From Monaco to France – And Back
Friday, April 29, 2016
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
If there’s such a thing as a homecoming, it probably happened today as Silversea’s Silver Spirit eased her way into her berth in Monte Carlo, Monaco. It’s the first time since the end of her European season last year that Silversea’s flagship has been in the city; a fact made more important due to the fact that Silversea’s corporate world headquarters are located here, just minutes from the pier.
Whether it’s preferential or just early reservations, we managed to snag the one and only berth in Monte Carlo. The just-christened Oceania Sirena was forced to drop anchor out in the harbour and tender her guests ashore. In some ways, this created some beautiful photo opportunities for guests aboard both ships, and no doubt for the billionaire’s yachts that call this ritzy city home.
Silversea makes a point of featuring Monte Carlo on many of its Mediterranean itineraries. Some voyages, like Silver Cloud’s September 16, 2016 departure (V.1629) embark here, while at least one itinerary always features an overnight call to allow guests to visit the famous Monaco Grand Prix that takes place every May. Silver Spirit herself will overnight here on her May 23 departure from Barcelona (V.5613) for the Grand Prix and in Cannes, France for the legendary Cannes Film Festival.
I have sort of a love-hate relationship with Monte Carlo. Fascinating and picturesque, it is also tremendously frustrating to get around – particularly at this time of year, when the set-up for the Monaco Grand Prix is in full swing. Sidewalks are blocked off with rows of metal bleachers, and roads dead-end in absurd locations. On a visit here in 2011, I very nearly went mad with frustration in trying to walk the city, eventually giving up and taking a taxi cab back to the Silver Spirit, where a cocktail was waiting to calm my nerves.
To eliminate any potential frustration, I chose to take one of Silversea’s Silver Shore excursions here today: the half-day tour of Nice and Eze.
Nestled between Monte Carlo and Villefranche, the medieval village of Eze is perched high atop a rocky outcrop of land. We were given a quick orientation tour and then set loose by our guide for 30 minutes of free time, which was just enough to buy a few souvenirs and loose ourselves amongst the narrow and winding streets.
Eze is one of the most visited sights outside of Monte Carlo, and it shows: by the time we left at five minutes past ten in the morning, the crowds had already started to descend. Coupled with the rapidly-climbing mercury (a stark contrast to the frigidness of yesterday’s port call in Sanary-sur-Mer), this is one destination you’ll definitely want to visit early in the morning.
The real star of this tour was the city of Nice. Located along the Cote d’Azur, Nice is one of those places that exudes a certain charm that you can’t quite put your finger on. Maybe it’s the brightly-coloured buildings painted in shades of red, orange and yellow. It could be the mixture of French and Italian influence. Or, it could simply be the five kilometres of beachfront promenade that speak to a lifestyle that most of us aspire to.
We strolled the historic Old Town (Vieux-Nice) with its winding streets, hidden squares and cafes. Our guide made a point of showing us the Flower Market (Marche aux Fleurs)