July 15, 2013


Monaco, July 2012 - This was departure day for travellers on the Provence extension of an Avalon river cruise through Burgundy and Provence, but we planned to explore the oldest part of the principality, Monaco-Ville, before leaving Monaco. And the first item on my agenda this morning was a special experience from my Bucket List: a tour of Monaco by Ferrari.

Tour of Monaco by Ferrari

The 30 minute ride took me through the streets of Monaco and along the Corniche roads high above the Côte d'Azur to Eze and La Turbie before returning to my hotel, the Fairmont Monte Carlo. What an amazing way to start the day! Then it was time for breakfast, which came with a stunning view of the Mediterranean in the Horizon Deck Restaurant and Champagne Bar on Level 7 of the hotel. I think I could get used to the Riviera lifestyle!

Horizon Deck Restaurant and Champagne Bar

The sun was beginning to burn through the morning haze so we chose to eat indoors where it was cooler. The windows were open so the restaurant was like an open air terrace, and we still had a great view of the yachts anchored offshore.

View from the Horizon Restaurant

The buffet offered standard North American breakfast favourites as well as French specialities like pain au chocolat (which I indulged in every morning while I was in France).

Breakfast at the Fairmont Monte Carlo

After breakfast we took a detour by the rooftop swimming pool before heading out to see the sights. The Fairmont Monte Carlo is a lovely hotel – I wish we'd had more time to enjoy the facilities but there was much more to see.

Fairmont Monte Carlo Pool

In the hotel lobby hung a wedding photo of the reigning monarch of Monaco, Prince Albert and his new wife Charlene. They were married in 2011.

Prince Albert's Wedding Photo

We headed for nearby Place du Casino, where the Café de Paris, Hotel de Paris and the famous Monte Carlo Casino are situated. Then we walked among the palm trees, fountains and flower beds of the terraced gardens which cascade down a hillside toward the square.

The Casino and Hotel de Paris

Monte Carlo Casino

Gardens of Place du Casino

This striking red orchid, Burning Desire, had also sprouted in the garden. It was part of The Littoral Zone exhibit taking place at the Oceanographic Museum.

Burning Desire, Marc Quinn

We boarded the Monaco Le Grand Tour open-top tour bus at the Monte Carlo Casino stop. The one-day pass (which we purchased from the driver) is 18 euros and buses run every 15 minutes during high season. Passengers can hop on and off the bus at any of the 12 stops along the route. There's also a small tourist train which provides 30-minute tours beginning at the Oceanographic Museum for 8 euros.

Monaco Tourist Train

We got off the bus at the Place du Palais stop near the Prince's Palace. This is Monaco-Ville, the Old Town of Monaco and the seat of the Grimaldi family dynasty. The area is also referred to as 'The Rock', due to its location on a rocky promontory overlooking the Mediterranean.

Aerial Photo of 'The Rock', Oceanographic Museum

We arrived in time to see the Changing of the Guard at the entrance to the Prince's Palace. This event takes place daily at 11:55 a.m. and attracts a large crowd of tourists.

The Prince's Palace, Monaco

Changing of the Palace Guard, Monaco

Not far from the palace square is a lookout offering great views of the port and city below.

Lookout from "The Rock"

Port Hercule and La Condamine

We ventured into the maze of narrow, medieval streets of Monaco-Ville. There are lots of restaurants and shops catering to tourists. I went into La Poste Monaco on Place de la Mairie to buy a Monegasque postage stamp, which is a popular item among collectors.

Streets of Monaco-Ville

Statue of Saint Nicholas, Saint Nicholas Square

Soon we arrived at Saint Nicholas Cathedral, where American actress Grace Kelly was married to Prince Rainier in 1956.

Saint Nicholas Cathedral

The prince and princess are both buried in the cathedral.

Graves of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III

Then we made our way to the Musée océanographique de Monaco founded by Prince Albert I and directed by well-known  explorer Jacques Cousteau for many years. This was the site of  The Littoral Zone, an exhibit by British artist Marc Quinn taking place from May to October 2012

Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

Wilder Shores of Desire, Marc Quinn

Planet, Marc Quinn

Inside the impressive building, more of Quinn's artwork stood alongside the extensive marine exhibits of the Natural History collection.

The Origin of the World, Marc Quinn
Hall Princesse Alice

Evolution, Marc Quinn
Salon D'Honneur

The Supa Littoral Zone (the shell) and
Labyrinth Painting (on the wall), Marc Quinn
First Floor Landing

Giant Squid 

Mosiac on the First Floor Landing

Salon Albert I

The Aquarium has been referred to as the Temple of the Sea and features marine life from both the Mediterranean and more tropical waters, including a Shark Lagoon.

Tropical Fish

Jelly Fish

The Shark Lagoon

An inexpensive restaurant, Turtle Island exhibit, sea-themed children's play area, and elevator access make the rooftop terrace a convenient lunch stop for families visiting the museum.

Rooftop Playground

African Spurred Turtle at Turtle Island

The Engine of Evolution, Marc Quinn

This seagull was willing to pose for a photo while sharing the rooftop view.

Riviera Seagull

View from the Rooftop of the Oceanographic Museum

We walked back towards the bus stop along the cliff top through the shady tree-lined pathways of St. Martin Gardens.

The Octopus, Emma de Sigaldi

Statue of Prince Albert I

St. Martin Gardens

Although our visit to Monaco had come to an end, our journey was not over. We were about to travel a little ways down the coast back into France and the charming town of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Related Posts:

Monte Carlo
"F" is for Ferrari
"P" is for Princess

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