The South of France – and the Cote D'Azur in particular - is one of the wealthiest areas in the world. Nowhere is this clearer than in the principality of Monaco, where wealth seems to drift across the harbour on the breeze. Having lived in Nice for five months before I actually ventured to Monaco, I was not expecting to be surprised by Monaco. However, there was considerable difference between Nice and its cousin just along the coast – there were far more sports cars and the density of stores selling luxury brands was far greater.
Considering the rather opulent nature of the region and the two cities in question, it is something of a surprise that the bus between Nice and Monaco, costs just one Euro for the 55 minute journey. However, a journey on Lignes D'Azur number 100 costs just that, and it is probably the best single Euro you could spend in the whole region (to be honest, one Euro doesn't really go very far on the Cote D'Azur aside from on public transport). The 100 leaves from Station JC Bermond just outside Nice's Old Town. The buses run every ten minutes or during the day – less frequently on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Tourist and commuter traffic permitting, the journey takes just under an hour. And, on the way, it takes in some of the most stunning scenery in Europe.
The journey begins with the bus shuffling out of the centre of Nice, which is nothing particularly special. However, as it climbs out of the city and rises above the port, it provides a wonderful view of the city. You can stare down at the ships and boats in the city's port – although by the end of the day multi-million dollar yachts and cruisers will be old news – and out along the coast at the Promenade Des Anglais and the stunning blue of the sea as it laps against Nice's rocky beach.
From Nice, the bus out into the less built up areas of the countryside passing first through Villefranche, a small seaside town with a harbour packed full of rather expensive looking yachts. The sea again is rather fantastic shade of blue – as it is in much of the region. However, in contrast to Nice, Villefranche has a sand beach, which makes it a popular destination for sun-seekers. The bus conveniently runs just a few meters above the beach, giving a perfect view of the sand and water. Just after Villefranche is St Jean Cap Ferrat, a peninsula that, at various points of the last century, laid claim to being home to some of the most expensive plots of real estate in the world. The bus gives an adequate view of some of the stunning villas on the cape – there is one designed by famed British architect Lord Norman Foster – but to fully appreciate it, it is best to get off and go for a stroll.
After Villefranche and St Jean Cap Ferrat the bus winds its way three or four small sea-side towns (all with wonderful scenery) and through two or three tunnels that are cut into the cliffs before it descends into Monaco. Once in the principality, there are two choices. First, you can get off at the first stop and climb the steps to the Palais and Oceanography Museum. Or, second, ride the bus into the town and along the front of the port. The road there is instantly recognisable to Formula 1 fans as the Monaco grand prix runs along the front of the port. Both options are rather spectacular.
The only downside to the 100 is it can get frighteningly busy. A large proportion of the workforce in Monaco live outside the principality (mostly in Nice and the surrounding area) and commute back at around 6 or 7 o'clock. This means it is often standing room only.