Chemin des Revoires - Roof of Monaco
Chemin des Revoires – Roof of Monaco
Most people travel to Monaco to gamble at the famous Monte Carlo Casino, or see all the fancy cars and yachts, or swim in the Mediterranean Sea. I just wanted to touch my toe on the highest point in the country, the top of the Chemin des Revoires footpath.
I had just come off of Coma Pedrosa, the highest mountain in Andorra, on Saturday morning and my bus dropped me off in Toulouse, France at 8am. I spent the next nine hours walking all over the city until my next train arrived at 5pm. Now the week before coming to Europe I had speced out a perfect combination of trains and buses that would let me take sleeper trains every night (so I didn’t have to worry about hostels), and give me a full day and a half in Andorra and Monaco, with a large safety margin of time to get back to my Monday flight out of Amsterdam. Unfortunately no part of that plan worked out in reality. All the trains I wanted had apparently been sold out months in advance for people holding a Eurail pass like me, and the only remaining options for my objectives – hitting the high points in Andorra and Monaco over the weekend – dropped me off in the middle of the night. I figured the situation would work itself out somehow, though.
My 5pm train out of Toulouse was supposed to drop me off in Monaco at 12:11am, Sunday morning, but of course some trains were late and I missed a connection or two and ended up being dropped off at the Monte Carlo train station at 2am Sunday morning. I immediately saw two “Sortie” signs (exits), one with steps leading uphill and one down. A group of roudy teenagers getting off the train headed for the steps leading down, but I knew I would have to go uphill to reach the highpoint so I naturally headed for the stairs leading up.
“Monsieur, monsieur!” I heard two uniformed men yelling at me sternly and walking over. They pointed to the lower exit and it was clear I had to go out that way. I guess they were closing down for the night and wanted to make sure nobody stuck around and tried to take a nap. I obeyed their command, but this didn’t bode well for my plan of finding a stealth place to sleep in Monaco if everyone was so strict like these guys.
I walked out the lower exit and started walking uphill. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican City, and is basically a bunch of mansions, apartments, casinos, and palaces on a two-mile stretch of land on the side of Mt Agel on the Mediterranean Sea. The high point is not actually a local maximum, but instead the top of a footpath between the apartments on the France-Monaco border. I whipped out my map and started following the Boulevard de Jardin Exotique, until it intersected the Chemin des Revoires. I followed the Chemin des Revoires through a few sketchy-looking back alleys until I popped out on the Route Moyenne Corniche. That meant I was on the highpoint! The France-Monaco border is officially unmarked, so it’s not clear exactly where the highpoint is, but it’s known to be near the top of that foot path, so I officially tagged it at 2:30am.
Now came the tricky part – where to sleep. One option was just to walk around all night not sleeping and thus not angering any police, but I was already planning to do that the next night during a nighttime layover in Paris, so I basically needed to get sleep tonight one way or another. I did not, however, want to spend hundreds of dollars on a hotel in Monaco.
I looked up toward Mt Agel and there were lights everywhere. If only I could find a dark spot, that could be a place where no people lived and I could potentially stealth bivy. I whipped out the GPS and heading east looked promising to get me toward Mt Agel and to potential campsites. As I was walking a few sports cars passed by going extremely fast – probably some rich Monacans trying to push the limits on their fancy cars at night when they thought the police wouldn’t notice.
I kept seeing more and more lights in this direction, and then the road started heading down back into Monaco where there would certainly be nowhere to sleep. I turned around and started heading the other way toward the town of Cap D’Ail. There was a surprising amount of traffic for 3am, but luckily there was a sidewalk for me. I only passed one other pedestrian, and it was some hardcore runner with a headlamp on and water bottles strapped to his waist. He must have been training for something pretty intense.
The only places I saw that were uninhabited were cliffs, which were too steep to sleep on. Finally around 3:30 I came across Route de la Turbie, a side road that appeared to go up towards Mt Agel. And best of all, it looked pretty dark in that direction. I headed up and after a few minutes saw a wooden sign on the left side of the road.
“This looks promising,” I remember thinking. Indeed, it was a marker for a “Cap D’Ail Randonee club trail”. Perfect! It was a footpath going up into the bushes, and there were no houses nearby! I walked up the trail for about 10 minutes until I was certain nobody could see me, then found a flat spot (43.726125N,7.392778E, for future reference)and threw out my sleeping bag. It was 4am, and I doubt too many tourists have slept exactly where I did that night.
I was woken up by the sunrise at 5:30am, but threw a shirt over my eyes and slept in til 8am. By then I was mildly concerned somebody might start hiking up the path and see me (since it was a Sunday after all), so I stuffed by sleeping bag into my backpack and started hiking back down. I had run out of water the previous evening and was pretty thirsty that morning, but luckily there was a gas station near my campsite that I stopped in at to refuel. Now I had basically a full day in Monaco (until my next train at 5pm), so I figured I could probably walk through about the whole country.
I first stopped back at the Chemin des Revoires to snap a few daylight pictures, then went down to check out the royal palace on the coast. I was confused by all the South African flags hanging out of people’s windows, but then learned that there’s apparently a royal wedding coming up soon between the prince of Monaco and a lady from South Africa, so then everything made sense. Around noon I decided to hop on a train to go see Italy, since it was only about 8 miles away. The train dropped me off in Menton and I walked another mile until I crossed the border. It looked about the same as Monaco with a bunch of fancy houses and beaches, but I’d never been to Italy and this officially counted. This brought my country tally up to 8 for the week (Malta, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Andorra, Spain, Monaco, and Italy).
I then took the train back to near the France/Monaco border and walked all the way back to the Monte Carlo train station, basically walking from one side of Monaco to the other in an hour. There actually wasn’t a whole lot more of Monaco to see – I had covered basically everything. It was just the right amount of time in the country, so with no regrets I got on my 5pm train and started the journey back north to Amsterdam to catch my Monday flight.
Oh if only it could have been that sleeper train I had wanted. This train dropped me off in Paris at 12:15am Monday morning, and I had to wait around til 6am to catch my last train back to Amsterdam. There was no chance I could stealth bivy in downtown Paris, and the train station closed between 1am and 5am, so my only option was to not sleep. Actually, though, it was a perfect time to do a walking tour of Paris when all the touristy sites weren’t crowded. I walked over to the Eiffel Tower, and got to see Notre Dam and the Louvre again. By 6am I was thoroughly exhausted from walking around for 5 hours and not sleeping, so it was a welcome break to sit back on the train.
I made it back to Amsterdam just in time for my flight back to the states. It was a successful trip hitting eight countries and three new country highpoints.
Owner: Eric Gilbertson
Size: 25 items