Traveling from Cinque Terre to Nice was the biggest contrast in locations I experienced on my trip. I went from a pure, natural national park to an artificial tourist attraction that felt like France’s version of Vegas. There are enormous, extravagant hotels and casinos that are lit up at night everywhere you look. Luckily, I was in Nice during France’s holiday, which was quite impressive. Every night I was there, I was an incredible fire works show over the Mediterranean. The first night I was there the main boulevard that parallels the sea was shut down for pedestrians. There were numerous free concerts along the street that lasted well past midnight, which even the families with little kids stayed out to see.
This peninsula between Nice and Monaco is far and away the wealthiest place I have ever been. It puts Hunts Point to shame in terms of incredible homes and class. I took a city bus from Nice to the east and walked around the entire peninsula. Every other car was either a Ferrari, Bugatti, Rolls Royce or Maserati. I think the people driving S classes were embarrassed. All the houses on the point (the ones I could see from the road) were villa-like mansions. There was a fair amount of new construction and each new home was being built with a yellow tower crane! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single family home being built that needed a yellow crane to complete construction. My favorite part of the peninsula was sitting at the end of the marina and watching at all the mega yachts. I love seeing slideshows of these class of boats on the internet and this was the first time I’ve seen them in real life. They were close enough that I could see the crew preparing the yachts for use by their owners by getting out the jet skis, ski boats, etc from inside the yacht.
On my second day in Nice I took the train southwest to Cannes and Antibes. First impression: the trains are no where near as tourist-friendly as they are in Italy. The electronic ticket machines are only in French, only accept coins. The problem is the station doesn’t have a coin machine and the cafe in the station won’t give out enough coins in change to buy a ticket. And for those of us without a credit card with a chip in it, this is a problem. Cannes was similar to Nice- lots of money, people trying to be something they weren’t, etc. I did enjoy walking the docks and seeing some of the yachts parked in the harbor. The most impressive boat there was a massive sail boat that must have been at least 200 feet long. I laid on the beach, walked around and headed back up to Antibes via train. Antibes was a much smaller town, a big relief to me. It has a very large harbor with lots of fishing boats and a few mega yachts wer parked just off shore the day I was there. There is a cool covered outdoor art bazar with lots of pretty weird art next to the Picasso museum. I think it said Picasso lived there at one point. I considered going in the museum, mostly because Picasso and I share the same birthday (which, by the way, is coming up in 2 weeks from tomorrow (today now) wahoo), but it was getting late so I took a rain check and hopped back on the train to Nice.
For my last day in Nice, I really wanted to go to Monaco. I have heard a lot about it and always imagined an amazing place so I flagged it as a city I thought I should see. For some reason I imagined it much flatter than it is. It extends from the water’s edge pretty steeply up into hills. I met two people at the bus stop in Nice waiting to go to Monaco. They both had the same agenda I had so we decided to spend the day traveling together. The bus from Nice goes way up into the hills to a small, old village. We stopped at the village, took some pictures, then took a hiking train down the hill to the train station. From there we caught a train a couple stops to the East to Monaco. After seeing Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat a couple days earlier, Monaco was quite underwhelming. It looked like a pretty standard urban area. We walked down to Hotel Monte Carlo as all tourists do, and to our surprise we were able to go inside. We had heard that the dress code is pants and a collared shirt but all three of us wore shorts and t-shirts- no problem. After the casino we walked around, went down to the harbor, and decided we had seen enough of Monaco. We made our way back to the station and took the train one stop to the west. We got off, crossed the tracks, and walked along a path next to the sea to the west for about half a mile to an awesome, rather secluded beach. From this beach, you can swim out about 1/8 of a mile to the west of the bay where there is a cave you can swim into! It was far and away the highlight of our day. Check out the pictures and if you go to Nice or Monaco, definitely check this out. As a bonus, there are plenty of topless swimmers. After our swim, it was back to Nice, dinner, another firework display, then I caught my bus to Barcelona after looking for the bus stop for upwards of an hour.