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Old 06-10-2013, 06:09 PM   #16
kikids's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Michigan
Posts: 279

Lovely Villefranche


The plan: Monaco for the Oceanographic Museum and Nice for the Cours Saleya flea market and either Promenade des Anglais or the Chagall Musuem if time allowed. I had train and bus schedules/stops researched, along with tomsportguide printed out and my Rick Steves chapter on the area. Ready to go!

The outcome: Due to a medical emergency the ship high-tailed it to the port during the night, arriving around 1030pm. The view of Villefranche at night all lit up was nothing short of breathtaking. But we had to wait til morning to disembark, of course.

As this is a tendering port, instead of crowding the stairs, anyone not on a tour was asked to meet in the theatre for a tender ticket starting at 745. We arrived around 750, and had to wait until 810 or so to get on a tender. They were good size boats, probably 100+ people. I had my color print out of tomsportguide and could see the location of the train station as the tender headed for shore. I absolutely would not have found the train station without this as it is kind of hidden without good signage (IMO). There was an attendant on the platform heading to Monaco but only a ticket machine on the platform headed to Nice. To be safe, we went to the attended side and I'm very glad we did.

As it turned out, even though we have credit cards with PIN's (no chips), none of the train stations in France or Italy accepted any of our credit cards (BOA, USAA, or Fidelity banks). *** Of all the shops, eateries, and many places we spent money on our trip, the automated train machines were the only places our cards were rejected.***
There was one attendant at the ticket counter and another, who seemed to be security, on the platform, warning people about keeping valuables close and reminding people to validate their tickets in the punch box. Both employees spoke english well. I bought a ticket to Monaco and a return ticket from Monaco to Nice at the same time. We waited maybe 10 minutes for a train to monaco. The trains were kind of yucky, grafitti filled, old, etc. I'll post a picture. But the ride to Monaco was quick and you can't miss the stop, the overhead voice announced it, there were signs on the platforms you passed, etc. Getting off the train though, my guide books said to look for the Place Ste Devote exit, as there are 3 exits to the Monaco train station. Nothing was marked Place Ste Devote! So we followed the crowd and a sign saying "Monaco Ville and Palace" which took us, thankfully to the Place Ste Devote exit. I knew when we walked out of that tunnel that there was no way we could walk to the museum. Due to the hills there is no line of sight, everything twists and turns, I couldn't see any road signs, and for a minute I panicked a little. Then right in front of me, a bus drove by that said bus #2 and I knew that both bus #1 and bus #2 went to the museum so we just followed the bus and jumped on. I had read you could buy tickets from the driver for 2 euros each, so that's what we did instead of trying the machine and saving 50 cents. I asked the driver to let me know when we arrived at the museum/palace stop, and he did. It was lots of twists and turns and hills though - we'd still be looking for it if we'd tried to walk!
We arrived at the museum around 910 but, contrary to guide books saying it opens at 9, it doesn't open until 930. We loved the museum though - nice display of fish, seahorses, jellys, etc. And the rooftop has a playground (new)!!! Views of monaco and the harbor, and a cafe that serves big 5 euro sandwiches. My kids loved it!
At around 1115 we reversed our path, caught the bus again, got off at Princess Antoinette (as an alternative you could ride the bus around Monaco to see it all and get off right at the station). We had a very hard time finding the train station entrance from the Princess Antoinette stop. Eventually we just got lucky but we should have asked someone.
Since we had our return ticket to Nice, we looked at the monitors and saw our train was on "voie 3" and followed the signs. It was pretty easy. But to be sure, I did ask someone on the platform "to Nice?". In fact, I never trusted our instincts the entire trip and I always asked someone on the platforms if I was on the right track. (And if I hadn't, we would have taken a wrong train in Italy so it pays to be a polite but annoying American).
The ride to Nice went smoothly as well, getting off at Nice Ville was a no brainer. That train station is a hot mess of crowded people and construction. Follow the crowd out! I had hoped to take the tram to the waterfront but you had to buy tickets from a machine (no attendant) and it only accepted coins. I did not have 4 euros in coins at the time so we walked it. Very long walk to the waterfront! On the plus side, my bank, BOA has a recipricol with BNP Paribas and I knew their logo was a green square with white stars in it, and we saw several of their ATM's during our walk to get more euros out.
We arrived at the cours saleya market, which is a flower market every day except monday when it becomes an antique/flea market. Here is a cool article about it:

It was fun, but I was worried about my kids breaking something, things were overpriced, and we were hungry. So my kids found a couple trinkets (lots of little ceramics for sale), and we ate and one of the many places along the edge of the flea market. There are public restrooms but they cost 50 euros per person.

By the time we finished our crepes it was around 230 and starting to rain. We had to make a choice, head to the beach/promenade area and dip our feet in the Mediterranean, or see the Chagall Museum. Since it was raining I opted for the museum but we searched using Rick Steves map for the right bus and could not find it. And every bus stop we found that was wrong had a zillion people at it! So I said, forget it, lets just get wet and go to the beach! In retrospect it was kind of fun, although at time I was cold, wet and slightly frustrated. We walked along the shore until we came to the very first awning-covered beach cafe. The staff there only had one or two other patrons and 60 or more tables. There wasn't a single soul on the rocky beach! Well, until my daughters showed up, and singing and dancing in the rain on the beach in Nice, my husband and I sat and watched them under the awning drinking wine and eating complementary potato chips. And life was good! (And free, nice bathrooms!) Oh, and the wine was cheaper than a can of pop!
By 330 we were soaked and too exhausted to mess with trains or buses, and just wanted to get back to the ship. So we quickly found a cab stand by the casino/mcdonalds across the street and hopped in. The very sweet female cab driver spoke about 3 words of english. Fortunately my college french was enough to tell her where we needed to go and get a price of 38-45 euros to take us from nice to villefranche. She couldn't have been sweeter and she went on and on about her kids and I just kept nodding and saying "oui, oui", and she got us to the port in under 15 minutes and only charged us 35 euros. The taxi ride was worth every cent between the convenience, being out of the rain, and her charm.

If I could go back and do it again: I was disappointed that Nice wasn't nice. (ha ha) It just wasn't very pretty and lots of construction. I'm still happy to say I've been there and soaked my tootsies in the French Riviera but if I ever go back, I'd see Monaco again but then maybe consider Cap Ferrat or Eze. Also I wouldn't have spent time researching buses in Nice, I didn't use them and saving a few bucks figuring out the Nice bus system wouldn't have been worth it - taxis cost more but earn their benefit.
Me , DH , DD (15) ,DD (12)
Disney Wonder 2014, Disney Fantasy 2014, Disney Magic 2013 (Mediterranean), Disney Magic 2012, Disney Dream 2011, Disney Wonder 2010, POP 2012, CBR 2010, POR 2009, Off property 2002-2008, SeaWorld 2010, 2011.
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