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Trip Report Monte Carlo, Bordighera, Eze and Cannes

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We returned from a week in Monte Carlo with side trips to Eze, Vence, Valbonne, Cannes, Menton and Bordighera last week. I'll keep this short and will be happy to answer any specific questions others may have, ok?

Itinerary - met up with DH in Nice for one night and part of the next day; took the train to Monte Carlo ; spent 5 total days there, two touring Monte Carlo, one day taking the train to Cannes, one day driving to Menton and Borgidhera and the last day driving to Eze, Vence and Valbonne before dropping the car at the Nice airport and flying out the next morning.

Hotels - Le Meridien Nice for the first night; lovely, good location; probably overpriced since the Mercure occupies the lower floors of the same physical building and charges much less/night!

Le Meridien in Monte Carlo for the next four nights; very nice, very quiet as only 57 of the 400+ rooms were occupied; on a bus route but also walkable if you are in decent shape or not wearing stiletto heels; we had a sea view room, moderately large; the property has its own private beach, lovely pool and indoor pool/workout facility; staff was very gracious, bartender was great and the service was superb

Campanile Nice Airport for the last night - terrible, horrible, no good, very bad place!! noisy, cramped, bathroom light flickered constantly and the hair dryer didn't work. close enough to the airport but a lousey way to end the trip

Restaurants:
Monte Carlo: Pulchinella - lovely family italian restaurant within a 10 minute walk of the hotel and near the Grimaldi Forum; food was gorgeous and very very tasty! Starters, Main Course and a bottle of wine for around 90e.

Lorenzo – another family run Italian restaurant right across from the Grimaldi Forum; Risotto, Salad and 2 glasses of wine for around 50e

Qaui D’Artistes – this was our splurge dinner prior to going to the Casino; Seafood is the speciality of the house; DH had steak and salad; I had asparagus soup and risotto, a bottle of wine and a bill of around 175e for two. Good food but compared to Pulchinella and Lorenzo – over priced

L’Intempo – this was in our hotel; it was raining and after a long day, we opted (or copped out) for the hotel restaurant and were really happy we did! DH had sea bass, I had a seafood risotto, both had salads, a bottle of wine and a great time chatting with our waiter! Bill was around 130e and the waiter asked if we’d stay a bit, brought us limoncello and we continued our banter. Obviously, this could not have happened in high season but with the hotel almost empty, we were able to enjoy a very nice evening.

Valbonne - Café Des Arcade – this is a lovely little spot on the town square; we arrived a bit early after our driving of the day but were able to be seated, have some bread and a bottle of wine until the chef arrived to begin the dinner service; DH had steak and salad; I had salad and seafood spaghetti; total bill was under 60e.

We stopped for lunches during the day as needed but didn’t make any special effort to find unique spots. A sandwich here, pizza there, crepes, wine at the end of each day, etc. We maximized the café lifestyle each morning with coffee and pastries – did have a nice breakfast the first morning in Nice at the hotel and a nice breakfast at the hotel in Monte Carlo our last morning.

Sights (not in any particular order) – Nice: Promenade Des Anglais, Opera House, Market, Hop on/Hop Off Bus, wandering the old town and Carnival Area

Monte Carlo – “the rock” – Castle, Changing of the Guard, Cathedral, Aquarium, and Old Town on the first day; antique car museum, exotic gardens, wandering the old town, Casino and walking the F1 course on the second day(that is amazing given the narrow streets, hairpin turns and cars running at 180mph!!); I will comment on the casino – we were told that DH must have a jacket and I had to be in a dress or skirt. We arrived, one room was open with 2 roulette tables and 1 blackjack table; patrons had on ‘jackets’ all right – jeans jackets, leather motorcycle jackets and a couple of sport coats. Jeans, tee shirts, etc were acceptable! Needless to say, we had expected a more upscale atmosphere and it was midrange vegas instead.

Cannes – we took the train which was easy and had nice scenery along the way; walked the promenade, had a unremarkable lunch and then hiked up to the castle and cathedral. The cathedral was under renovation so we couldn’t see much; the walk though the old town was fine but very quiet on a Sunday.

Menton/Borgidhera – we used Hertz for the rental car and had little difficulty; the office is right on the harbor. The Citrus Festival in Menton was unique – each region of France built a representative ‘sculpture’ of their area using oranges and lemons. There were stands selling local produce, olive oils, vinegars, jams, etc lining the exhibits and a stand at the end was selling Crepes and Coffee both heavily laced with Grand Marnier! Very tasty!! Borgidhera was a disappointment overall. It was cold and very windy, overcast, gray and just nasty when we arrived. We walked out to the church at the point, up the narrow streets of oldtown , went into the church and then back down to the beach area for a decent but chilly lunch. I needed gloves, winter coat and hat which of course were back home!

Eze, Vence and Valbonne - charming, lovely, shops, perfume factories and outlets; Coffee at the Eze chalet hotel with lovely views; wine in Vence on the square after wandering the old town and taking lots of photos and dinner in Valbonne after again wandering and finding some shops I longed to buy out and ship home!!

Weather – as mentioned above, it was mostly cold, windy and overcast; we took the hop on/hop off bus in Nice due to the weather and then just dealt with it the rest of the trip

Overall impressions – during off season, I am confident you can ‘do’ Monte Carlo in 2 days; during high or shoulder season, you would need a bit longer just due to crowds and other areas such as the state apartments, churches, etc being open for tours or not under renovation; the area is beautiful, good transportation (buses are the norm instead of cabs), relative bargains can be found for dining and the locals were very pleasant and helpful even when we were lost or trying to figure out the bus routing!

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