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A visit to the Cote d'Azur and Monaco

Home -> Europe -> France -> Travelogue France -> 26 June 2006

Monday 26 June, a visit to the Cote d'Azur and Monaco

Because we are so close to it, we make today a tour through the Côte d'Azur and Monaco (so we can still add a new country to our list this year!). We are surprised that we keep driving in mountainous areas for so long, we did not know that the foothills of the Alps were going so far. But actually it is only close to the coast that the landscape flattens out. And the closer we get to the coast, the busier it becomes on the road.
The Old town of Cannes The beach in CannesWe first go to Cannes, where we quickly find a parking spot near the old harbor. Well, fast, first it took us half an hour of driving at a slow speed through the suburbs. West of us lies the old harbor, full with expensive yachts and sailing ships and in the background we see the Suquet hill where medieval Cannes is located, a cozy neighborhood that is very different from the rest of the fashionable city, east of the harbor.
Sancastle in CannesIt is ideal beach weather, actually too hot to do something, but we walk a long way along the beach. It seems that as a professional beachcomber you have to choose the 'right' beach, otherwise you do not count. That description in a travel guide already tells us enough about the atmosphere in the city and what we see around us confirms that, Cannes is a city for the better off and more beautiful looking people than we are. Probably only for the visitors and not so much for the inhabitants. This sand castle can fascinate us more than the city itself.
Self-portraitAt the gigantic Palais des Festivals we can once again take a picture of us together in the mirror glass. Time to have a drink, but one guest is behaving even more spoiled than the other and we are pretty quickly gone again, we have seen enough of it. We find the Suquet area with its squares and narrow streets the nicest part of Cannes.
Nice The coast at Cap FerratWe take the N7 along the coast to Nice, a mega-city that we leave behind soon. Nice is a big city with a lot to see, but not today. We continue along the scenic coastal route with a view of Cap Ferrat on the right, a peninsula that is not full yet of concrete tourist hotels.
View on MonacoIn the distance we see Monaco lying and also here the mountains run to the coast. And if it was already busy around Cannes, here it is much worse and we do not make any progress. There is a lot of traffic, there are quite a lot of traffic lights and we have to pay attention. Despite the beauty of nature, we do not have to come here again, and we drive to Monaco as fast as we can.
MonacoWe do not see a border sign, or overlook that in the hustle and bustle, but all of a sudden we are in the Principality of Monaco and we drive into a parking garage on the coast in the Monaco-Ville district. After the Vatican, Monaco is the smallest independent country in the world with an area of 2 km ². Started as a small Genoese colony, it has been ruled by the Grimaldi family since 1297. Monaco has been independent since 1861 and since 1993 it has been a full member of the United Nations.
Monaco MonacoUntil the mid-19th century, Monaco was a poor country, until the then Prince Charles III built a gambler's paradise. Now Monaco is a rich and very expensive state. A small studio with 28m ² costs at least € 350,000! And if we look forward to the port, we are curious about how much money is lying there in the water.
MonacoThe Grimaldi Forum that we see in the distance is a mega-center with 70.000m ² space for exhibitions, congresses and other cultural matters. The rest of the city consists mainly of casinos and hotels and also some shops. Most people who live here (32,000 of which only 5,000 native Monagasques) live more against the mountainside. The whole city exhales an atmosphere of wealth and power and you immediately see the difference between the poor, curious tourist and those who belong here.
MonacoIn the blazing sun we climb to Fort Antoine, a quiet spot in this hectic city. We have a nice view over the sea and the city, but it is almost impossible to hold out in the sun, it is that hot. We decide to go back to the car and just make a round trip through the different neighborhoods, we are not ashamed of our car between all those bentleys and porsches! Of course we also drive a part of the Formula I circuit, but not too fast.
Monaco MonacoWhile driving we get a nice impression of the wealth in this country. And yet no income taxes are levied, so ideal if you have a lot of income. The money comes mainly from the gambling tax in the casinos and this is a gambler's paradise, so there will be a lot of betting. Undoubtedly, people will also have lost their entire possessions here and there, but you never hear anything about that.
MonacoAfter 2 hours we leave the pomp and splendor of Monaco behind us. It is nice to see for once, but a little too crowded to our taste. And we get rich another time, maybe. We drive towards Peillon when our navigation indicates that we have to turn right at a certain moment. We follow directions and suddenly go up on a 30% steep road, it seems like a narrow lane, and soon we meet oncoming traffic. Fortunately Teije is used to these situations bcause of our many Scotland trips. The climb takes only half a kilometer but at the top our speed is almost down to zero. But we are happy our brakes are doing well, only the cooling water of the engine is on the point of boiling.
Eagles nest PeillonThrough deep valleys and steep roads we drive to Peillon, which is located on top of a mountain. Because the engine soon gets too hot again, we don't drive the last steep part of the access road and are satisfied with the view of the fortified village. The village itself is car-free, there is a parking space outside the wall. Little has changed since the Middle Ages, but more and more houses are being bought by outsiders who want to have a quiet spot next to their cottage on the Cote d'Azur.
We take the N202 back to Barr& ecirc;me, a long but beautiful route that takes us through countless small hamlets, sometimes built against a hill, sometimes in the valley. This is also the route of the pine train, the Train de Pigne. We cross the railway regularly and probably we do not get much faster than the train that travels the 150 kilometers to Digne in just over 3 hours.
Castle of Entrevaux Gate of EntrevauxOn the way we stop at the citadel of Entrevaux, a fortified city that has recently been completely restored. A drawbridge leads over the river Var into the castle, opposite is the modern village with a cozy square and nice terraces. It is already very late in the afternoon so we do not spend here as much time as we would like. But well, we also want to see and do so much again in one day!
We understand very well that this route must be very nice by train, and in any case more relaxed than in the car because the road turns and turns and, especially in the beginning, there is still a lot of traffic. In the last part we do not see too far from Barrême an attractive lake. Maybe something for tomorrow, our last rest day.
We have made a very long day with a bit too much on the program. But we wanted to see as much of the area as possible. We are happy when we are at the campsite and we can order hot food and a cold drink. Just relax!


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