Bonjour Monaco!

Bonjour Monaco!

Jet lag caught up with me and I did a lot of reading in the middle of the night. We had a lazy morning as a result – more delicious yogurt and figs for breakfast before walking down to the Nice train station. (note: It was great but I would recommend taking the bus, it’s only one euro and seems just as easy)

A lovely, 20 minute ride along the coast to arrive in Monaco at 11:00.  And…the city was “absolument morte.”  We walked along the harbor, around the casinos and saw no one, except for a few gardeners and a couple older Italian men being pushed around by filipino minders. Had we gone to the wrong place? Was it really a bright and warm Saturday? Zombie apocalypse?

We spotted a lovely beach at Larvotto and an open cafe.  Early lunch of moules marinieres with frites from the surly Italian owner. The mussels were incredible!

After the snack, we changed into bathing suits and found a spot on the nearly empty beach. A far cry from what it must look like in August, when packed with private cafes, chairs and umbrellas. Wading and napping on the pink marble gravel.

Rested up, we found one of the hidden public elevators to take us from the beach to the main shopping street. Christmas decorations were hung – but we still only saw a handful of people and most shops were closed.

Rob is lucky that this estate jewelry store was closed for the day – there was a pair of diamond tassel earrings that would have suited me nicely:

I love this starry night treatment on the St. Charles church in town.

Walking up and down the steep terraces – you can see how this would be such a fun city for a car race! Rob and I made our way over to the Palace – stopping for crepes (lemon sugar for me and nutella for him) and drinks on the plaza.

The famous Mistral winds were picking up, so we quickly walked around the palace courtyard and the “exotic” garden on the hillside. Helicopters were flying in fancy people to the heliport every few minutes. We were about to write off Monaco as lovely – but kind of boring – when we spotted this building from the park. Oh, hello there!

One look at the Institute Oceanographic and I fell deeply in love. Do you see the albatross and the walrus?

A closer look reveals starfish medallions, nautilus shells, a crest made of rope and lobsters, marble carved to look like crashing waves and a delicate border of splashing fish. I hadn’t even gone in yet and I was in heaven!

Once inside – the perfect “Life Aquatic” decor continued to amaze. This is the main hall, filled with a 30 foot display of selections from nautical history, perfect blue walls and crystal chandeliers.

I died of rapture in the two story gallery about sharks.

Even the light figures were shaped like glass anemones and brass starfish. I think I may have blacked out for a minute.

If I were Princess Charlene – I would ditch the “Princess Sad Face” image and immediately claim this building as my personal Neptune’s Palace.

Rob was loving it too – he was like a little kid testing out the operations of a 1770’s submarine.

The aquarium downstairs was just as impressive as the decor upstairs. Massive tropical tanks, all kinds of fish I had never seen before, an eel that has been living there contentedly for 45 years and a collection of beautiful giant clams.

There’s even a roof deck with a fancy playground and an open air bar. Hats off to you, Prince Albert! I like the cut of your jib.

Back through deserted city to the train station.

Smooth train ride home as the sun was setting on the coast. It was kind of nice having Monaco to ourselves – although I’m sure this isn’t the authentic experience.

Back in Nice, the city felt positively cosmopolitan – full of people out running their evening errands.

Stopped at Monoprix on the way home to pick up fresh supplies for dinner. We started with a microwavable mini-fondue for one (the best idea ever) paired with cubes of green and black olive bread from the boulangerie and green apple. Then, fresh tagliatelli with a black truffle pesto made with cashews. Elemental cheese on top and peppery radishes on the side.  Chocolate pot de creme in tiny glass jars for dessert.

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