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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Today, I went to Monaco

Today, I decided on a whim that I would go to Monaco. So I did. I got up in the morning, told my foster parent that I would be heading to Monaco, then after breakfast and a shower, I headed out and had a fantastic adventure.
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It might have been wiser to go on this fantastic adventure in more practical shoes though.
I made my way to La Gare de Nice (that’s the Nice train station, if you don’t parlez français) and then I discovered that it wasn’t the correct place to go and get a bus (well obviously, you don’t go to a train station to get a bus). Turns out I was supposed to go to the Gare Routiere (which I now know means bus station) which was really not as far away as the train station was from my house. Since I was already at the train station anyway, I checked out the prices for train tickets to Paris.
Oh actually, the queue at the counter was far too long, and I couldn’t be bothered to wait just to find out the price, so I used my excellent mastery of French to ask random strangers instead. Of course, I had to ask more than one. Not to make sure, rather, just to make myself feel better that I can speak French so damn fluently. Oh by the way, a ticket to Paris costs around 100 euros. Something like that. I think I was far too absorbed in how awesome I sounded instead of actually paying attention to what those kind strangers were telling me. (I’m kidding, in case you can’t tell).
Then, I asked some of the people outside for the directions to the bus station. I asked in French of course. Did I mention I speak French?
It wasn’t too far away, but then someone suggested I take the tramway to the bus station. Which, of course, sounded like a brilliant idea! I’ve never been on a tram before!
Here’s a picture I’d taken of the tram a few days ago:
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That’s my best friend
While I was on the tram, I asked around about various things, related to Monaco and otherwise. That’s when this Thai lady explained to me in very Thai sounding French how to get to Monaco. Apparently I had to take the bus number 100 at platform 17. And, it turned out that she was also going to take that bus, to Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
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This photo makes my head look big
We sat side by side in the bus, and I learned that she’d migrated to France from Thailand 10 years ago, and that when she first came, she couldn’t speak a word of French. She told me (in a mixture of English and French with a very thick Thai accent) that she taught herself through books, talking to her French friends, and also by watching television. She couldn’t speak French too well, but at least we managed to communicate with each other. I did that thing I normally do again, where I tend to automatically match the accent/diction of the person I’m talking to, so I found myself making really short simple sentences which sometimes weren’t even grammatically correct. And I spoke really slowly, like I was talking to a retarded child. But I believe it facilitated communication.
That Thai lady was really helpful and really friendly by the way, and it was really nice meeting her on the bus. She even helped me take a picture of me!
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Thank you, Thai lady whose name I do not know.
At the stop where she got down, a bunch of noisy kids came on board. Normally I would detest noisy kids, but these were noisy european kids speaking Italian, so it made them instantly adorable. Damn, I should have taken their photo. They were on a school trip with their teachers for the holidays, and they could speak French a little (but not too much). So I talked to them a bit, and they told me they were going to Monaco too. So naturally when they got down from the bus, I got down too.
However, it turned out those kids had gotten down one stop too early, and instead of Monaco, I was in Cap d’Ail. I only discovered that when I asked the people around about Manaco. I walked into the first shop I saw (a little grocery store) and asked, “Where are the interesting places here in Monaco”. To which the man replied “Euh, dude, this is Cap d’Ail”. (Not the original conversation).
He then gave me a tourist map, and explained that Monaco was about 3 km away. When I heard that, I thought “Hey, maybe I could just walk there, and see things along the way”. So he pointed me in the direction to the coastal path, and I made my way there. At one point there was a turning in the road, and rather than take my chances and perhaps get lost, I asked some friendly strangers in the area. They were really nice, and the man even took a pen and drew out the route for me on the map. He wished me “bonnes vacances” and then I was on my way again.
I went past the gare de Cap d’Ail, through a somewhat scary looking tunnel, and then finally I got to the pathway which was right beside the sea, and I walked straight along there until I got to Monaco. Along the way I snapped lots of pictures of course, but then a lot of them didn’t really turn out right because I don’t really know how to take photographs. I photograph well, but that’s not the same thing.
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It really looks like you could get mugged here.
Some of the photos I took that look like they could be Windows wallpapers:
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This one’s the nicest because I’m in it
Finally after a leisurely one hour walk, stopping every now and then to enjoy the beautiful scenery, I saw Monaco in the horizon! (Apparently those buildings in the picture below are part of Monaco)
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The photo instantly looks better when I’m in it
There were little kids on the beach there, so I asked them to take a photo of me. The little girl seemed to be happily snapping away pictures, then her mother came, and she took over. She took this photo:

And that’s the only picture I have of me at the beach in Monaco because the silly girl didn’t press the button hard enough. But she was adorable while she was doing it, so she is forgiven.
At the beach I saw an Asian looking man, so I walked up to him like the overly friendly foreigner that I am, and asked him “are you Malaysian?”  Turns out he was Filipino, and he was most impressed when I thanked him in Tagalog for directing me to the nearest bus station. I walked into Monaco city, and hopped on bus number 6 to the Casino. When I got down, I saw another south east Asian looking man with a backpack and a huge camera looking very tourist-like, and I asked him if he was Malaysian.
“Hey, are you Malaysian?”
“Nope. Why, do I look Malaysian?”
“Well, not really, but you look Asian. Filipino?”
“I’m half Filipino, yeah”
“And judging from your accent, you’re from the United States?”
“Yup. You Malaysian?”
“Yeah. Malaysian.”
“You don’t have a Malaysian accent.”
“Malaysians have accents? Hey, you’re interesting. Let’s be buddies and travel this place together”.
(Last line edited to make conversation shorter for you lazy readers)
He’s 27 years old and he quit his job last year to travel the world. He’d just come from Nice by bus, and he’d just flown in from Ireland two days before. I guess he must be used to traveling and stuff; he had a map of Monaco. I didn’t get one, because obviously I couldn’t be bothered.
We then went to visit the Casino, and right outside we met some Chinese ladies from mainland China, and they happily took a picture of us (after I spoke to them in Mandarin and quite impressed them with my greatness).
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That’s Martin and me in front of the Casino
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In fact, they were so impressed that they asked to take a picture with me
We were going into the casino, but they said we’d have to store our bags and our cameras, as well as pay a 10 euro entrance fee, so we said “screw that” and left. (Actually, I would have paid the 10 euros to enter, but Martin is a budget backpacker, and he really didn’t want to spend 10 euros just to see the casino, so that’s why I didn’t go in, in case you’re wondering why I’m suddenly so prudent with my spending)
Then I had a delicious strawberry Gelato ice cream.
(Hey, I did save 10 euros on the entrance fee right – I had to spend the money somewhere)
We headed to the palace (where the prince lives I think) but the clever traveller I was with obviously didn’t have as good a sense of direction as I’d thought, because he took us in the exact opposite direction (not to mention made us walk up a really long bitch of a flight of stairs).
When we got up that terribly long flight of stairs, Wait. I’m sure I must have a picture of those tiring stairs.
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I bet you thought I was exaggerating right?
As I was saying, at the top of the stairs, a man who was walking his dogs said hello, and I took the opportunity to ask him which direction the palace was. To my great horror, he pointed down the stairs and said we were going the wrong direction. Nice going, Martin. The man also told us that the bus stand was just a little further, and that we could take a bus instead of walking down those stairs (Might I remind you here to have a look at the above picture again. Thank you)
At that point I wanted to say “I told you we should take a bus, idiot”. But me being the nice and friendly person that I am, I refrained from such petty name calling and instead I rephrased “Hey, wanna take the bus? It might be a little less tiring.” (ok, there’s still a touch of asshole there, but hey, we can’t be nice all the time right?) [edit: Hey Martin, if you're reading this, just kidding `aight? We should travel again some time] 
Sure enough the bus took us and dropped us off in front of another flight of really long stairs. I didn’t take a picture of the stairs (they did look quite formidable) but here’s an interesting sign I saw:
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Basically it says tourists can’t go around half naked near the palace.
 It doesn’t mention about locals though, so I think this is a bit unfair.
Oh, and you can see the beginning of the stairs in the bottom left corner.

Before going up the stairs, we decided to visit the square which was just across the road so Martin could eat his sandwich while I rested my legs and enjoyed the fresh air. There were lots of people and pigeons. And dogs and stuff. There was a kid doing really fancy tricks on his bicycle, and I would have taken pictures, but I was just too fascinated to remember to take out my camera. Too bad you weren’t there to see it. I do however, have pictures of the pigeons, if that interests you:

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Pictured: a pigeon

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More pigeons, and a fountain

After that, we went up the stairs to the palace.

Oh behold! It turns out I do have a picture of the stairs we went up to get to the palace:

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What is it with these people and their long stairs?

Finally, we got to the top, where the palace was.

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Meh, doesn’t look very royal to me 

Slightly higher on the royalness scale

Martin said that we’d missed the changing of the guards. Maybe I’ll get to see it next time. There’s nothing very nice about the palace otherwise. I would have gone in, but it costs 8 euros per entry, and Martin didn’t want to spend, so I’ll just do that next time.

I didn’t find the palace itself terribly interesting, but since we were already quite high up (we did climb a lot of stairs) the view was excellent. I snapped some photos:

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Beautiful, right?
 
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Better!

After that, we headed on downwards to where the Cathedral was. On the way there, there were more beautiful views of the landscape, including one of this giant naked lady statue whose purpose I’m not sure of:

There must be a good explanation for this

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And this is a pretty good view of the port

Finally we arrived at the cathedral. It was quite big and cathedral-looking.
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Looks like a cathedral


What I found more interesting, however, was the sign at the entrance of the cathedral:
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No ice cream? Nooo!

Oh, but the insides were really pretty.
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After that, we moved along to the Oceanic Museum thingy. The tickets cost 13 euros for adults, but students can get in for 6.50 euros. My Malaysian student card didn’t have a date on it, and they only accept student cards marked 2009 and 2010. Since I couldn’t get the reduced price, I decided I’d just come again some other time. So we didn’t go in, but I did take a picture from outside:

 
Looks very institutional doesn’t it.
I almost expect to see people in white lab coats and thick goggles inside,
 poking the fish and sea creatures around with little pointy devices
that beep every few seconds

This huge scientific looking anatomical dummy was outside the oceanic institute:
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I’m not very sure what this has to do with the ocean

At that point Martin gave me his email address, and we parted. I took a bus back to the city centre, and I went straight to the train station and took a train back to Nice.

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6 comments:

Nizam said...

what a great journey...

Quiescence said...

that was awesome..
i had fun reading your little comments too. haha!

Hakim Luqman said...

Hehe. Thank you!

Yes Nizam, it was a great journey! :D I really had lots of fun!

Suhana Suid said...

very interesting! i'll visit monaco 1 day..

Piqa said...

cathedral (and maybe palace too) always got that sign. I think in Rome (kot) they got guards checking how you dress and stuffs. If you dress inappropriately, they wouldn't let you in. But the good thing is that you don't have to pay to go in:P

keniata said...

ahahha Trop marrant!

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