09 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 4

Friday, 9th September, 2011

The day of our excursion to Monaco started slowly. By the time we had showered and dressed and had breakfast, it was gone twelve before we set out for Gorbella. We got off the tram at Masséna and quickly found the stop where the No. 100 bus to Menton starts. The bus arrived almost immediately and we paid our €1 each and took a pair of seats towards the rear of the bus. The bus takes about an hour to reach Monaco, driving along the corniche by the sea. It was a comfortable ride and the views were magnificent!

We were unsure at which stop in Monaco we should alight and stayed on the bus all the way up Monte Carlo to the tourist office. There we picked up a street plan of Monaco and got directions for how to get from there to the aquarium by taking the No. 1 or 2 bus back to Monaco Ville. Once there it was not clear where we should go but we quickly worked it out with the help of our newly-acquired street plan.

We were pleased to find that the yellow submarine which we remembered from our previous trip is still on display outside the museum. Lisa bought us a baguette sandwich each for lunch which we ate while sitting in the warm sun. Lunch over, we got our admission tickets and climbed the imposing steps to the entrance to the museum. The aquarium is in the basement and the upper two storeys form the Oceanographic museum but much of the latter is currently occupied by an exhibition celebrating the recent wedding of Prince Albert II. As our main reason for coming was to see the aquarium, we headed downstairs into the gloom.

There is a lot to see in a relatively compact area. A large central shark lagoon is flanked by two wings: one for tropical fish and the other for Mediterranean fish. The temperature difference between the two wings is very marked! We spent a good two hours taking in all of the exhibits. The tropical fish were very exotic and brightly coloured while the Mediterranean species were more muted in colour and often quite familiar, many of them from the fishmonger's slab!

We rested our tired feet sitting on benches watching the shark tank for quite a while before taking a look around the upper floors. These were a curious mixture of displays: huge skeletons of whales hung from the ceiling, old fashioned displays in wooden cases and more modern exhibits. I particularly enjoyed seeing the reconstruction of a nineteenth century oceanographic survey ship's laboratory. We exited via the gift shop where I bought the traditional fridge magnet.

By now it was after six so we walked back down from Le Rocher to the Place des Armes where we should have got off the bus from Nice. We quickly located the return stop and a bus arrived almost immediately. In fact TWO arrived simultaneously. We got on the second bus and found seats, though not together. The ride back was as pleasant as the ride out and seemed to pass even more quickly.

We got off at Place Garibaldi and went to the Civette de Garibaldi for a couple of St. Omer "à la pression". After that we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out at the Grand Café de Turin next door. We found a table for two in the open air on the edge of the Place Garibaldi. Lisa went for variety with a mixed platter of raw and cooked seafood whle I kept things simple with a dozen "No. 1" oysters. We shared a bottle of Sancerrre and passed a very pleasant couple of hours in the warm evening. Lisa found her platter quite a lot to deal with so I had three of her eight oysters. The food was wonderfully fresh and a real pleasure to eat. It was a really magical experience.

After coffee, we strolled back across the Place Garibaldi to catch the tram home. We looked through the photos we'd taken today. Inside an aquarium is a difficult place to take pictures and even Lisa, with her DSLR, struggled to get really good shots of the fish we saw. We played iPad games for a while, then I was the first to turn in.

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