After tiring of seeing how the other half live, I left the Gucci and glam of Monte Carlo behind on a day-trip to Èze on one of the world’s most dramatic drives.
When the queue for helicopter transfers at the airport was longer than the queue at the taxi rank, we should have seen the signs.
As photogenic as it is and with great people-watching potential, after paying €10 for a small beer and €5 for a spin on the casino fruit machines, there comes a point when you just have to get out of Monte Carlo.
It’s one of life’s ironies that the only cheap thing to do there is leave. There is an excellent bus service along the Cote d’Azur, and for just €1.50, the no. 82 will take you to Nice, 20km away, stopping at the picture postcard medieval village of Èze on the way.
The journey begins near the millionaires’ yachts moored at Monaco’s harbour and takes you through some of the meandering roads made famous by the Monaco Grand Prix, before leaving the principality behind.
There are three roads linking Monaco to Nice, known as corniches – the no. 82 follows the moyenne corniche, the middle and most dramatic of the three. You may recognise it as the setting for car commercials and car chase scenes. Grace Kelly was killed taking one of the hairpin bends here too quickly.
Be sure to sit on the left side of the bus for outstanding views of the deep blue Med and the Riviera’s resorts below. The road twists and turns back on itself as our bus scaled the heights, passing through occasional tunnels, and causing our ears to pop.
After ten minutes we reached our destination and alighted at Èze – one of the region’s “perched villages” – set precariously on a hillside 430m above sea level.
Settled by Romans, Turks, Moors and Spanish over the years, it is now home to just 2,000 inhabitants (including U2’s Bono) and is visited by hordes of day-trippers, like myself, in search of peace and solitude.
While they may not get that, what they do get after a climb to the top of the hill through Èze’s network of winding cobbled alleyways, is a view to die for. At the summit lie the remains of the castle. The grounds now house the Jardin Exotique, a private cactus garden.
It’s definitely worth staying up here for a while, taking in the views along the coastal road and inland towards the green hills and the winding grand corniche.
If you’re lucky enough to have the place to yourself for a couple of minutes, you can close your eyes and think to yourself although the best things in life may not always be free, they’re a damn sight cheaper than in Ferrari-riddled Monte Carlo.