Sunday, 7th September – Monaco to Cannes

We decided to get an early start as we only had half a day to see all of Monaco. Our accommodation was literally 200m outside of Monaco, so technically last night we had stayed in France. This was not by accident, accommodation in Monaco was crazy expensive and almost impossible to find for just one night.

Our view from outside the apartment was fantastic and we were excited as we made our way down the steep steps to the bottom of the hill. It was a strange walk, as we felt we were making our way through local’s backyards, but it was kind of cool to see the houses and a few early risers were quite friendly so it wasn’t too awkward.

Half way down the hill we had a laugh as Keith was able to stand with a foot in two different countries, France and Monaco.

For such a small country Monaco is quite populated with both large high rises, dense commercial property as well as a number of high end boutiques and stores. However, despite this, Monaco doesn’t feel like a concrete jungle, the buildings are amazing and a lot of effort has been placed on creating beautiful modern architecture as well as accompanying gardens.

IMG_0470IMG_0476IMG_0479IMG_0483 IMG_0487IMG_0488 IMG_0492 IMG_0496

Our first stop was the Princes Palace, the view on the way was breathtaking as we overlooked the Harbour. The Palace itself was not overwhelming, however its gardens, views and sculptures as a package were amazing.IMG_0511IMG_0515IMG_0519IMG_0524IMG_0504IMG_0513

Directly behind the Palace were cobbled laneways with all sorts of shops and markets and definitely designed to accommodate the huge numbers of tourists that flock to see the Palace. Being so early we were lucky to get a great look around before the crowds.

Our next stop was the famous Monaco Cathedral (St Nicholas), where Prince Rainier married Grace Kelly. It was a gorgeous church the artwork was spectacular and it just had an air of something special.

IMG_0534IMG_0544IMG_0552IMG_0530

As we made our way down the mountain it became clear that to see all of the city was going to be impossible in one day. Built mostly on the side of a mountain there are lots of hills, so we made the decision that to see more of Monte Carlo we would pay the ridiculous cost for the hop on hop off bus. It turned out to be the best thing we could have done, as we completed the entire loop in an hour and then utilised the bus to jump off at the major sites we wanted to see.

On the bus we saw evidence of the track for the Grand Prix, the Harbour, sporting arenas, beaches, Monaco Oceanographic Museum, the Opera House, Casino and much more.

IMG_0611IMG_0666IMG_0669IMG_0578IMG_0601IMG_0661

We jumped off to have a look around Casino Square which holds not just the Casino, but the Opera House and the Hotel de Paris. An amazing site it’s featured in many movies including James Bond Casino Royale.

IMG_0675IMG_0689 IMG_0691 IMG_0705IMG_0706 IMG_0707IMG_0717

Today was our 13th wedding anniversary so we decided to treat ourselves to a coffee and cake at the famous Cafe de Paris in Casino Square. As Keith is the cake connoisseur in this marriage I left the choice to him. Keith chose the very special French Baba au Rhum (which was a bit like a massive donut soaked in rum with whipped cream and fresh fruit), it was amazing. We knew our experience was going to be costly, Monte Carlo is incredibly expensive but could not believe our two coffees and cake cost 27 Euro or $38 AUD! Wowsers!

IMG_0708IMG_0710 IMG_0712  

Bec really wanted to see the changing of the guard back at the Palace, which only occurs once per day, so we made our way back. It definitely wasn’t quiet anymore! We made a spot for ourselves in the crowd and watched what could only be described as a very well rehearsed performance. 

IMG_0730IMG_0735  IMG_0743

What a spectacular day, we really loved Monaco it was so opulent but still managed to be welcoming to a humble traveller. Another good decision was skipping the long up hill walk back to the accommodation. We jumped in a taxi and paid 20 Euro to go 10 minutes but it was seriously worth it. After a quick shower, we packed our stuff back into the car and waved goodbye to Monaco.

Our destination today was Cannes via Nice along the Cote d’Azur and no words can describe the drive and views we experienced. In fact, we found ourselves doing many u-turns to go back and see some views twice! It was spectacular!

IMG_0780IMG_0799IMG_0780IMG_0774IMG_0794 IMG_0791

So all those u-turns and gazing into the horizon did come at a cost. We had no time to spare and literally drove through Nice, only taking the time to take a couple of pictures from the car.

IMG_0808IMG_0812IMG_0805

We arrived in Cannes and decided to find a parking station and explore immediately, it had been a perfect day, the weather was gorgeous and the beach was still packed.

There were markets and lots of little shops, we enjoyed walking around taking it all in and eventually stopped for some dinner before heading back to the hotel.

IMG_0815 IMG_0818IMG_0820IMG_0821IMG_0822 IMG_0825IMG_0826

A super huge day we got back to the hotel feeling exhausted but still in awe of Monte Carlo and the incredible Cote d’Azur, definitely on the return list that’s for sure.

2014 European Adventure France Monaco

Saturday, 6th September – Pisa to Monaco

We had a long drive ahead of us and since we stayed in Pisa last night, we got up early to see the Leaning Tower. Below is the view from where we parked our car – free parking for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning was awesome. The tower was five minutes walk away, we didn’t expect that it would have a massive wall around it.

IMG_0332IMG_0334

Even though we arrived really early (8am), there were already lots of tourists. Apparently there was a competition being run on the most creative photo with the Tower, which would explain some of the weird poses we saw people attempting to create!

Surprisingly enough there is no entry fee to see the Tower, you can pay to visit inside all of the attractions in the piazza, but photos from outside are free.

IMG_0340IMG_0386

The Leaning Tower is in Miracles Square (Piazza dei Miracoli) and recently, to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the cathedral, art from different artists will be on display for a limited time. We were excited to see ‘Fallen Angel’ by Polish artist, Igor Mitoraj.

IMG_0351IMG_0352

There are a number of beautiful buildings in the Square, including the Cathedral of St Ranieri.

IMG_0362IMG_0364  

The Baptistry is an incredible building, said to have been a dedication to St John the Baptist and built in the mid 12th century.

IMG_0365

The Camposanto Monumentale is a walled cemetery, we didn’t visit inside but the picture below is from the hallway to the entrance.

IMG_0382

After leaving Pisa we began our journey along the coastline of Cinque Terre, an amazing drive with some of the most incredible views. We stopped in for lunch at one of the five villages that make up ‘the Five Lands’, Monterosso al Mare. One of Keith’s friends that had recently visited the area recommended the Focaccia at the local bakery and it didn’t disappoint! After walking off our lunch and checking out the beach and amazing views we continued our journey.

IMG_0393IMG_0394 IMG_0395IMG_0397

Our next intended stop was Portofino, however it was the last week of the Italian holidays and unfortunately the police had road blocked the entry (one road in, one road out) as the town had reached its ‘maximum occupancy for tourists’. The poor policeman seemed more disappointed than we were, recognising that we were overseas tourists, he suggested that we would find Santa Margherita Ligure just as beautiful for the afternoon. He wasn’t wrong, what an amazing little town, it was very busy as well. We found a secure car park easily and walked along the beach, checking out some shops and cafes and enjoyed a gorgeous day in perfect weather.

IMG_0399 IMG_0415IMG_0419 IMG_0438 IMG_0440IMG_0435

Reluctantly we continued on our way, our next stop is Monaco and after some winding roads up high in the mountains, below was our first glimpse of this incredible country.

IMG_0456

2014 European Adventure Italy Monaco