Monaco is a city built on pure money that became a principality thanks to tourism, and which over the years has bred the richest, most densely-packed population in the world. It is kind of ironic, I think, that we got to go there for free.
Our oft-neglectful Student Housing association threw the free bus tour of the teeny weeny country at the end of term, deciding that a bunch of students would love to see the Old Town of the world’s smallest country, as well as a stuffy perfumery on the way home. From start to finish we were complaining that they were treating us like children. We trailed a couple of tourguides up to the changing of the guards, round a cathedral and up to Prince Albert’s Nautical Museum, all of us grumbling all the way round until we saw the fish.
We liked the fish.
It was at about this point that we took off our jumpers and started to count our blessings. On the day we hit Monaco, in the middle of December, temperatures nudged up to twenty degrees. A swift sea breeze and a clear blue sky rendered the snowy nativity scene in the market square utterly ridiculous, and looking along the coast at the lines of ornate buildings looking proudly at the sea was nothing short of breathtaking.
Our short visit showed us only a tiny bit of the miniscule principality. Up in the Old Town we were high above all the highrise structres and tangled streets that the city needs for its population- all those waiters and cleaning staff have to live somewhere. From that distance, though, and with the sun shining, even the sixties’c oncrete looked grand and old. Below, a Christmas market complete with fairground rides was bristling with people, and boats worth more than our entire university halls were lined in neat ranks.
Not far from the tourist-trap state is an incredibly pointy mountain and a very precariously-balanced village called Eze. The sleepiest and most cobbled village I’ve ever encountered, Eze is reached by a very steep road or by the Chemin de Nietzsche, a gravel path leading up one side of the colline which was often frequented by the father of existentialism, Friedrich Nietzsche.
The village itself was mostly closed for the season, but from the views alone it became strikingly obvious why so many artists and deep thinkers flock to the Cote d’Azur. Aix has Cézanne and his mountain St Victoire, Arles has Van Gogh and his Café de Nuit, St Tropez has all her film stars and visionary directors, and even the little town of Fontaine de Vacluse has Petrarque and his pining love for Laura. Some mixture of mild weather, great views and relaxed lifestyle seems to relax and encourage these creative minds, even if they’ve recently lopped off an ear.
Photos by the incredibly talented Rosanna