Yesterday I cycled the 25km back to Monaco from Nice, pannier free, along the coastal road, instead of the main road. It was one of the best cycles I’ve ever experienced. Not only was it 27 degrees on a quiet Sunday but the surrounding coastline is simply amazing here. The road hugs the cliffs, gently climbing up and back down, occasionally going through tunnels, through coastal towns and from every deep cove cut into the rocks…an explosion of boats and luxury yachts; concentrated at the harbour and gradually becoming more sparse out to sea, until nothing but the vast Mediterranean remains.
It certainly isn’t difficult to see why the French Riviera, or the ‘Côte d’azur’, is one of the most expensive and prestigious areas to live in the world. Mountains, beaches and 300 days of sunshine a year – if that wasn’t enough – the whole region is just bursting with quality and class. In fact, 50% of the worlds super-yachts will visit here at least once a year.
Within the hour I reached probably the most peculiar and intriguing place I’ve ever visited, Monaco. The second smallest and the most densely populated country in the world, with an unemployment rate of 0%. There’s a certain aurora in the air: you can just feel the sophistication, but not in a flashy, over the top way, it’s a surprisingly humble place. I mean, sure there is the odd million-dollar car driving around, but the buildings are old, mainly 70’s high rise blocks, although at an average price of 50,000 euros…per square metre (just think about that for a second)…it is the most expensive place to buy property in the world.
“Hey! Nice bike! It must be expensive?”
Maybe he thought I lived here: clearly my bike wasn’t a rental, and without the bags I guess it wasn’t obvious I was travelling.
“Yea it was quite, but nothing compared to what’s around here.” I said, “I’m not a millionaire you know.” Somehow thinking that would better the conversation.
“I can see that,” he laughed, “you look like your homeless and you stole that bike!”
Ha! Well, he was actually a nice chap after all. Maybe I should shave, and buy a new hat. Somehow he didn’t seem to mind when I parked up next to the row of exotic cars outside the casino, something other people can only dream of.
After marvelling at the plastic inside peoples faces, I carried on down to the harbour and gazed out at the yachts, some of the biggest in the world. The white one in the picture to the left, the Lady Moura (written in 24 carat gold), is in the top ten most expensive yachts worldwide, has it’s own helicopter, and a smaller yacht inside which pops out the side of the hull. Not bad.
So, if you want to visit an entire country in a few hours, come to Monaco. I am saddened however that despite eating a kebab in every country so far (just ’cause), I couldn’t find one here. But, of course, there is still a McDonald’s.