It was the first day of winter 2007 when I set off from Golfe Juan railway station to spend a few hours in Monte Carlo. It was cool but sunny and dry – perfect weather.
Monte Carlo by road is at a distance of about 46kms from Golfe Juan and would take approximately forty-five minutes to get there; by train it’s much faster and more comfortable. Besides the railway line follows the coast line and the view is spectacular.
I was accompanied on the journey by my sister Terry and her husband Rudy, my cousin Dorothy and her husband Derek, and two other cousins [sisters] Anna and Rita.
The trains depart every 20 minutes or so and the fare [at least now days] is 9 € one way [A$13].
The station at Monte Carlo is underground, carved into the mountain. In fact the entire length of railway in Monaco [1.7kms] is built within the mountain. Although the station was originally built in 1867 it was extensively re-constructed in 1999. The platforms are wide and well lit. The clean white marbled-effect walls, pillars and floors are impressive as is the entrance from which we emerged and made our way into the town.
We walked past shuttered buildings painted in creams and ocres, and roads cut through rock cliffs. A market selling Christmas trees, fruit, flowers and vegetables in stalls with red and yellow canopies standing in a plaza of red terracotta tiles and cheerfully decorated street lanterns reminding us the festive season had begun.
From the market we traipsed up a long driveway leading up to the old town and were rewarded with a display of military precision from the local militia in the square before the Palace, its entrance “guarded” by cannon and ball.
The narrow streets off the square were complete with cafés, restaurants, a variety of boutiques and gift shops. It was lunchtime so finding a suitable pizzeria we entered for a well-deserved rest and meal.
With our hunger sated we set off once more to view the surrounds. From the high gardens the views across the Marinas below and the Mediterranean in the distance was enough to take one’s breath away.
Then turning around and looking behind to behold the Cathedral where on 18th April 1956 Prince Rainier III married actress Grace-Patricia Kelly.
Leaving the old city we descended towards the port. In the distance we would see the road tunnel which is one of the many notable landmarks associated with the annual Formula 1 Motor Grand Prix. This prestigious motor race has been held in Monte Carlo since 14th April 1929.
The foreshore had been turned into a winter wonderland village complete with rides and artificial snow.
Our final destination before heading back to the train station was the world-famous Casino. As we trudged up the steep inclined road the sound of violin could be heard and looking around in the direction it was coming from, a lone violinist practicing could be seen on a balcony; no doubt inspired by the wonderful vista from his building.
Rounding a corner we emerged at what looked like a massive roundabout; at its centre a wide round garden consisting of well-manicured lawns, palm trees and fountain. Around it parked in a display of unprecedented wealth is a mixture of prestige sports cars and limousines.
We found a café to sit at and enjoy a coffee whilst taking in the view of the Casino which apart from luring many a gambler to its tables has also been the setting of several James Bond movies.
RLB – Tomewriter