Did you know that it possible to visit three countries in one day while holidaying on the French Riviera? If like me you have an insatiable thirst for other countries, other cultures, traditions, languages and food then you’ll love being able to go to Monaco and Italy while on holiday at Lou Messugo gîte. OK so Monaco isn’t really very different from France but it is a different country and it has such a glamorous reputation that it’s certainly worth a few hours of your time.
Lou Messugo to Monaco takes about 50 minutes depending on the traffic. The most direct route is to take the A8 autoroute but the coastal drive is much more attractive, passing through Nice, Villefranche sur Mer, Eze, Roquebrune Cap Martin and Beaulieu – all worthy of visits in their own right.
The must-see sights in Monaco include the Old Town and Royal Palace, the magnificent Musée Océanographique, the harbour with its super yachts and the famous Casino. Depending on your interests there’s more. For Formula 1 fans a drive around the Grand Prix circuit really puts into perspective just how crazy this race is. For celebrity spotters you may be lucky and see one of the Monaco royals in a bar or simply walking around town as they are very unhindered by security and the trappings of wealth and fame. The same goes for other slebs who choose to live here as there is no paparazzi in the Principality Star spotting usually bares fruit, but even if you don’t see anyone you recognise you will see wealth – phenomenal wealth! It’s all around, unavoidable and often very vulgar. But there’s another side to Monaco; its less known side. I love the Jardin Exotique with its huge collection of cacti and other “exotic” plants from far off hot lands. I also love that in this crowded and very steep town you can walk from place to place using a system of very efficient public lifts and walkways. In fact you can practically walk the length of the Principality in clean well lit underground walkways using these lifts to avoid the traffic. I love swimming at Larvotto beach where despite being surrounded by highrise blocks of flats you swim amongst fish in a protected marine park! And I love skating on the outdoor rink that replaces the swimming pool on the port every winter.
Moving swiftly on now to Italy. The border is only 45 minutes from Lou Messugo but count on an hour to Ventimiglia and 75 minutes to San Remo or Dolceacqua. As I said before I love living so close to another country, so close that we often go for lunch and have even been for breakfast! Crossing into Italy I’m instantly enveloped in that “travelling” feeling where I can’t understand the language and everything’s somehow more interesting because of it. And every time we get back from a trip to Italy I vow to learn Italian….
Ventimiglia is a bustling town with an infamous market every Friday. You can find everything and anything here, including an awful lot of contraband and fake designer goods. But it’s not the only reason to visit. It lies on the Roya river and has a pretty old town, plenty of good restaurants and excellent coffee! However when we go for a daytrip to Italy we tend to go to Bordighera, San Remo or the area around Dolceacqua. The route between Ventimiglia and San Remo is known as “the flower coast” and you’ll notice plenty of glasshouses covering the hillsides. Together with olive oil, flowers make up the main industry of the area so gorgeous plants, flowers and palm trees are a lovely feature of this area. Nurseries are everywhere and San Remo is even called “la citta dei Fiori“.
Both San Remo and Bordighera have elegant boulevards of Art Nouveau buildings and have both attracted their share of famous residents, notably Alfred Nobel and Claude Monet respectively. Bordighera has a delightful seafront with restaurants and blue and white changing huts on the beach while San Remo has an attractive harbour. There’s plenty to do and see in both places but the best thing in my opinion is just to choose a restaurant and while away the day eating, drinking and watching the world go by.
Do you like to visit other countries while already abroad?