the Monument aux Morts, a huge granite memorial to fallen French soldiers of 20th century conflicts like WW1 and WW2 It was quite unbelievable how much of the Castle Hill complex it took up, but it was an inspiring reminder of how we must always remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our way of life.
The second day of my trip was dedicated to visiting the nearby city-state of Monaco, which is famed for its wealth, exclusivity and equally picturesque sights. My first impression of the city was how even more hilly and steep it was when compared to Nice, but part of it is also due to how the city is actually designed. While I did of course see all the main spots of Monaco, including the Grand Prix finish line, the famous Monte-Carlo casino and the exotic gardens, once again like Nice my favorite part of the city was its old town and how authentic and non-commercialized the local government has kept it. This old town of course had an old church and very beautifully designed municipality buildings, but I fell in love with the cobbled lanes and streets of this old town even more than Nice! I noticed that their was more of an Italian feel, and of course this made sense since Monaco is not too far from the France-Italian border. Another awesome spot was the Prince’s Palace, which had amazing views of Monaco-Ville and where numerous films and TV shows have been shot due to the incredible scenery. I also must say that while there, I saw the greatest collection of super cars I’ve ever seen. Every single luxury car brand you can think of was present, including my personal favorite, Aston Martin. Of course, if you have the wealth to live in Monaco, then owning a few super cars probably isn’t going to hurt your wallet at all. But if you’re a regular person, that might be a different story! I did spoil myself though in one instance thought, as I had did buy an entry ticket to the casino and had a 16-year old Lagavulin single-malt scotch and enjoyed the jaw-dropping decor that has made it one of the most famous casinos in the world.
Overall, this trip was great for its timing and how it was a different change of pace in terms of type of travelling. I hadn’t traveled for almost a month (since my trip to Berlin) because of final exams at CUL, but I also wanted to do a trip where I wouldn’t be pressed to fulfill an guide. It was also cool to see various countries/cities that I have visited before all melt together in one pot and see the wonderful creations of it. I will definitely return to Nice in the future and hopefully I will be able to ingrain myself in it even more.