St. Raphael, a seaside resort on the Mediterranean coast in southern France has been a holiday destination since Roman times. Tourists have come here for its history, cultural and artistic qualities, as well as its well maintained beaches, the sea, and sporting facilities. St. Raphael is not far from St. Tropez and Cannes and the ship offered a bus transfer to each of those places if you would prefer to spend your day elsewhere than St. Raphael.
When we looked over the shore excursion booklet six or so months before we embarked on this cruise the option of a bus transfer to Monaco was also offered. This immediately was John’s choice! He did not care about St. Raphael, St. Tropez, Nice, or Cannes. He wanted to go to Monaco. John is an avid Formula One racing fan. His dream holiday would be to follow the circuit for a year. The opportunity to visit the location of THE iconic race in Formula One was much too good to pass up. The drive from St. Raphael to Monaco took about 90 minutes through the Estoril Mountains, past Cannes and Nice. The guide on the bus said we would all be dropped off at the Palace, given two hours to wander around, then we would be driven the heart of town near the Monaco Casino where we would have another two hours. This plan fit in nicely with John’s desire to walk the race car circuit and Mairelle, our guide, very kindly gave him some directions to access the ‘track’ (Monaco is a street course and they were setting up for the race, which would be held in a few weeks, so many of the streets used in the race were closed to traffic while grandstands, etc. were being erected.)
Some race track pics:The very famous tunnel. John was psyched that the bus drove through this tunnel when we were taken from the Palace grounds down to the Casino and shopping district. He wanted his photo taken at this famous corner. Some of these were taken when John walked the lower part of the track while I wandered around the gardens and shops near the Casino. After I finished touring the palace John was finished the top part of the race track. We toured the Cathedral which is located near the palace before getting on the bus for the ride down to the lower part of town.
Once we were down at the lower part of town John took off to walk some more of the race course. He was able to complete almost all of it between the top, the bus ride, and the bottom. He was a very happy guy!
I enjoyed wandering around town. I did not go into the casino (too swish; and I don’t gamble) but my trek passed lots of designer shops. Monaco is a small, but wealthy principality; definitely a playground for the rich and famous.
Princess Grace of Monaco loved art and there are statues, sculptures and art pieces everywhere you look and walk. The Monaco Opera House – located in the same building as the casino, but with a separate entrance.
At 2:30 we were back on the bus for the drive back to St. Raphael. We were scheduled to spend the next day at Sète, France but the captain announced the stop was cancelled as the port was going to be closed for the next two days due to gale force winds. We had a sunny day in Monaco, but the wind was quite strong all day. Part of the same system I guess.John was proudly wearing his Monaco Grand Prix shirt at dinner.
Since we were unable to stop in Sète the ship sailed directly to Barcelona. We already were to stay there for two nights, so this gave an extra half-day in the city, which we spent trying to get online in an internet cafe – with no success – in the hopes of uploading some photos without the exorbitant cost on board. The fellows at the cafe were very, very helpful and friendly and even offered to drive us to the edge of the port where the ship’s shuttle picked up and let off people and thus save us a lengthy walk. Very kind of them.