First Stop On Our Mediterranean Tour: Monaco & Monte Carlo


The first port stop of our 10-day Mediterranean cruise on the Disney Magic was at Villefranche-sur-Mer, which means “free town on the sea,” per my French minor in college, which has gotten me exactly nothing in life, aside from a seat at the ass-end of jokes from my family for remembering how to only say “jar of mustard” and “shut your mouth.”

Villefranche is a tiny beach-side village in the heart of the French Riviera, with Monaco on one side and Nice on the other.

There are worse places in the world.

I’d arranged an excursion ahead of time through Viator, and we were to meet our guide outside the port building for a small group tour of the area, including a drive to another medieval village, Eze, then a drive through Monaco, including a jaunt down the famous Grand Prix race track in Monte Carlo. What?

This port is a little different than most in that there aren’t pier facilities available for large ships to dock, so they have to drop anchor out in the sea and have small boats ferry the guests back and forth between the ship and the shore.

This is called “tendering,” and people who do a lot of cruising say that it’s a huge pain in the rear, but it was a piece of cake for us, although we were late for our connection with the Viator guide.

The excursion guides are used to delays, though, so there wasn’t any problem getting connected with her, and there was some type of mix-up so we got a private tour with just our family and our driver! If I’d paid for the tour that way, it would have run us $850, which is exactly why I moved right on down the list to the more affordable $259 option.

But because of this mysterious mix-up that we never got details on, we got our guide, Hedwig, all to ourselves!

One of the treasures from this day for me was being able to make connections with the same sites my dad laid his eyes on back in 1967 when he visited.

He shared bits and pieces of that trip with me throughout my life, and, though it’s undoubtedly changed a lot since then, there were still a lot of places that were exactly as I’d imagined based on my dad’s descriptions.

Here are the highlights from this gorgeous day:

  • We saw the Trophy of Augustus in La Tourbie, France. This huge sculpture, perched high in the French Alps, was built in 6 BC in honor of Octavius, Caesar’s nephew and the future Emperor Augustus.

  • We got our passports stamped in the second smallest - and certainly the wealthiest - country in the world: Monaco.

  • Walked through La Turbie, a tee-tiny village of tee-tiny buildings all connected together, with narrow alleyways running between them. Some were homes and some were businesses, and even though the buildings were all constructed between 7 BC and 13 BC, they’re still in use today.

    As we meandered through the streets, people had their doors open to let the breeze in, and you could see inside, although all you could see were stairs leading up to their living areas.

  • We visited the tombs of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier (Princess Grace died in La Turbie in a car crash in 1982, which isn't surprising to me - the streets in the area are hairpin after hairpin).

  • Had a quick visit to the Casino Monte Carlo

  • Drove along the famous Monte Carlo Grand Prix Circuit in Monaco