The night before I went to Monaco, I began talking myself out of it because I was scared of going alone. Despite my fears, I woke up the next morning determined to get there. I had wanted to leave by nine, so I was astounded when I woke up at 9:30. I really wanted to see the changing of the guard at the palace, which happens every day at 11:55 a.m. I was in a rush because I wanted to figure out how to take the bus to the gare, I still had to buy a ticket, and I wasn’t sure when a train would leave.
After staring, confused, at a French bus schedule on the street outside my hotel in Nice, I managed to translate it and got to the station for only 1.30 Euro, a nice alternative to the 16E cab ride. The bus was crowded, but I didn’t mind—I successfully got onto a foreign bus all by myself. Truly, an accomplishment.
I arrived at the station and bought my ticket to Monaco, less than 5 Euro roundtrip. I was surprised to discover that it was an open ticket–there was no leave or return time, I could go and come back whenever I wanted, which was a relief because I never know how long I’ll want to stay somewhere. I boarded the ter train—it was really quite filthy—and soon arrived at the scrupulously clean Monaco-Monte Carlo train station.
When I left the train, I followed a sign to the tourist office inside the station. I happened to be walking behind a woman in a green skirt, and as she ended up heading to the same place I was, I’m sure she thought I was stalking her. We both went to the tourism office for maps, and I heard her ask directions to the changing of the guard–I listened because that was where I wanted to go. . .and then I followed Green Skirt Woman in that direction, so I guess I was stalking her after all, but when she stopped to check her map (or to shake me), I kept going.
Monaco’s palace is at the top of what must be the tallest rock ever. . .I had to walk up an insane amount of winding steps to get to the palace, but it was so worth it when I arrived, ten minutes before the changing of the guard. There were crowds of people so it was hard to see, but it was still really cool to see the guards moving in their crisp, white uniforms in a centuries-old ritual.
I was incredibly happy because I had made it in time to see it, and after that I saw where the line was to tour the palace but it was overflowing with people as every tourist in Monaco was at the palace for the guard change. I decided to walk around for a while, and then come back. The most hilarious part of the Monaco adventure was discovering that the guards arrived on a bus to the palace, piled out, performed for the crowd, then piled back in to go wherever it is that they go. It’s all a show now.
After the guard change, I wandered around and found the cathedral where I believe Princess Grace was married and where I know she is buried because I saw her tomb. In a semi-circle surrounding the dais, where the priests and other church officiates are during services, are the graves of Monaco royalty, which I thought was so very odd and yet so. . .right. Simple tombs for the royalty partially hidden in a church instead of gaudily displayed. Her grave is marked “Gratia Patria.”
After the cathedral, I headed back to the palace and went inside for a tour. I had a headset that guided me along the beautiful rooms with lots of information I don’t remember, but appreciated at the time. My favorite rooms were the Galerie de Hercule and the throne room. I loved the latter because of a gorgeous portrait of the royal family in the corner of the room–Rainier, Albert, Stephanie, Grace and Caroline. They looked so regal, so royal. I wish I could have found a print of it, but it was nowhere.
I ate lunch outside of the palace, all alone.
I went into gift shops, walked the tiny streets of old Monaco–the city was just so clean. As police were everywhere, I felt perfectly safe at all times.
A beautiful garden stood next to the Oceanography Museum, whose gift shop I visited. Around that time I was really worn out and thinking of leaving, but then I saw a little tourist train and decided to go for a ride. The train took me all around the city, and I got a glimpse of that oh-so-famous Casino.
After the train, I walked back toward the palace, down the long steps and to the train station.