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Monaco - Gardens and Aquarium


I was somewhat dreading another trip to Monaco. I had already visited it twice and I didn't find it particularly appealing. From the water, it looked like a crowded jungle of modern high rise apartments and buildings. But G wanted to visit it to see the Jardin Exotique and the Musée Océanographique de Monaco.

We walked over to the Menton bus station just beyond the train station and took a bus 100. The day was sunny and lovely. We got off near the casino and made a quick visit to the Visitors Center for information on the buses. We knew from our guide books that the local Monaco bus would take us up the hill to the Jardin. Conveniently, the stop for route #2 was right outside the visitors center.

Jardin Exotique de Monaco
The bus went up above the malls, past several expensive automobile showroom and ended at the entrance to the garden. We paid our fee and walked over for the stunning views of the city laid out below the garden.

You quickly realize why Monaco is nicknamed the Rock. The garden is built within the rock wall above the city. It faces south and gets full sun - perfect place for cactus and succulents. I would not want to visit the garden in the summer. The heat would be intensive. But on an early October morning, it was quite pleasant.

The paths zig-zag across the rock wall with little nooks of water and balconies overlooking the sea. The cactus are huge. It is interesting to see what does well in the climate and what did not. Many of the North American cactus such as the saguaros did not do well. It makes sense when I remember that Tucson is higher up in altitude and not on the hot desert floor. Many of the African succulents and the South American cactus were doing fine.

Jardin Exotique de Monaco
I did find the garden a bit boring after a while. There wasn't a large diversity of plants. Once you had seen several of the large specimens and admired the view, it was time to go.

We waited a bit and took the bus back. The other end of the line was near the old town and palace so we decided to take all the way. Monaco is not that big so the ride took use 15 minutes at most. But the bus is nice to take since Monaco is not flat.

We walked around the older town. It was extremely clean and rather sterile. We grabbed a sandwich for lunch and ate it in the plaza near the palace. We watched the tourists queue up for the Palace tour and the guards walk between their stations.

After a short rest, we walked over and checked out the Cathedral. It was very nice. All the former kings and royal family are buried near the alter. Of course, I had to see Princess Grace's final resting place.

Just beyond the cathedral was the second main attraction for us, the aquarium. It is an older aquarium but good. Interesting displays of the local fish along with a large aquarium with some sharks and turtles. There was also a nice view from the roof.

We took the local bus back to the Casino. There were some other tourists on the bus who were speaking in English. They raved about how much they enjoyed Monaco and felt it was great compared to Nice. They also thought it was so nice that they had 'free' parking in the city. I tried not to snicker. They thought the parking signs that said Libre meant there was no cost to park instead of meaning places available for parking.

We walked around the park near the casino and we thought about stopping and having a beer. We decided not to because it seemed so touristy. We walked back up and caught the bus 100 to return to Menton. Unfortunately, it was late in the afternoon and school had gotten out in Cap Martin. It took quite a while for the bus to crawl along through the traffic. Once in Menton, we found another grocery store on the way between the bus and the old city. We grabbed some items for dinner and called it a day.

I know that many people do not like Monaco. I don't regret visiting it. I am glad that we finally got a chance to see the Jardin Exotique and the aquarium. Both have been on our list of places to visit for years. But it is not the same as the rest of the coast which I prefer.

Click through for a Flickr slideshow of Monaco

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