Villefranche and Monte Carlo

French Riviera

A view of the strip from the balcony of the condo. I could look at that view every day!

Tuesday came along again with perfect weather. Unfortunately, I had been under the weather coming into the trip, and this day I felt the worst. Running nose, cough, achy body – you name it, I was feeling it. On top of that, we had all decided to take our first day trip out to Monaco. Though I was giddy and excited, part of me was afraid I’d fall down with sick exhaustion before the day was over. Nevertheless, I dressed up nicely, grabbed a few packages of tissue, and got ready to see more of the French Riviera.

The French Riviera

A look at the cliff-side town of Villefranche.

We set out via bus to a town called Villefranche first to see the sights and grab lunch. We knew it was on the way to Monaco and just a short 15 minute bus ride, so it was a great way to see more of the French Riviera. Though the bus was incredibly hot, the minute we stepped into the town, I knew it had been a great idea stopping for lunch. With the most beautiful weather we’d have all week, I was in awe of the picturesque town. Set on the side of a cliff-face and overlooking the harbor and Mediterranean Sea, Villefranche was absolutely delightful. We followed the winding streets down to the harbor to find a lunch spot and stumbled across a row of harbor-side restaurants with tables just feet from the water.

The French Riviera

Just after lunch, in front of the harbor in Villefranche.

We decided to dine at La Mere Germaine, a seafood restaurant within the row. Our waiter sat us at a table just by the water, and with the sun shining on my face, I was perfectly content. It was certainly one of the nicest meals we had the entire week. We ordered two cheese platters for appetizers and they charged €5 per slice of cheese! Michael and I ordered the sea bass and our waiter asked if we’d like to split a whole fish, which he highly recommended, as the meat would be more tender. We agreed, and when it came time to serve, the fish was presented whole, with it’s head intact and all! After my lobster experience, I should have been prepared for this, but it still took me by surprise. Do not worry, though, because the waiter then took the fish to a side table and removed the head, scales, and bones, before splitting the fish and serving me and Michael. With it came sea salt, garlic butter, and a baked potato with sour cream and chives. It was quite possibly the most delicious fish I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

The French Riviera

Monaco - WOW!

After lunch we strolled along the water, took a few pictures, and made our way to the train station to head off to Monaco. The train traveled along the side of the cliffs, giving us a spectacular view of the sea and surrounding cliff-side towns. On our arrival into Monte Carlo, I was starting to feel a bit sick again, so we moved slowly, enjoying our surroundings in no rush. Monte Carlo surprised me: I wasn’t expecting the buildings to look so industrial. I was imagining something more like Villefranche. However, it was still an amazing sight to see. The yachts in the harbor were grandiose and you could see workers already preparing the roads for the F1 race in May.

The French Riviera

Though he is smiling for the picture, I guarantee he was not excited about the rest of the climb.

We then started quite the climb up a hill to go to the Aquatic Museum. The trees, shrubbery, and flowers were manicured to perfection, and even though I was huffing and puffing more than the rest, thanks to my cough and cold, it was still beautiful. The view from the top of the hill was spectacular and Matt mapped out the route the race cars take during the famous F1 race. There were signs with pictures of Grace Kelly along the way, explaining her rise to Princess of Monaco. It was sad to learn that she died driving over the side of a cliff-side road, which were ominous just to stand near. The Aquatic Museum was delightful and full of bright Mediterranean fish. Luckily, Matt’s fear of sharks wasn’t a problem, since their collection was not large. The skeletons of whales hanging from the ceilings and the architecture of the building itself was impressive, and we were all glad we stopped by.

The French Riviera

Though they sting, the jellyfish in the Aquatic Museum are awfully beautiful.

You may be surprised to know that our trip to the Grand Casino was brief. Though it was exactly like what you see in James Bond, there were hardly any people there and the energy was low. We were initially interested in gambling, but at that point I was exhausted and the sun was setting, so we hopped back on the train and made our way home to Nice. Anna and Michael went off immediately to a dinner on their own, while the rest of us went out for pasta and pizza. I enjoyed a spaghetti bolognese, a little red wine, and happily fell into bed later that night, tired and full and ready to sleep.

All in all, it had been a great day with so much to see. I think it will be a very long time before I have sea bass that tasty and luckily for me, it was my last day of illness. We still had markets, a comedy club at an Irish pub, and much more in store for the remainder of the trip!


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