I had a split personality sort of day with a morning spent wandering between walled medieval hill towns and an afternoon in Monaco. I think you can guess which I preferred. The morning was delightful. The Nice area has an amazing regional bus system which allows you to take bus rides of over an hour into the countryside for a Euro so I hopped one going to the medieval village of Vence where I ignored the modern suburban aspects and headed straight for the walled city. It was beautiful, as billed, and had an interesting feature I haven’t seen elsewhere in my travels to date – an abundance of wooden lintels over the doors. At least half the doors had wooden beams supporting the stone work over the door and window openings. They also used a lot of rough hewn wood structure for the bridging buildings which passed over the streets below in places.
Once I tired of town I set out to find a walking trail to the neighboring town of St Paul de Vence about five km away. I had a really pleasant ramble down into a river valley and back out again and then through a more rural area with a camp grounds (and paintball field!) I found the town of St Paul with only a few false starts and was very pleased with myself for doing so.
St Paul is an astonishing mix of medieval stone and modern art sculpture. It was a favorite haunt of a number of artists over the years and has evolved into a gallery town with public and publicly displayed private sculpture on nearly every corner and in every courtyard. I really enjoyed the contrasts.
Monaco, my destination for the afternoon, did not really grab me. On the one hand, the price was certainly right. 45 minutes on the bus and 2E makes for a very cost effective experience. On the other hand, it met all my stereotyped expectations. It seemed crowded and glamorous and frivolous. It was also choked with traffic congestion (all shiny new cars) and I found myself coughing on exhaust fumes several times. I did climb several dozen stories of public staircases moving between roads. Still I was able to send my dear Grandma a postcard from yet another country and city so I have to count the experience a success.