Wednesday the 17th of June
A short walk to the train station and we were on our way to Nice! We climbed to the highest point of the city named Du Chateau and stumbled upon a breathtaking view I had not expected of this small town. The pristine blue waters lapped up the pebble beach as the sun bore down on the locals enjoying the warmth on the surprisingly comfortable stones. The girls and I had lunch at a small Italian restaurant that reeled us in with its free wine and enthusiastic service. This part of the French Riviera is largely influenced by the cuisine and culture of Italy which was clear in the savoury pizza i shared with Olivia. We were in Old Town Nice amidst humble market stalls and passionate locals – I think I enjoyed this authentic city more than I did the famous icons tainted by commercialisation and overrun with tourists. We had a dip in the cool water to relieve ourselves from the intense heat. Our girls day out was made better with the knowledge that the idiot boys were missing out on gorgeous Nice in their reclusive mission to watch the second round of State of Origin in a nearby pub. It was great to have a relaxing day of being a tourist rather than an intense sight-seeing mission as we had in Paris. Olivia and I made it to the station seconds before the train departed – we waved to Alex and Nick who were left behind still searching for the platform. Deep in conversation, we nearly missed our departure at Biot and ran, to the amusement of the locals, out of the cabin with again seconds to spare. We weren’t the only ones to get confused with the public transport, we found out, as another group of boys rode to the end of the train line before realising their mistake.
Everyone was dressed in their best when we departed for the lavish principality of Monaco that evening. The tall buildings painted in multicoloured pastels caused for the streets to feel narrow and almost claustrophobic. They wound with no logical direction as though designed in the likeness of a maze. We made our way towards the castle of the Prince of Monaco, having to stand to the side of the quiet streets as tinted Mercedes-Benz vehicles rolled past. When we arrived, it was evident why this was the chosen spot for the royal residence: the cliff face isolated by mountains dropped to reveal a gorgeous view of the city. Traditional buildings made an intricate pattern to the blue waters edge where yachts of all sizes were docked by their houses. A congregation of sleek vehicles stood near the entrance whilst individuals in red-carpet wear made their way out of the palace and into the screaming crowd. The place was swarming with paparazzi as gentlemen in uniform guided the vehicles of the Festival of Television away from the crowd.
A short distance further and we were in the heart of Monte Carlo where bright lights illuminated the rich city. Many of the boys were interested in entering the casino and trying their luck at roulette or black jack with a minimum bet of twenty-five euro but I preferred to sightsee inside the casino square and all around it. Only one of our company came out lucky in the short hour spent inside hence I was happy I had made the most of my time elsewhere; instead my exploring took me into slot machine centrum where entry was free and the dimly lit room attracted a wide array of characters. Monaco is the second richest principality in the world. The casino was filled with high rollers and the price of everyday items seemed doubled. To establish oneself in Monaco, a million dollar contribution had to be payed to the Prince yet many frenchmen made the move to escape the 65% taxation rate of the one-percenters. This wealth was very evident in the luxurious city!
We returned to the Contiki Campsite with plenty of energy to expend. We stayed in the bar where they sold bottles of ice wine imported from the nearby Beaujolais Wine Region and spent the rest of our evening there. Our tour guide and bus driver are both incredible people who I must attribute the success of our journey to date. They are a perfect balance of professional and fun – night after night we tried to convince Michael and Paolo to join us at the bar or on the dance floor but both are restricted by their work for the following day. Despite this, our Italian Stallion bus driver Paolo did join us that evening in the centre of our dance circle – he took me by the waist and lead me in a simple tango! I have never learnt to do any forms of latin dance but all it took was a skilled leader to show me how and finish in an elegant back-bend. And also a cocktail from Paolo – grazie bella!