MiceChat’s June 2014 Mediterranean Magic Cruise organized by Teresa Cory of Fairy Godmother Travel set sail from the fabulous port of Barcelona (which I covered in my last article) in the autonomous Catalonia community of Spain. After a relaxing first day at sea on the Disney Magic, the first stop was the port of Villefranche to visit the storybook village of Eze and the tiny principality Monaco. Since this port does not have a large cruise ship dock, guests are tendered to shore to board a luxury bus for the drive, first to Monaco, then on to Eze.
The entire French Riviera coast, the Cote d’ Azure, is utterly spectacular – a combination of natural geologic beauty and villas of the rich. This area has been a favorite for fame, power, and wealth for centuries, many of the buildings pre-date the birth of the US. After a leisurely sight-seeing bus ride while our guide explained the history and the complications of living in a very dense part of France, we arrived in the Principality of Monaco.
Monaco dates back to the year 1191, with the House of Grimaldi ruling since 1297 thru to today’s Prince Albert II as a constitutional monarchy. Shortly after our MiceChat group arrived, the Prince exited the Palace in a dark blue Lexus, waving to we onlookers. Politically correct I expect; not a Mercedes, BMW, or any other European car but a Euro-neutral Japanese one! Being an owner of a dark blue Lexus, I felt quite elated to see such similar tastes. Monaco is the second smallest and the most densely populated country in the world, a center of action for the world’s wealthy to gather, gamble and play. The most famous auto race in the world is the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, held every summer on the narrow streets of the populous quarter of Monte Carlo, also home to the fabulous Casino Monte Carlo.
During race time, and other major events, the Monte Carlo Harbor is packed with the largest and most beautiful yachts, decks overflowing with champagne and young ladies, all delightful interests of successful gentlemen no doubt. Rising above the harbor, the hillsides are jam packed with lavish hotels and villas. Since there is no strict architectural code, the entire area is a cacophony of warm colorful Mediterranean structures, all with glorious sunny overviews of the deep blue Cote d’ Azure.
The Cathedral of Monaco is the resting place of the American actress Grace Kelly, wife of the late Prince Rainier, father of Prince Albert II. It is located centrally in Monaco surrounded by exquisitely maintained buildings of historically clean and simple architecture as compared to the sometimes garish and baroque designs typical of early Europe. The souvenir shops are confined to a only few small alleyways, so the classy town look is enforced. Clean and friendly too is the Principality’s Palace of Monaco, the actual living home of the Prince and his family. A wonderful tour of the interior is available to visitors, complete with individual audio, some of which is performed by the Prince himself.
As with most important government houses, the ever popular Changing of The Guard is a noon-time staple at the Palace. Visitors can enjoy a pleasant view of the “show” from a wide stone courtyard marked with a low chain barrier, not a fence – a photographer’s delight. Just as with the overall friendliness of the area, so too are the Palace guards in their white tieless uniforms. The two guard teams swap their watch in a simple but snappy and accurate set of actions. All with commandant calls, no bands or trumpets, quite in keeping with the cheery atmosphere of all Monaco.
Not to be missed is the center square of Monte Carlo with it’s Casino, Cafe de Paris, and the wildly expensive Hotel de Paris. All three locations feature very authentic Euro-Med architecture, but do have “interesting” sculptures in the surrounding gardens. One can downsize themselves a bit by picking up a value-priced panino sandwich from an exquisite underground mall and enjoy lunch in the shady and cool duckpond garden across the square from the Casino, spared from the nearby tourist hoard. Returning to re-board the bus for the short drive to Eze, these tourists swarm around the exotic Bentleys and Lamborghinis parked in front of the Casino, maybe hoping for some gambling luck to rub off.
A short drive from Monte Carlo is the medieval village of Eze.
The area surrounding Eze has been populated since around 2000 BC. By 1388 the defensive steep mountaintop became the location of fortified strongholds, eventually becoming a part of France in 1860. Prominent near the hilltop is the Notre Dame de l’Assomption, built in 1764. While the village was home to residents for hundreds of years, it has developed into a quaint medieval museum shopping village in the recent century. With its charm and panoramic views, Walt Disney was so enchanted by Eze that he spent a significant amount of time there. It’s not hard to imagine Walt gathering authentic village imagery for his future animated stories such as Pinocchio.
To reach the Eze mountaintop, one must endure steep narrow pathways and twisty stairs past cute tourist shops nestled into the rocky hill. One eventually will be rewarded with the very same panoramas that Walt Disney enjoyed so long ago. After the short hot climb, visitors will find a number of shady bars and bistros to while away as much rest time as possible before returning to the bus, then onward along the coastal highway with an overlook view stop of the nearby large city of Nice. Back aboard the Disney Magic, the magnificent day is savored with a martini in the quiet Magic Keys Lounge as the sunset dusk settles over the passing Riviera – next stop, Florence and Rome!
Join us on an exciting MiceChat 7 night Alaska Cruise on the Disney Wonder – June 1st, 2015:
We sail toward the top of the world on the delightful Disney Wonder. We’ll hold all sorts of special MiceChat meet-ups on board, suggest group excursions you might want to join us on, dine as a group to discuss our adventures and more.
Ask us for more details on any of our upcoming MiceTrips or for Disney adventures of your own by emailing us at [email protected].