As we continue to look back in time, we will visit Monte Carlo, Menton, and Villefranche-sur-Mer as a day trip from Nice, in the South of France. Things have probably changed a bit since 2012, but given the types of activities we chose, it is unlikely to be significant. In retrospect, we could have planned and done this day trip somewhat better – not every travel experience is Instagram-perfect – but it was still nice.
Monte Carlo, Monaco, is famous for both the Formula One race that goes through the city streets, as well as for its Casino. Traveling with then-preschool-aged kids meant that we were going to skip the casino, but since the was so close to Nice, we still wanted to wander the streets of this beautiful city.
After breakfast in Nice, we hopped on the coastal train, and about 20-25 minutes later, we arrived in Monte Carlo. We intended this as a quick checkbox-style stop and knew that it was about a 10 minute walk from the train station down to the water. For whatever reason, we were not expecting such a large hill and were a bit dismayed as we exited the station.
As we started to walk down, all I could think about was pushing the double stroller back up. Jeremy was still recovering from a cold, and there was no way that the boys would be able to walk all the way up without some serious complaining.
We walked a ways, realizing about 15 minutes later that we were not on the “10-minute path.” Even so, we did continue on, but the stroller anxiety was getting to me. Eventually, we decided that we would have a lot more fun elsewhere, so we snapped a picture and made our way back to the train station.
In retrospect, we really should have hopped on a local bus, or figured out where the escalators were at. We would have had fewer concerns about the stroller if we would have planned our transportation a little better.
It’s a beautiful city but make sure you have a solid plan before you go.
If you are traveling without kids, a popular stop is the Monte Carlo Casino.
With (or without) kids, popular stops are:
- A walk to Hercule Harbor – this is what we intended to do
- The Cars Collection of HSH the Prince of Monaco
- The Oceanographic Museum
- The Prince’s Palace
- The Changing of the Guards at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco
- The Zoological Gardens
- The Exotic Gardens.
There are also a lot of other museums, gardens, and other activities listed on the official tourism site of Monaco.
After returning to the train station, we hopped on the next train to Menton, France, about a 12 minute train ride further east. This stop was much better with young children than Monte Carlo!
One note when traveling with kids – try to plan your bathroom stops. We had plenty of practice with this the previous week in Paris, but this time we ended up having to take them to use one in the train station and it was completely disgusting. At least in places like China, the worst is usually just a dirty hole in the ground. It is much worse to have complete filth on something that a child really needs to sit on. If you spend any time in a museum or a restaurant, always make a pit stop just before you leave, regardless of need.
Once that was taken care of, we were able to go see the beach!
At one point, we stopped for lunch at a pizzeria in town. Both the bike path and the beach were a lot of fun to walk on.
The boys’ favorite part was the beach. Since this area is known as one of the best beach areas in Europe, at first, I was disappointed that it wasn’t a sandy beach, but the boys ended up loving it! Not a California beach, but they had a delightful time piling up their rocks.
Since it was cool out, we didn’t want them to swim, but they had fun throwing rocks into the water. There was no shortage!
Once we got tired of the beach in Menton, we headed back to the station and caught the next train to Villefranche-sur-Mer, about a 25 minute train ride. The trains are very convenient.
On arrival, we discovered that even though our stroller was quite narrow, it was still difficult to navigate the narrow streets. We did our best, and made it to to the Saint Elme Citadel. The boys really liked the canons by a museum associated with the Citadel.
I’m not quite sure why we didn’t take more pictures; maybe the boys were not smiling and we deleted them. You win some, you lose some.
After visiting the citadel, we wandered around a bit, then decided to head back to Nice for dinner.
It was an exhausting, yet fun day trip. If you decided to do it, plan better than we did and consider skipping at least one of these towns. It was simply too much for one day, but sometimes travel is a learning experience.
Keep reading our travel blog for more adventures in France!
Here are some more blog posts from this trip to Europe: