After the torrential rain that greeted us on arrival in Monaco, to be greeted on a February morning by clear skies and a sky so blue it appeared to have been cut and pasted from a 1950s holidays brochure was a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Our first stop, after a generous breakfast at the Novotel to prepare us for lots of walking, was the Musee Oceanographique (read all about it here). We were dropped off a few blocks away, and walked through the streets of Monte Carlo’s Old Town en route,
before arriving at this heart-stopping view.
We spent most of the morning admiring the fishes in the aquarium, and this sperm whale model
before strolling through the St Martin Gardens, on the south-west face of the Rock that looms over the coastline. (The gardens form a natural link between the Museum and the Palace complex.)
The narrow path opened out to this view:
We turned left, took a steep narrow lane, and came out into the square right in front of The Prince’s Palace, where we were just in time for the midday daily changing of the guard. However blase one is about being a tourist, there is something innately thrilling about witnessing the pomp and ceremony of the military in full fettle.
It was nearly lunchtime as the guard’s footsteps echoed off into the distance, so we set off to our pick up point, passing the cathedral of Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), also known as Saint Nicholas Cathedral on the way.
The cathedral is also where the remains of the deceased members of the Grimaldi family are interred.
Although it was built in 1875, it’s on the site of the first parish church in Monaco built in 1252 – there is so much (not terribly appealing) Seventies and Eighties architecture, in the form of ginormous apartment blocks, in the principality that it’s refreshing to be reminded that there is a long and interesting history there.
Culture absorbed, we headed up the coast a little to Le Meridien Beach Plaza (where I stayed last summer for the Longines Global Champions Tour) for lunch and wine tasting at the hotel’s L’Intempo Restaurant. The sommelier took us through some delicious Provencal wines, and we ate our way through the very good lunch buffet.
Anxious to make the most of the delicious sunshine, we took our pudding (look – cronuts have reached Monaco!) out to the restaurant’s terrace.
(You may remember this pool from my post last summer. It is shut in winter, so quite a contrast,)
Lunch over and wine imbibed, I headed back to the Novotel to do some work, before walking down through the town to the Place de Casino for tea at the Bar Americain in the Hotel de Paris.
The hotel covers an extraordinary amount of acreage, and we ended up on the terrace of the spa, overlooking the port and the construction of Norman Foster’s Yacht Club, which will be the symbolic centrepiece of Monaco’s remodelled harbour front.
Enormous thanks to Société des Bains de Mer de Monaco, Novotel Monaco, Le Meridien Beach Plaza, The Monaco Tourist Authority and the Hotel de Paris for their kind hospitality.