Special: Can you walk the entire coast of a country in one day?

February 2019

(This week I’m going to make a special post, don’t worry, normal service will be resumed next week).

So to answer the question in the title, “Can you walk the entire coast of a country in one day?”. Well if that country is quite large, like the United Kingdom, then the answer is obviously no. But what if the country in question is very small?

Well Wikipedia has a list of countries, ordered by size. The smallest country on the list (at the bottom) is the Vatican City. This is a country within a city, in this case Rome, the capital of Italy. It covers just 0.44 square km. It is entirely bordered by Rome and Rome is not by the sea so which means the Vatican City has no coastline. Next.

The next smallest country on the list is Monaco, at 2.02 square km. Wikipedia includes the comment  in the Notes column “Smallest country with a coastline”. So Monaco is where I’m heading on today’s walk, to see if I can walk the entire coastline of a country in one day.

Having walked all the coastline in England and Wales, the nearest parts of the British Coast I haven’t walked are in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I do have trips booked to both these places later in the year, using some annual leave to do so, but if I’m going to take leave to walk in the UK I prefer to do so when the days are longer (and the clocks have changed to summer time) and the weather likely to be better, so that I can make the most of it. At this time of year by the time I got to the north of Scotland I would only have a few hours before it got dark.

However I did want to go to somewhere new by the sea during the winter months and somewhere I can get to for the weekend (so that I don’t need to book any leave from work to do it). I settled on Nice. The reason is there are a very large number of flights there each day from the various London airports (and they are quite cheap in the winter, presumably when demand is lower, as it was under £100 return), which means I can make the timings work for a weekend. The fight time is less than 2 hours from London, and the weather is generally still pretty warm even in the winter. In addition the hotel I booked in Nice was also quite well priced, charging just under €49 for a 1 night stay in a double room, including breakfast, which I thought was very reasonable.  (It was too, I was very happy with the hotel and was also pleased to find that tea and coffee was provided in the room too, something which in my experience is rare abroad). So it was not too expensive a weekend away.

So early on Saturday I flew out to Nice, arriving a little before midday (local time) and spent the rest of the day exploring Nice. The next day, I had booked my flight home at 21:05 from Nice (but with the 1 hour time-zone difference between France and Britain I’d arrive at 22:05). This meant I had most of the day available. Monaco is less than 30 minutes from Nice by train (and there is a regular service), so I planned to visit Monaco and walk it’s coastline before I returned home that evening.

After having breakfast at my hotel in Nice I checked out and headed to the main railway station in Nice, Nice Ville, which was only a 5 minute walk from my hotel.

Nice Ville station

Here I bought a ticket for the next train to Monaco, which was in around 20 minutes time. Trains from Nice to Monaco run every 30 minutes or so and takes around 25 minutes. The ticket cost me €4.10 one way. In the 20 minutes I had to wait I got a baguette from a shop at the station for my lunch. Trains to Monaco are operated by the French national railway company, SNCF. After all Monaco has only a single station and is surrounded by France on 3 sides, and the sea on the other, so I guess it’s makes sense for the French to run their rail service.

Nice Ville station

At a few minutes before the allotted time, a double deck train rolled into the station and soon departed on-time for Monaco. I sat on the right hand side upstairs by the window so that I could enjoy the views, as it is a beautiful journey, as the train hugs the coast for much of the way, going in and out of tunnels as it does so (rather like the line from Exeter to Paignton and Plymouth).

View from a train between Nice and Monaco

The train stopped at several stations on the way, most with the “Sur Mer” suffix, which even with my very limited French I know to mean “On Sea”.

Beaulieu sur Mer Station

The train arrived on time at Monaco Monte Carlo station. This station is entirely underground (presumably to save space as Monaco is so densely populated). I followed most other people to the way out, which then went through a long tunnel and emerged into a pretty little valley with a church and passed under a road bridge to the main road behind the harbour.

Monaco

Now Monaco has a population of 38,300 living in it’s little more than 2km square. This makes it the second most densely populated country in the world, so I was expecting to find a bit of a concrete jungle. That is the case to a large degree, and much of the architecture is bland and ugly. Nevertheless it does have some beautiful buildings too, it’s in a stunning location with beautiful views around and, as I was to find later, it does have some stunning natural beauty too, which was completely unexpected and unknown to me until I got there. It turned out to be a wonderful and memorable day.

Monaco Marina

My first plan was to walk the coast of Monaco, and the rest of the day was for seeing the rest of the sights with the time I had left. You might think being around 2 square km in size it would not take long to walk the coast, but in fact the coastline is around 6km long, as you have to go around the various harbours and marinas, which adds fair bit to the mileage (it is also much wider than it is tall) so in practice it will take a little under 2 hours.

First I had to head to the border and I was not exactly sure where that was. I was using a guide book loaned to me by my dad, which covered the French Riviera, including Monaco. That had a basic map, but it only covered the centre of Monaco and so I did not know exactly where the border to France was. (The guide book was also clearly quite old, because I noticed all the prices quoted were in French Francs, but Monaco uses the Euro, like France). Time to head to Google, where I downloaded a map of all of Monaco, to my phone showing the borders (the area within Monaco are shaded with a pink background, whilst those outside in grey) . From that I worked out I was nearer the western border, so I’d head there first then planned to  walk along the coast to the eastern border.

It turns out getting around Monaco on foot is harder than I imagined. It is densely populated as I mentioned, but also extremely hilly. Many of the roads, especially the main roads, regularly run through short tunnels. These have no pavement and pedestrians are not permitted to walk through them, which meant following the map, which showed the roads, was tricky. Fortunately, I was also to discover that Monaco also has an extensive pedestrian infrastructure including numerous lifts and escalators outdoors, which are free to use, as well as some walkways and elevated paths. These were not marked on the map I had downloaded, so it was a bit confusing but I headed in generally the right direction, backed up with checking Google Maps on my phone. Unfortunately, having followed as much as possible the main road to the footballs stadium (Stade Louis II) which is right at the western end of Monaco, I wanted to turn south for the shore. Unfortunately the road marked on the map was closed and blocked off due to building work.

So instead I headed across the border into France. I was a bit disappointed to see there was little fanfare at the border. There is no physical border, but I expected to see big “Welcome to France” signs and “Welcome to Monaco” in the other direction. Instead I just saw a sign for Cap D’Ail, the first town in France to the west of Monaco.

Cap D'Ali from Monaco

Looking back the only clue this was a border was an (unmanned) police box beside the roundabout. A disappointment!

Having crossed back into France I found a path beside the marina which runs along the border. This was full of large luxury yachts, as you might expect. On reaching the shore I was pleased to see people walking on top of the harbour wall ahead and when I got there I found the steps up onto it. Here I could turn left and re-enter Monaco.

Cap D'Ali Marina

This time there was the flag of Monaco flying on a flag pole and a physical border of sorts, though unmanned. A bit better than I had found on the road, anyway!

Entering Monaco from Cap D'Ali

So I walked through the pedesdtrian gate to the right of the barrier and back into Monaco. The first part of Monaco I had entered is known as Fontvieille. The path ahead on the sea wall soon reached a rather ugly metal building you can see in the photo above. So I turned left in front of it to reach a road junction and continued ahead.

Monaco

Here the path went through a small car park which lead to Monaco Airport. This occupies the coast in this very south western tip of the country. Given the tiny size of Monaco this was surprise but of course there is no runway, it’s a heliport. Monaco is a very wealthy country (it is known as something of a tax haven) so presumably it’s most wealthy residents transfer from Nice airport by helicopter to Monaco. Actually the public can do so too (I saw signs for it at Nice airport the previous day), but it costs around €150 each way I believe.

Monaco Heliport

So this is the base for the countries airline, Monacair too. I took a photo of a helicopter on the helipad beside the coast to my right.

Monaco Heliport

At the small terminal, the coast was still fenced off for the Heliport, but a footpath ran to the left of the terminal through a lovely park, which had numerous tropical plants and a nice fountain.

Park beside Monaco Heliport

Beyond the small terminal building I could return to the path along the top of the man-made harbour wall. This continued past some tall blocks of flats on the left and then to one of the arms of the harbour, this one Port de Fontvieille.

Monaco promenade

I headed to the end of the harbour arm to enjoy the view, despite being a dead-end. Here I could see the terrain changed somewhat. So far I’d been only 1-2m above sea level but ahead I could see towering sheer cliffs, and no path along the bottom, so I knew there would be some climbing to come.

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

Looking to the right, I could see a large and impressive stone building built into the cliff face, so I was not sure how much of the coast I would be able to walk on that side of the harbour.

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

I descended steps down from the harbour wall and followed a pleasant path beside the harbour, beside the low wall.

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

This path ran beside the road, but there was little traffic and the path had several benches to stop and enjoy the view.

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

On the other side of the road, it was lined with tall and fairly ugly blocks of flats.

Looking inland I could see the skyscrapers of Monaco heading up the hill, and cranes presumably about to add some more. Up on the high cliffs the other side of the harbour is the old town, Monaco-Ville and I could see what I’d later find was the cathedral on the top.

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

The path soon entered the marina. A sign indicated a ferry ran across the harbour, but the boat was moored up and there was no one around so it seemed not to be operating today (perhaps it does not run in the winter, the sign did not say). In any case I wouldn’t have used it, as my plan was to walk the coast, not ride on a ferry alongside it!

The boats in the harbour were initially relatively modest but soon became much bigger. I was interested to look at the port of registry on the back of these large yachts. Some were from Monaco, Nice or nearby towns. But curiously the majority seemed to be from Valletta (the capital of Malta), with some from London, Douglas (the Isle of Man) and George Town in the Cayman Islands. With the exception of London I think these all have something of a reputation as a bit of a tax haven.

Rounding the corner I continued into the inner harbour soon to reach the southern end of the harbour. Here sadly the path ended at one of the main roads.

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

I could follow this a short distance, but true to form this soon entered a tunnel through which pedestrians are banned (it goes under the old town, Monaco-Ville, high on the cliffs above).

Monaco

However doubling back I could take an escalator up to a pedestrian bridge over this road.

Monaco

This took me past the pedestrian centre “Centre Commercial De Fontvieille”, I presume the main indoor shopping centre for Monaco (I did not go inside). This took me past the entrance to the motor museum of Monaco, showing the private collection of cars owned by the Prince of Monaco.

The Cars Collection of H.S.H. the Prince of Monaco

I did not go in here either, though there seemed to be some sort of Ferrari theme where I think you could try out an F1 simulator. Tempting, but I wanted to finish the walk first (I’m not sure how much it costs to go in).

So I continued around the raised walkway on the first floor of the centre.

Centre Commercial de Fontvielle

At the end of this there was no way up onto the sheer cliffs ahead, so I turned left through the small gardens at the end and up steps to reach the road in a little square above, Place du Canton.

Now I wanted to walk around the coast of the high rocky headland of Monaco-Ville, the oldest part of the country. However the first part of it is occupied by the Prince’s Palace. This is still the residence of the Monaco Royal Family and so you cannot access the coast right behind it (I think it is part of the private gardens). So instead I followed the road below it to a roundabout, then turned right. The pavement then soon turned right off the road and became a stepped path up to the top of Monaco-Ville.

Path up to Monaco VIlle

This gave increasingly good views over the marina.

Monaco Marina from Monaco Ville

Monaco Marina from Monaco Ville

Monaco Marina from Monaco Ville

At the top I went through an arch and came out into the grand square in front of the Royal Palace.

Prince's Palace of Monaco

Some of the state apartments are open to the public and I had hoped to visit them, but I discovered they are only open to the public in the summer months (I think April-September) so it being February, I was out of luck.

Prince's Palace of Monaco

Prince's Palace of Monaco

Monaco VIlle

Monaco VIlle

Instead I stopped to take in the view over the marina. This is very impressive. The border of Monaco to France is very clear to see, it’s where the land stops being covered in sky scrapers and becomes mostly green with a few larger detached houses!

Monaco Marina

Although the buildings are quite ugly I thought, it is still quite an impressive view but I was more taken with the high hills, almost mountains really, above. I’d have liked to have got up there too, but I ran out of time to try.

The views along the coast were lovely too. I walked around this attractive square where there are canons and piles of canon balls. The streets along the western side of Monaco Ville looked rather attractive but I was on the wrong side of this narrow peninsula, so walked across the square to get back onto it’s eastern coast, to walk around it.

Streets of Monaco Ville

The streets heading inland from the square were rather more characterful and far more historic and I suspect had not changed much over the years, despite huge change all around them. It was nice to see there is some history in Monaco. The flag was flying at the palace too which I believe means the Royal Family are in residence.

Prince's Palace of Monaco

Heading back to the east coast of Monaco-Ville I could look back over the west of the country, where I had just walked and the marina below.

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

Beside the shop and ticket office I found a path down into some pleasant gardens beside the palace, to continue my walk. Here there were proper footpaths past trees and numerous tropical plants. It felt nice to be somewhere peaceful and natural, something I hadn’t expected to find in Monaco.

The small park did not last long, but the route continued as a path (rather than road) in front of some more flats. I could look down over the sheer cliffs I had seen from below earlier.

Monaco Ville

Just next to the path I soon reached Monaco cathedral.

This was completed in 1903 and had a lovely stone frontage. I stopped for a look in (and was pleased to find photos were permitted … or at least I didn’t see any signs prohibiting it and no one told me off!).

Monaco Cathedral

Monaco Cathedral

Next to it was another interesting stone building, though I’m not sure what it was used for, but I suspect it was connected in some way to the cathedral.

Monaco Ville

Beyond the cathedral I could return to a lovely path through a much larger park. This was built into the hill with paths at different levels into the hills. In places, some of the trees hung so low, you had to duck down to get along the paths. It was a real oasis, and quite lovely.

Jardins Saint Martin, Monaco

Jardins Saint Martin, Monaco

Ahead I could see the route to the coast would soon be blocked by the big stone building I had seen earlier.  I presumed this was also related to the royal palace. At the end of the park I emerged in front of this impressive building. Soon the park ended so I headed to the road in front of this stone building.

To my left was a large and fairly attractive building, though I’m not sure what it is.

Monaco Ville

However the view was dominated by the grand frontage of the stone building to my right. This turns out to be the Institut Oceanographique Museum.

Monaco Oceanographic Museum

This was inaugurated in 1910 by Prince Albert, so has been open for more than 100 years now. It appears to have an excellent reputation and checking in my guide book sounded like it was worth a visit. However I wanted to finish my walk first, so I continued past, admiring the yellow submarine outside (any Beatles connection, I wonder?).

Monaco Oceanographic Museum

At the other end of this, I came to the lift leading into the underground car park and continue ahead into more lovely gardens, with terraced paths built into the cliffs.

Monaco Oceanographic Museum

This seemed like a good spot for an early lunch and I found a quiet seat with a stunning view where I could enjoy a peaceful lunch, despite a few spots of drizzle in the air (I guess the sun does not always shine even here!).

Monaco

Monaco Marina

The path rounded the southern tip of Monaco Ville and soon I reached the far south eastern corner of the peninsula. Here there were the walls of what I presume was once a defensive castle, which was now part of the park.

Monaco Ville

At the far end was a pretty amphi-theatre though I’m not sure how old it is.

Theatre du Font Antonie

Beyond that, I could look down into the large and more famous marina of Monte Carlo. This is where the route of the famous Grand Prix runs.

Monaco Marina

Though I don’t generally follow Formula I racing, it can be good fun to watch the race in Monaco, through the narrow streets of Monte Carlo.

Monaco Marina

I could now descend down to a path beside this large marina, via some steps. Having done so I was a bit surprised to find that I could also turn right. There was a path along the base of the cliffs. How had I missed that earlier? I had not seen any way down. I decided to turn along this to explore. It passed a little pebble beach and then came, rather unexpectedly, to a multi-storey car park built on reclaimed land below the cliffs.

Monaco

It turns out at the far end of this is the lift leading to the Institut Oceanographique Museum I had passed earlier.

Monaco Oceanographic Museum

I had thought the lift just headed into the car park but a sign at the bottom was clear it was a public lift, so presumably if I had of realised I could have come down this way earlier. Having explored, I re-traced my steps back to the harbour.

Monaco

Here the tall sky-scrapers of Monte Carlo dominate the view, the eastern and most famous part of Monaco. A low path beside the road took me past the marina, again lined with numerous huge yachts, many of which again showed many were registered abroad (again Valletta featured heavily, as well as London, Monaco and George Town again).

At the most inland part of the marina you go past the swimming pool (a point mentioned in the commentary of the Monaco Grand Prix) but it wasn’t a swimming pool today but had been covered with an ice-rink for the winter months, something I had not expected to find in Monaco.

At the far end of the harbour, I could turn right and follow the lower road past more yachts in the marina, with the ground floor of the flats above lined with shops and restaurants. Another road just behind it, headed steeply uphill (this is the route of the Monaco Grand Prix). At the far end I reach the Yacht Club of Monaco (I imagine it is very exclusive and expensive to join!). Beyond that is a large building which is the Rainer III Auditorium and and Congress centre (I think, anyway).

Monaco

Unusually this building is built over both the road and the footpath beside it, and extends over the sea as you can see above, and this is the famous tunnelled part of the Monaco Grand Prix. For the most part the pavement is outside the tunnel, beside it’s wall, but you do briefly head into the tunnel beside the road, which I imagine is very noisy when the Grand Prix is taking place, though as you can see traffic was fairly light today.

Monaco

This is quite a large building with several “wings” and once I had reached it’s end and emerged back into the open air, the coast to my right was fenced off (I think there is further land-reclamation going on), so I couldn’t see the sea. However along the promenade was the footprints of various celebrities, mounted into the pavement, rather like the hand prints that exist in the pavement in Hollywood, but this time their feet. I didn’t read most of them and the only one I had heard of that I did read was George Best.

When this ended I could again see back out to sea and entered something else totally unexpected – a beautiful Japanese Gardens, that was beautifully kept and maintained. It was a real delight and another calm oasis in this busy city. In fact I imagine some of these views might not look out of place in Tokyo, with the gardens backed by tall sky-scrapers.

Japanese Garden, Monaco

Japanese Garden, Monaco

Japanese Garden, Monaco

This was a lovely garden, but all too soon I left it to emerge onto a wide open and largely empty promenade, behind which was what I thought a rather ugly building. It looked like a leisure centre to me, but I’ve since found out it is the Grimaldi Forum. (a conference centre, I believe).

Grimaldi Forum, Monaco

Past the entrance, this did have some more attractive gardens in front of it, with some artwork in.

Grimaldi Forum, Monaco

Beyond this I soon reached the beaches. It was nice to be at a beach rather than concrete at last.

Larvatto beach, Monaco

I’m not sure the sand is natural (I suspect not), it was more fine gravel than sand really. Never mind though I headed down to walk along the beach.

Larvatto beach, Monaco

Even on this overcast day the sea was a lovely turquoise. I imagine it is very pretty in the summer with the sun out.

However it being winter and overcast it was more or less deserted.

Larvatto beach, Monaco

Behind it, a low-rise building had a promenade on it’s roof and beach side bars and restaurants below it, but these were all closed for the winter. I imagine it is a rather different scene in summer!

I walked along the rather coarse sand beside the waves, enjoying hearing the sound of waves, not traffic. In the centre of the beach is a sort of concrete promenade, separating the beach into two. I think part of the purpose of this is to create sheltered areas for swimming, as there were steps down into the water built into the concrete, like those in a swimming pool.

I walked out onto it and was more interested in the huge shoals of fish I could see just below the water. I’m not sure what they were, but they are not a type I’ve seen in UK waters before as far as I know.

Fish in the sea at Monaco

It was quite interesting to watch them. Looking back along the jetty, an odd sort of tower was built at the landward end. It looked a bit like an air-traffic control tower but I suspect is where the life guards keep an eye in the summer.

Larvatto beach, Monaco

I continued to the far end of the beach. Here the way ahead is blocked by the fences of the large Monte Carlo Bay resort complex so I had to leave the beach to the little promenade behind, where there was a fountain and some mature trees provided some welcome shade (I imagine) over the beach in summer, it was rather pretty.

Sadly, the bit of land ahead, the last in Monaco in fact is all occupied by a huge hotel complex, the Monte Carlo Bay Resort. This is private and had barriers for vehicles and pedestrians so I was not able to explore this part of the coast. Instead I continued on the road in front of it. The main road was raised up tens of metres above me to the left, whilst the road I was on was a quiet road far further below (the cliffs are almost vertical here), with a lift to provide public access to the road above.

This quiet road went past several luxury hotels (of the sort with red carpets over the pavement in front, porters waiting outside and a fleet of luxury cars to whisk guests to their destination). I didn’t fit in and I didn’t linger!

I soon reached the end of the Monte Carlo Bay resort on the right and this also marks the end of Monaco.

Monaco Bay Resort, Monaco

Once again there was little to distinguish the border apart from a sign announcing the name of the next town, Roquebrune Cap-Martin, in France.

Roquebrune Cap Martin

It was a bit underwhelming again! However looking back into Monaco I did see a sign welcoming you to Monaco had been placed on the roundabout just before you leave Monaco (or just after you enter, if coming from France).

Entering Monaco from the east

Monaco is wealthy, but just beyond this sign, was evidence that neighbouring France perhaps not so much. The pavement ran beside the top of a small beach, but it was soon fenced off and walking up to the fence I could quickly see why, as it had collapsed onto the beach below!

IMG_2747

I did however spot a walking sign giving the times taken to walk to the various settlements further east along the coast. That suggests there might be a coast path ahead. Something to come back again to explore, perhaps!

So I’d now completed the coast of Monaco. If you count the Channels Islands as separate countries (and I’m not sure that’s the case) and the Isle of Man, that means I can now say I’ve walked the entire coast of England, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man (the latter I’ve not yet published here) and Monaco. If these all count as countries (I’m not sure if they do), that makes a total of 6!

By this time it was just around 1:30pm so I spent the rest of the day sight seeing. Monaco does have a bus service, but I decided if I stuck to the main road it was only about 1km (a 15 minute walk or so) rather than the more wiggly coast it would be as quick to walk back, which is what I did.

The high road gave me fine views back down to the coast and along the coast to France. I also passed another part of the roads making a famous tight turn in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Monaco

I took in the famous Casino, located higher up and s bit back from the coast (so I didn’t pass it from my walk). I didn’t go inside (there is a dress code, which I didn’t meet as I was wearing trainers and they generally don’t approve of tourists wandering in anyway). However it was fun to see.

Monte Carlo Casino

Monte Carlo, Monaco

I also found paths over the roofs of some of the buildings providing a different view of the city.

Monaco

Monaco Marina

Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco

Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco

Monaco

Gardens by the casino at Monaco

I then explored the streets of Monte Carlo, the main shopping area, which is a bit more traditional and attractive.

Monaco

Monaco

Monaco

Monaco

Having seen the city centre I decided I’d like to visit the Jardin Exotique (Exotic Gardens), which are a garden built into the hills at the top of Monaco, as it looked rather lovely from the pictures and I was keen to see something a bit more like countryside than the busy city centre.

Getting there proved a bit of a mission, as the terrain is near vertical but I found public lifts to make it easier (I think there were 5 different ones), so I made it to the top without too much effort. These lifts are all free and were (thankfully) clean.

The views from outside alone were worth the effort, it was stunning.

Monaco Exotic Gardens

You have to pay to enter the gardens (I think it was about €7). However it is worth it. They are mostly cacti gardens with numerous tropical plants and cacti growing on a terraced garden built into the cliffs , with a series of narrow paths with steps. It was beautiful and far larger than I had expected.

Monaco Exotic Gardens

Monaco Exotic Gardens

Monaco Exotic Gardens

Monaco Exotic Gardens

Monaco Exotic Gardens

Monaco Exotic Gardens

At the bottom of the gardens (when I had reached the end of the signed route) I came to this lovely view point.

View from Monaco Exotic Gardens

The way out is back up steps to the entrance (to the left, not visible on the photo), but I first stopped here to buy a drink from a vending machine and realised I was at the entrance to the Grotto. This is included in the ticket to the gardens (there wasn’t an option to buy a ticket without it), as was entrance to a museum also on-site.  I was mainly interested in seeing the gardens, as the grotto sounded like a sort of man-made folly and probably not that interesting (it got only a brief mention in the guide book). So I was not that bothered with seeing it.

As I was hanging about here drinking my drink a man appeared from the office (which I saw mentioned  guide on the door) and then I realised entrance to the Grotto was by guided tour only. I checked the sign and saw that the tours were on the hour and checking the time it was now 15:58. I had planned to leave, having finished the gardens but since I was at just the right time to go on to the tour of the Grotto, I decided to go on the tour.

I’m so glad I did, I think it was probably the highlight of my day. I was wrong about this being some sort of man-made folly! The guide unlocked the entrance to the grotto. Unfortunately, everyone else for the tour was French, so the guided tour took place in French. I hadn’t got a clue what he was saying most of the time so just nodded and smiled at what I thought were the right moments (when the others did) and looked like I was paying attention to what he was saying and where he was shining his torch, even though I had no idea for most of the time.

Monaco Grotto

However this was no man-made grotto! We descended down 300 or so stairs, deep underground where it was damp and it turned out these are massive natural caverns in the limestone cliffs of Monaco, packed full of stalactites and stalagmites.

Monaco Grotto

It was like the show caves at Cheddar, but perhaps more spectacular.

Monaco Grotto

Monaco Grotto

It was fascinating and extremely beautiful, even if I could not understand our guide! However he did pick out the best parts with his torch. Unlike at Cheddar it was permitted to touch many of them (though sadly, this did mean some had been broken off).

Monaco Grotto

It was a bit less “health and safety” than the tour at Cheddar. I was looking the other way but at one point I heard music (it was quite loud and sounded very much like a Glockenspiel to me). I turned round to see what he was doing and was astonished to find he was knocking on some of the stalactites with his knuckles and this was the sound they made, with the taller wider ones making a deeper tone and the smaller ones a higher pitched tone! I had no idea they made such sounds and were also encouraged to have a go ourselves (again I don’t remember being allowed to do that in Cheddar!).

Monaco Grotto

The tour lasted about 45 minutes, but was really enjoyable (even if I couldn’t understand much of what he was saying). Emerging from the caves it was now nearly 5pm.

Monaco Ville

I was conscious my time in Monaco was nearing and end, as I had to get back to Nice, then on to the airport in order to catch my flight home. I made a slow ambling walk back down the various lifts and back to the square below Monaco Ville.

Monaco

I had a wander around a few of the streets then headed back to the station. There is another entrance Place Ste Devote where there is another entrance to the station.

Monaco Monte Carlo station

This headed along a series of underground Travelators to the station entrance. I bought a ticket. In fact I spotted from the screen that the next train to Nice also stopped at Nice St Augustin, one stop beyond the main station, Nice Ville. I remembered when looking at how to get from Nice Airport to Nice when I arrived that this station was about 10 minutes walk from the airport. So rather than get off at Nice Ville and wait for the “Airport Express” bus I thought it would likely be easier and quicker to stay on the train one stop further to Nice St Augustin and walk to the airport. A ticket back to Nice St Augustin cost me €5. This is not bad since the train to the main station (Nice Ville) cost €4.10 and then the “Airport Express” bus (which only ran every 30 minutes) cost another €6.

On reaching Nice St Augustine the walk to the airport was easy and well signed along paths and pavements and to be honest I just needed to follow the other passengers that got off the train with suitcases, since they were all going to the airport too. It took less than 10 minutes.

To allow for delays, I had allowed time to get to the airport and so arrived around 2.5 hours before my flight home. I checked in and had a meal at the airport before getting my flight home.

All in all it had been a wonderful weekend and I had really enjoyed Monaco. I wanted to see it, but wasn’t sure if after walking the coast I’d find much more to do there. I’m more a countryside person than a lover of busy big cities, so was not sure if I would like it much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It is densely populated but there are some lovely green oasis and those amazing caves, and beautiful views along the coast. It is an over-used phrase, but Monaco really is unique, and I’m so glad I visited it. And I can now add it to my list of counties I’ve walked around the coast of!

Here are all the photos from my coast walk of Monaco. In addition, here are my photos of the whole day in Monaco, including the casino, gardens and caves. Main Link | Slideshow

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3 Responses to Special: Can you walk the entire coast of a country in one day?

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, a fascinating account and a pleasure to read. A million miles from the flats of The Wash and the trials of the journey getting there!

    Nauru up next?

    • jcombe says:

      I looked up Nauru (the next on the list as you say), but I don’t think I could get there for a weekend. It does look nice, mind you! Glad to see you are making progress around Norfolk, too.

  2. That was certainly different! What a great day out. I have been to Nice, briefly, and liked it, but not Monaco.

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