Monaco & Monte Carlo: Day 7
I know, I know. I’m terrible at chronicling my adventures on time. And there are still 21 days left to cover. Lol.
Anyway, so after an exciting day exploring Vieux Nice with Stephen, Gloria and I bid farewell to him and headed back to our hostel to get some shuteye. The next morning, we woke up and took our time exploring another small section of Vieux Nice, mainly because I’d read so much about the socca and desperately wanted to try it.
Socca is crispy bread made from chickpeas, a Vieux Nice specialty that everyone coined a must-try in Nice. While hunting for socca, we passed more cute shops and restaurants, including a candy store that was furnished to resemble a pirate’s cove. Various kinds of candy — chocolates, gummy bears, chewy sour strings, coke-flavored gummies — were stashed in wooden barrels around the shop.
Eventually we found one of the top-rated socca places and settled for the renown chickpea bread. And then we braced ourselves for our sensational first bite. I stared at Gloria as she stared back at me, both of us silently processing the taste as we chewed.
A whole minute later, her verdict arrived in a single question: “Carissa, what is this?”
The grimace on her face suggested what I already knew, but since I had been the one who raved about the socca reviews and insisted that we try it, I decided to give the French delicacy the benefit of the doubt, so I bit into it again. And again. And again.
It was salty. Very, very salty. Maybe Gloria and I just weren’t accustomed to this. I tried to look beyond the saltiness, but all I got was greasy flat bread. There was nothing really spectacular about it, unfortunately. We’d spent a full hour looking for socca shops and now that we finally tried our first socca, we decided it was enough.
Just as noon rolled around, we decided to make that trip to Monaco and Monte Carlo by bus. The last time we stopped in Monaco, it had been too inconvenient to explore with our huge backpacks in tow. So we promised we’d go back without our backpacks this time, and the time was now.
It was hard scouting for the Bus 100 that went to Monte Carlo, as most people barely spoke English and we barely spoke French. Plus neither of us had any data on our phones to consult Google. Eventually we found the bus and hopped on, grateful to finally be on our way to the fancy region of the French Riviera. The ride was €1,50 per person, one-way.
Because all the seats were occupied, many of us had to stand. We gripped a metal pole and tried to enjoy the gorgeous scenery unfolding outside our window as the bus rambled on ungracefully. The trip was so long and bumpy that I lost my balance a couple of times and had to apologize to random French strangers for stepping on their feet.
We got off at Monte Carlo and snapped some shots of the grand casino, with an array of luxurious cars parked in front, symbolizing the wealth and stature of the place. It was no place for a cheap sedan. If you didn’t have a Ferrari or a Rolls Royce, you might as well just park at the back. The front was reserved for some of the more camera-worthy ones.
Our water bottles were running empty and we were getting thirsty and dehydrated from walking around in the heat. Water bottles in the area were going for €2 (RM10!!!) so we opted for tap water from the casino’s bathroom. Tap water throughout France is clean, unlike in other parts of Europe.
Normally, I wouldn’t refill my water bottle from the tap in a public bathroom, but every Euro we had on us was extremely precious, so after some debate with Gloria about whether this was truly necessary, I went into the casino and filled our empty plastic water bottles with water. It felt strange to enter the playground of France’s elite on the premise of borrowing the fancy bathroom just so I could quench our thirst for the next few hours.
Monte Carlo was very pretty, but there wasn’t much to do and see. Beautiful buildings that boasted grandeur and sophistication were all around us. At one point, we stopped beneath a shady tree in front of a nice hotel that was probably the equivalent of the Park Plaza Hotel in New York City, and did some people-watching as extravagant cars rolled up and bellboys rushed out in neatly-pressed dark uniforms to greet the guests. We watched important-looking people exit their limousines, escorted immediately into the hotel lobby with wide smiles and air kisses. And then after a while, we got bored and decided to take the bus to Monaco. We took Bus 1 to Monaco, which was a short ride away.
Nutella Bready sounded too awesome to turn down, so we treated ourselves to a quick snack as we climbed up the stairs to see the entrance of the Monaco palace. I don’t know why they don’t sell the crispy Nutella-infused wafer sticks in other continents, but they should.
The view of the city was shadowed by gray clouds, signs of a stormy evening brewing ahead. For a while, we just gazed at the yachts bobbing on the pale waters and the cluster of buildings packed together against the scenic mountainous backdrop. Monaco, known as an independent tax-free microstate, is home to billionaires, million-dollar yachts and the Grand Prix race circuit. While it sits proudly on the French Mediterranean coastline, it is not entirely a member of the European Union.
When Gloria and I got back to our hostel in Nice, we washed our laundry in the tub, hung them around our room to air-dry, and microwaved a quick canned meal for dinner. Because some of the clothes weren’t drying properly, we had to use the hairdryer to speed things up. And then we went to bed, with our wet laundry strung in cords around the room, praying that the morning would bring forth another exciting day, warm sun, and dry laundry.