Mighty Monaco

It was time to say bonjour¬†(hello in French) to Monaco, the world’s second smallest country! Vatican City is the smallest country – I had written about it earlier.

Monaco is made up of mere 490 acres of land, but it’s inhabited by around 36,000 people, thus making it the most densely populated country in the world!

HistoricGrandPrixofMonaco

Infoboard

As we entered the country, we were met by the cacophony of screaming engines and racing sound. Well, the Historic Grand Prix of Monaco was being held in Monte Carlo. We decided to watch it live! We were at the ticket counter ready to buy tickets when a couple approached us and offered us theirs. They said they had purchased the tickets not knowing that they were entitled to watch the race for free. They looked like diplomats. We offered to pay for the tickets, they refused to accept. Yeah, lucky we were! ūüôā

Displayboard&skyscrapers

We gained entry into the spectators’ area. We sat and watched the race for a couple of hours notwithstanding the blazing sunshine. A friend from Nice had joined us. The race cars belonging to different constructors zoomed off in front of us with striking sound and at lightening speed. The drivers were professionals showcasing a wide range of cars from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

Interestingly, Monaco is the only country in the world that hosts a F1 race within the streets of a city! No wonder the racetrack is narrow, curvy and the circuit area is comparatively the shortest. It was on the same track that one of the doyens of F1, Michael Schumacher had won the Monaco Grand Prix race five times between 1994 and 2001.

Private yachts, MonacoMonaco-city Monaco-railwaystation

Later we walked uphill and reached a modern railway station, Gare de Monaco. ¬†As we continued walking along the lanes of the city, we realized it was another hep place with attractive skyscrapers, flashy cars and stylish¬†people. We were told many film stars maintained a holiday home there. Why not? Besides the natural beauty of the French¬†Riviera¬†and the frills it offers, there’s also a glitzy casino a la Las Vegas. We spent a few minutes at this famous Monte Carlo Casino observing the interiors and gamblers. (Yes, we chose to merely observe.)

Apparently, Monaco has the lowest poverty level and the most expensive real estate market in the world. A mighty little country indeed!

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Filmy, Charming Cannes

It's Cannes!The likes of Brad Pitt, Ben Kingsley, Tom Cruise, Aishwarya Rai, Sophia Loren, Sylvester Stallone, Angelina Jolie, (late) Akira Kurosawa, Mel Gibson, Cameron Diaz, Meryl Streep and so on have walked the red carpet there. An International Film Festival takes place there every year. Mind you, the Festival is prestigious, large-scale and attracts a lot of global media attention. It happens in France.

Yeah, this time I’m talking about Cannes! Situated in the French Riviera, Cannes does set you thinking for a moment as to what’s so uncanny about it! Well, hang around for a while in La Croisette and you will find answers! The place seemed to be adorned with shops selling the most compelling brands in the world. The attractive bungalows around did deserve a second glance.

HandprintBenKingsleyHandprintSylvesterStalloneHandprintMerylStreepHandprintSophiaLoren

It was interesting to see (bronze) hand prints of most of the celebrities on a coveted pathway, Allee des Stars. It was somewhat like the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the US. We also saw Palais des Festivals where movies are screened for the film stars.

Yachts galoreNotice the cone-shaped tents

Cannes obviously was quite cannily built to attract the wealthy film stars and film makers. With huge yachts being docked right across the French Riviera, Cannes was nothing short of being an exquisite extravagant beauty spot for a fashion-conscious holidayer.

Preparations for the film festival were on with gusto around the time we visited Cannes. We walked along the main road and seaside promenade to get a feel of this little city. Glitzy cars whizzed past us. A few souvenir shops were seen, of course selling classy souvenirs. We chose to buy a cup. Cone-shaped tents (white in colour) around the riviera stood out charmingly.

Cannes, pathwayWe treated ourselves to some pakoras, naans, dal tadka and masala chai earlier as we reached Cannes. Yeah, we felt excited about having such food in Cannes! The chai¬†especially was¬†refreshing! ¬†A Sri Lankan couple was running the eatery. Both the husband and wife were pleased to share their experiences of living in a hot spot like Cannes. They exclaimed that if only we had visited a week later (during the Festival), we would have surely bumped into at least a couple of the film dons. Perhaps they were right! ūüôā

Nice la Belle

It seemed to be hip, hep and happening there. The place was buzzing with excitement and was mostly filled with lads and lasses – students and tourists alike!

Mediterranean sea

Possessing one of the best promenades in the world, this place was simply Nice.¬†Well, the place itself is called Nice, aka¬†Nice la Belle¬†in French! It is the second biggest and the¬†wealthiest¬†city in the¬†Provence-Alpes-C√īte d’Azur region of France. It enjoys good Mediterranean¬†weather –¬†no extreme temperatures as such to bother you!

There is always an exodus to Nice, apparently next only to Paris! So, you know what to expect from this French riviera!

Flower market, NiceWe spent a couple of days in Nice on our way to Marseilles. We went around exploring the city mostly on foot and some areas by tram. Nice did have some pretty lanes that hosted a number of touristy shops and eateries in the old town (Vieux Nice). The market selling flowers, fruits, vegetables, spices, soaps, etc in the cours Saleya area was in itself a major attraction thanks to the neat stalls. We had cappuccino and croissant in this area by paying absurd prices!

Herbs of the ProvenceHandmade soaps!

Handmade soaps and herbs – in a variety of flavours – are quite popular in this region. They could serve as souvenirs.

Socca¬†is a popular local dish made out of chickpea (besan) flour and olive oil. We so much wanted to taste it, but we realized we had to be in long queues for this! We were short of time and hungry too, we quickly had a burger each and French fries. They just about managed to satiate our hunger! On another occasion, we tried onion rings and they didn’t disappoint us!

We noticed that Nice was indeed pedestrian friendly. After having experienced severe winter in our present home turf, walking under the mild rays of the sun was an absolute delight. The scenery around was bewitching to boot!

Promenade

The promenade (known as Promenade des Anglais or Promenade of the English) along the Baie des Anges (Bay of the Angels), a bay of the Mediterranean sea, was surely a beauty. Cyclists, pedestrians, joggers and skaters alike adorned the area. Wow Рa couple of them skated rhythmically! What an elegant way to keep fit, I thought to myself!

Ah, of course, the sea was a cynosure of all eyes what with its resplendent blue colour in all its shades that could numb you for a while!

We stayed at a nice hotel in Nice. We were invited by one of our friends over dinner at his home. He cooked some delicious¬†vegetarian¬†food for us! Could we have gotten luckier than this?! ūüôā