Monaco is one of the smallest independent states in the world and its roots are intertwined with the Grimaldi family, the ruling dynasty for over 700 years. The district of Monte Carlo oozes glitz and glamour, from the world-renown casino to the high society and famous streets that the Formula one track snakes through.
Monaco left me wishing I had a little longer there but the main sights can be covered in a day. We arrived by cruise-ship in the beautiful marina where I spent a little too long admiring the stunning yachts. We got a taxi boat across to save us some time.
Our first stop was the beautifully Zen Japanese garden, it harmoniously captured mountains, a waterfall, beach and brook and can be easily explored in an hour. It also had some items that were gifted to the Grimaldi family from Japan.
The next stop was the casino, its such a majestic building and I was amazed at the amount and caliber of luxury cars outside (and thats after living in Dubai for 11 years where you think you have seen it all). There was paparazzi outside constantly, despite not being a gambler I thought it would be a shame to come to the casino and not play…so I spent some time losing haha and then it was lunchtime!
Cafe de Paris is in the plaza just outside the casino, people sit there for coffees just to people watch and look at the cars outside the casino. We had lunch there, it was pretty good! Unfortunately we took a little too long doing everything and walked around quite a bit so we didn’t have time to see the Palazzo dei Principi which is where the Palace is.
Glamorous, full of gorgeous scenery and it had such a relaxing vibe – I would love to go back for a couple more days!
Colombia was the first trip that I did without any research or preparation but I had a plan. I just jotted down recommendations from people and facebook pictures of places I thought looked nice. I felt very unprepared, I didn’t even have a guide book, usually on the way to somewhere I would read about it but this time I was going in blind. It was actually a very exciting way to travel, just knowing that I would probably like the place but having no idea whether it was historical, cultural, touristy, dangerous, good for night-life or good for hiking.
On the way to Guatape I knew it had a massive rock that you can climb and that it looked beautiful and was surrounded by water. I knew I wanted to climb the rock and try and find a boat to take me for a little cruise around and everything else would be a surprise. The bus drops you to the bottom of a hill on which stands the gigantic rock, scattered around are the most vibrant Motos (tuk-tuk/Rickshaws) I have ever seen and trust me, India has some colourful ones so they were pretty epic. I looked at the rock standing over 200m high and thought it will be exhausting climbing those 649 steps to the top so the moto taxi till the bottom of the rock would be a good idea to conserve my energy. It ended up being slightly faster then walking as at some points it felt like it was going to start going backwards but we got there in the end.
The way the rock was formed was incredible, it had a crack through the middle in which they had built stairs. You could see it from miles away, it stood higher then any of the mountains around and the landscape was stunning. The walk up the rock took about 20 minutes, I stopped every few minutes to catch my breath and admire the incredible views. There were so many tiny islands around us, I had never seen anything like it, it was gorgeous and the higher you climbed the better the views, the islands continued for as far as I could see and nestled in the centre of the islands were some very colourful buildingst. When I got to the top of the rock I was exhausted, they had built a viewing deck on top of a turret with a further 100 stairs or so. I walked around the top to admire the different views on every side and then proceeded to climb the final 100. It was gorgeous up there, I could have literally stood there for hours. There was a gift shop and restaurant up there and we sat and had some ice-cream before climbing back down.
The moto driver was still there, he asked us if we wanted to go to the town and pointed to the colourful buildings I had seen earlier. The drive there was bumpy but beautiful, the picturesque landscape continued and as we got closer the town came into view and it was so bright and colourful. As we stepped out I couldn’t stop taking pictures, the buildings were all different colours and the walls were adorned with paintings and colourful wood panels. The motos did not stand out in that town, they just blended in. They even painted the ceilings of their motos! We wandered around the quaint streets and then headed for the waterfront to find somewhere to eat. We had a great meal with a wonderful view and then I began the hunt for someone to take us on a boat ride. After bargaining for ages we found a guy to take us on his speedboat for half an hour, it was pricey and if you have more time I would recommend waiting for the big ferry tours. It was a beautiful ride and even from miles away you could see the huge rock. I could have spent longer in Guatape, it was so colourful and cute and it just made me happy! From the boat you could see the islands had huge mansions on them and our driver showed us some cottages that you could rent for holidays, I would love to stay there for a few days. There were many water-sports on offer and it was just serene and a wonderful place to unwind. I hope one day I get to go back to Guatape 🙂