Photowalking in Monaco

The other day, I wrote about getting lost in Cap d’Ail where I discovered a footpath that gave me stunning views of the bay and its impressive villas.  That footpath is actually 3.6 kms long – one end leads to the equally awesome Beaulieu sur-Mer and the other – to the land of the filthy rich, that is Monaco!

Well, I promised myself that I shall go back to Cap d’Ail to explore the path to Prince Albert’s Principality, but just as soon as I finished murmuring the words, I was back before I knew it!   I actually went to do some important “ten-minute” errand yesterday, in neighbouring Menton,  and since Cap d’Ail is just half an hour bus away, I grabbed the chance!

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This is the coastal path:  looks very long indeed but in truth, it’s practically effortless walking the kilometers-long distance since you are rewarded by staggering views .. and accompanied by other walkers and joggers.

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At the last beach of Cap d’Ail which borders Monaco, I stopped for ages admiring one of my most favorite jaw-dropping spring flowers – The Pride of Madeira

But I shall talk about that walk in my future post and will fast forward the tape by taking you to the Monaco-part of the journey.

M O N A C O

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This sculpture of a couple sitting in the park welcomes everyone entering Monaco from Cap d’Ail.  It’s just one among many “Sitting Couple on a Bench” creations (and currently exhibited worldwide)  of the celebrated British sculptor, Lynn Chadwick (1914 – 2003).

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Not far behind is the non-stop buzzing sound of helicopters, approaching and taking off!  I have reached the vicinity of Monaco Heliport.

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Helicopters waiting for their super-rich passengers at Monaco Heliport

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This man seemed to have fallen in love with one of the helicopters!

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Opposite the Heliport is the Big Top of Monaco where the International Circus Festival is held annually and a regular venue for concerts, shows and charitable activities where Prince Albert and the Royal Family are patrons.

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Next to it is an oasis of tranquility….the Fontvieille garden.  Fontvieille is the youngest  district, the cornerstone laid by then Crown Prince Albert in 1981.  It is an area of Monaco reclaimed from the sea.

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Not far away is Fernando Botero’s 1987 sculpture, “Woman smoking a cigarette”.  Here, she is sunbathing in the nude with a cigarette in one hand

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I nearly missed this sculpture of a man in a horse, installed near the Heliport.  It’s hidden by a thick overgrowth and a huge road maintenance van seemingly parked permanently on the road infront of it, hence, making it invisible to monument-tracking-tourists.

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The mosaic tiled roof of Saint Nicolas Church as seen from the Fontvieille garden.

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I had the chance to get closer – by mistake, as I got lost again -to the Church of Saint Nicolas and saw his statue just standing at the entrance.  Installed in 1988 and a creation of sculptor Riccia,  doesn’t he look adorable with children here?

In English, his name translates to “Santa Claus”….got the connection?

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Ahh..a great discovery indeed!  That’s the reward of walking, you get to stumble upon gems such as this one – The Princess Grace Rose Garden!

As the name implies, this garden houses around 4,000 rose treess, 150 varieties of which come from all over the world and each plot is dedicated to legendary personalities such as Victor Hugo, Claude Monet, Charles de Gaulle, Prince Rainier, Princess Stephanie,…

There is another reason to go back to this spot – when the roses are in full bloom!

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The rose garden is even made beautiful by perfectly sculpted olive trees like this one.

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Seeing these ladies reminded me that it’s lunchtime.  Luckily, I have a sandwich and bottle of water handy, just a bench needed to have my picnic!  That’s the way to NOT TO spend a centime in Monaco.

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A floral marker to an apartment complex named “Les Eucalyptus”

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You can pop your postcards in postal boxes like this one.  You won’t miss it as it sports the same colours of the Monegasque flag.

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The Port of Fontvieille with the hovering skyline of Monaco in the background.

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The rock on the right is the beginning of “le Rocher” where the old town and the Palace are situated.

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Seen from an elevated walkway going towards the Museum of Stamps and Money as well as the Old Automobiles Exhibition House

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Voila, here is the museum for you – vintage car lovers!

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Metallic structures are being installed along the path of the Monaco Grand Prix coming up in May.

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This one is on the way going up the Casino de Montecarlo

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I’ve reached the Casino area and noticed these colourful flags and tennis balls attached to each post.  Ahaaa….the Davis Cup and Rolex Tennis Masters coming soon, of course!

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It’s busy with tourists that day in nearby Hotel de Paris….probably passengers from the  Clipper which I saw moored in the waters…

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A Spring Art Festival is going on

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I never get tired photographing the Belle Epoque facade of the Casino..

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Whoah…. some activity going on here!

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Cool car…is this the reason for all this hullabaloo?

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Reminds me of a grasshopper’s eyes!

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It’s Prince Albert…!

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An Ashton Martin Vantage (green) and a gull-wing door beauty (blue)..

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Prince Albert having an open-air meeting with British ex-minister turned racing driver, Paul Drayson.  He is the owner of the Ashton Martin vantage car which he uses in his racing ventures.

Okay, I took a lot of shots of Prince Albert.  Practically swooning over him as he is very handsome and extremely elegant.  I even commented to one of his security men, ‘ Gosh, he’s handsome!”…And his reply, “Sorry, he’s taken!”

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But I have to catch the bus to home so I had to leave the Prince and turned my attention to the tulips of the Casino garden – actually the main reason why I came to Monaco…

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Every Springtime, the Casino garden is ablazed with tulips.  Last year, they were mostly reds and yellows.  This year, I didn’t see any yellows at all – but amazing still!  This is my favorite shot…

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And last shot…but not the least, before I went to the bus stop,  I saw this beautiful relationship of two trees.

Till death do us part…..is a well-fitting caption!

Getting lost in Cap d’Ail

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Cap d’Ail was not really in my itinerary of today (although it’s one experience that I’d insist on doing again!)

All I wanted was to buy a timbre fiscal (goverment stamp) from the Treasurer’s Office in Menton, for affixing on a document that needs to be notarized by the Mairie (Town Hall).  The truth is, I could also buy it from a Tabac (shop that sells cigarettes, candies and sometimes lotto tickets) but, foolish as I am, I still chose to procure it from a notoriously-red-tape-ridden fonction publique (government office), voila!  the distress I went through in the course of getting it.

But I did discover something in the process.  A secret gem – the millionaires’ hideaway – Cap d’Ail!

Here’s my story :

Distress #1

12:04 pm.  After an hour of bus journey from home to Menton, I arrived at the doorstep of the Treasurer’s Office four minutes after closing time!  Opening time again: 1:30pm.

Something I vehemently dislike doing is to waste time just waiting for an office to open.  I had to make a decision quickly.  Why not go to Monaco?  It’s more pleasant to hang around in the Casino garden where I could pass the time enjoying and photographing their display of Spring flowers around the fountain!  So off I caught the bus!

While in the bus, I did some time analysis.  The journey back and forth to Monaco is one hour, so that means I have only 2.5 hours to spare if I wanted to catch the Treasurer’s Office few minutes before they close at 4pm.  I could get off on French territory and just buy the timbre fiscal at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in Cap d’Ail.  It is just 3 bus stops away after Monaco.  This way, I could easily and leisurely walk my way back to the Principality for the flower stopover.

Distress #2

1:00pm.  I arrived at the Hotel de Ville..but it’s closed!  Opening time again: 1:30pm.

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Hotel de Ville in Cap d’Ail with its eye-catching mural

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Mariadams to the man in suit waiting by the Hotel de Ville:  Excuse me, monsieur.  Do you think they sell timbres fiscaux here?

Man in black:  No, they don’t.  But you can buy them at the Tabac up the road.

Distress#2

1:30pm.  After walking long and hard – it’s a hilly climb, mind you – I finally found the Tabac.  It’s closed.  The notice on the door says, “Opening time:  3:30pm”

That’s it!  Enough looking for stamps! There is a spectacular view out there and it’s about time I start exploring!
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I followed a footpath that gives sumptuous views of the sea with rich vegetation of Mediterranean pines, flowering vines,  luscious greeneries…..

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…millionaires’ villas perched high up on the rocks

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and more opulent villas with classical gardens and stairways jutting down to their private beach

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It’s like a painting dabbed with turquoises, terracottas and palm trees

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but whatever happened to the owner of this glorious villa?

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Along the snaking footpath, swimming pools appear here and there.  This one, peeking out between a grilled fencing

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sometimes the footpath would turn into a Y and I would follow one that suddenly turns into railroad-sleeper-steps leading up to the main road

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and in some corner, an oasis of bench, flowers and paradisiac setting awaits those who are desperate to rest their hearts after going through an exhaustive, highly emotional mix of  bewildered, dumbfounded and stupefified “ooohhhhs” and  “aaahhhhhs”.  Seeing wealth of other people is mindblowing, you see!

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Every now and then, a couple of walkers would be trailing behind, in their flimsiest clothing as the Spring sun is already a burner!

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Sights of rooftops surrounded by balusters, probably trying to make it look like a terrace but highly impossible to cook barbecue in this slanting set-up

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Belle Epoque villas where the residents run businesses in Monaco or highly-likely, second homes to international celebrities

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Here you can go on and on snapping for Home and Garden ideas

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and gate-painting styles

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Oh, did I mention “painting” already?  We can add bougainvilleas in the canvass, too!

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I took this photo because the glass roof in the centre fascinates me….it could be the roof of a conservatory…or even of an indoor pool..who knows?  Dreaming is free…

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A garden by the sea…what a lucky owner!

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They could well be the same millionaires whose hobby is to go fishing.  This is the door to their clubhouse.

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and this spot is free for all…tables and chairs for picnickers!

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and this one is for those who want to chat or relax over a glass of bank-breaking cocktails or wine

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and for those who just want to cut off, read a book or sunbathe with their loyal canine friend, Skip, it’s choose-your-own-cove and it’s free!

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Fish costs a fortune in this region, despite the bountiful sea and the rich and famous residents giving nary a care, but in any case, knowing how to fish and catching one is a very fulfilling hobby…moreso if it could provide you free dinner everyday!

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Nearly finished with my sightseeing, a passer-by whom I asked directions on how to get to the main road, told me to wend through this tunnel (the train station above it).  A bit eery for solo walkers like myself but my photographic passion was stronger than my fear, hence, this photo.

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Getting out of the tunnel, I was welcomed by this display of yet more bougainvilleas, pine trees and succulents

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Voila!  in case you want to follow my footsteps, this is the train station  in Cap d’Ail

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After the train station, I just walked and walked in a seemingly circular manner – a maze of streets and no-entry signs.  But that’s the beauty of being a photographer.  All the worries of getting lost is beyond me.  All I could think of that moment was my camera and my subject, such as this apartment building of mixed Rennaissance and Belle Epoque style.

I finally found the road and eventually hailed a bus going back to Menton.  I still had 45 minutes left before the Treasurer’s Office closes for the day.

Distress #3

3:50pm.  At the cashier’s counter.

mariadams:  I’d like to buy a timbre fiscal, please.  Do you accept carte bancaire (credit card)?

Cashier:  Non.  Only cash. 

So yours truly had to do a marathon run towards the nearest ATM, a good 500-meters away.   She found one, ran back and 2 minutes before they lock the door, she finally got what she wanted! Hurray!

 How to get to Cap d’Ail

–          By train:  Cap d’Ail train station is about 3 kms west of Monaco and 10 kms east of Nice.  There are regular coastal trains from either point:

–          By Bus: Ligne d’Azur line 100 provides services from Nice and Monaco approximately every 15 minutes.  Cost is only €1 for a single journey regardless of the distance.

Palm fronds too early..

 My first day home, I had to take a trip to another country – Italy – to do my food shopping.  It’s not that my travelling feet is itching again, there’s no other way.  The closest market and supermarket is Ventimiglia, on the coast, and being Friday, it’s perfect because the open-air market is on!  Many French who live just past the border make a regular excursion to this market town to buy their food and wine which are far, far cheaper than home.  And it’s fun, too.  The Italians know how to enjoy themselves.  They sing while they talk and their hands dance while they…  talk!

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Flowers, flowers I see everywhere… everyday!  That’s the magic of Springtime!

The round rosy-type in bunches on the left are what they call Ranunculus and those on the right are…you guessed them right!  They’re tulips, of course!

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Eight days to Palm Sunday, palm fronds are already up for sale. I suppose religious Italians have a tradition of keeping these woven palm leaves at home, ideally, one week before getting them blessed by the church.

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And they are selling like hotcakes, indeed!

From Paris to Nice

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Had to go down to the South of France today and there are only two TGV trips – one at 6:45am and the next at mid-day.  Since I still need to take another train connection from Nice station to our village , I had no choice but to wake up at 4am to beat the earlier journey.

So while at Gare de Lyon waiting for the train call, I was observing this coffee kiosk which never stopped from getting queued up.  That’s my dream business, a food or drink kiosk in a train station…I wonder how much they are paying for rent…

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Nice at last – after 5 hours sitting on the iDTGV…but I was rewarded, on my arrival, of  sunny blue skies, Provençal landscape and the warm, soft air around me!

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All the signs of the tourist season are showing.  Can’t blame them.  While I left Paris vacillating between 11-13degC…here it’s going as high as 21!

Welcome to the Cote d’Azur!

The tree is down

TREES

“I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me….”

Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918

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This tree was always the source of our delight everytime we went walking along this footpath by the river.  Its thick branches would be so heavy with leaves, drooping, almost kissing the river flowing next to it.

But alas, we saw it one day being fell down, one branch at a time.  It’s devastating.  This tree must have been standing there for at least some thirty years, giving joy to every passer-by, and shelter to hundreds of migratory birds.

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But for just a couple of hours, it would be gone, forever, chopped down without mercy.

“…….But only God can make a tree.”

Ollainville, Ile-de-France