Photos of the Day: Life’s a Beach

It’s been less than a week and I’m already missing the beach.¬† Something about water calms me…it’s like an instant shot of happiness ūüôā¬† Maybe I need to get an “ocean waves” app or something…but then I’m nervous that it will make me want to pee all the time.¬† Hmmm…I guess the next best thing to being there is staring at pictures!!!¬†¬†As I started looking thru my online photo albums, I realized that I’ve been BEYOND BLESSED to visit so many amazing places!¬† And I’d like to share a few of them with you.¬† So, get your pretend swimsuit, a very real cocktail,¬†sunglasses and let’s go!!!

Mimosas on the beach? Yes...please & thank you! (Cancun)

Mimosas on the beach? Yes…please & thank you! (Cancun)

A Hilton Head sunrise...best way to get your day started!

A Hilton Head sunrise…best way to get your day started!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it's absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it’s absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

I know this may be a stretch...but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands...and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey :) So serene & peaceful!

I know this may be a stretch…but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands…and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey ūüôā So serene & peaceful!

The famous Santorini caldera sunset...

The famous Santorini caldera sunset…

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The marina in Monte-Carlo

The marina in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

The French Riviera: Days 4 & 5 “Livin’ it up, Monte Carlo-style”

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Hey everybody! My Mom and I finished our vacation in the French Riviera with 2 days in Monte Carlo.¬† It is a beautiful place! Approximately 45 minutes from Nice by bus, Monaco consists of 3 distinct tourist areas: Monaco-Ville, Monte Carlo, and La Condamine. Most of this small country was built on a cliff.¬†¬†The streets are a bit narrow and since it’s built into a cliff, things seem a little congested but it is breathtaking so you sort of just overlook that.¬† This place has a very distinct feeling of “money”…people have it.¬† That is obvious.¬† For me and my poor little pockets, well…I was pretending ūüôā¬†

When taking the bus from Nice, you will ride along the Low Corniche.  If you want to take the route all the way to Menton (like we inadvertently did), it takes just an hour.  You pass thru the beautiful villages of Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, and Beauliu-sur-Mer on your way to Monte Carlo.

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Monte Carlo Bay

Monte Carlo Bay

Once we arrived in Monaco, we checked into our FABULOUS hotel, the Monte Carlo Bay Resort & Hotel.¬† The resort has a casino, gym¬†(with free personal trainers) and a spa. I was able to hit the gym and get a good 45 minute run in before hitting the casino.¬† My absolute favorite thing about Monte Carlo? ¬†THE CINQ¬†MONDES SPA!¬† OMG, this place is heaven on earth. ¬†Seriously.¬† The purpose of our visit to Monte Carlo was to gamble & spend a day at the spa. ¬†Well, we lost at the casino (I love roulette and my numbers weren’t hitting all night…and I just knew I was about to hit it big and live the life of a newly rich jetsetting diva…but, it apparently wasn’t meant to be that day *sobs*).¬†¬† On the plus side, the spa more than made up for it.

Japanese Bath

Japanese Bath

I’ve been to countless spas and this has to be the absolute best in my opinion. We started out in the hammam to relax prior to¬†our spa services. My first service was the “Aromas & Flowers Japanese Bath” — and it was the most fabulous thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was like Christmas!¬† The Japanese Bath is essentially a big wooden tub that traps heat so the water never gets cold. ¬†You step into the tub of very warm water, then you have aromatherapy¬†oils poured over you in the water.¬† Once that is complete, rose petals are sprinkled on top of you.¬† Next, the masseuse places a pillow under your neck and proceeds to give you a scalp and neck massage.¬† Afterwards, you are left alone for about 15 minutes to relax.¬† Once you are fully rested, the masseuse brings you peach tea, honey and dried fruit to snack on while still in the bath.¬†¬†Um, seriously…did I mention¬†this was HEAVEN?¬† Because it is.¬† I do not think I will be able to replicate this in my own tub¬†with some Calgon & Lipton.¬† You already know I was notating everything because my next home needs a relaxation room like this.

After the Japanese Bath, I had an Oriental Massage which was basically laying on hot towels being massaged with warm oils. Total bliss. Once the services were over, I was taken to the “Relaxation Room” to lay down with more peach tea & honey.¬† I would go back to Monte Carlo just for the spa. ¬†It was that fabulous.¬† Want to know more about this fabulous resort?¬† Check out my hotel review here.

Cathedral

Cathedral

The next day, Mom and I head out to do some sightseeing.¬† We decided to take the bus from the hotel around this “city”.¬† Word of caution…if you don’t speak French, you may be a bit challenged as there are no English translations and it’s not really clear where the stops are.¬†

Monaco-Ville is the oldest section of Monaco and contains the Royal Palace, the Cathedral (which holds the tombs of Prince Rainier & Princess Grace), the Cousteau Aquarium, and the Exotic Gardens (pictures are in the slideshow below). 

Tomb of Princess Grace

Tomb of Princess Grace

Tomb of Prince Rainier

Tomb of Prince Rainier

The famed Monte-Carlo Casino

The famed Monte-Carlo Casino

The district of Monte Carlo is the area around the famous Monte Carlo Casino (which has a cover charge and dress code).¬† The area is absolutely gorgeous but it is very tight & congested since everything is built very close together.¬† It’s also very expensive.¬† Breakfast was 35 euro/per person…and this was a continental breakfast.¬†¬†Once you get over the sticker shock, you¬†can really enjoy it and see that it¬†is a wonderful place to visit.¬†

The were a couple of cool sculptures across the street from the casino (which remind me of sculptures I saw in Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway).

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Overall, the French Riviera was really nice and a wonderful experience. I can only imagine how wonderful it is when the temperatures allow you to get in the water. Nice was my favorite city as it lends itself to a lot to do. Monte Carlo is nice…but I would suggest that you day trip over from Nice. It’s not really worth 2 days unless you want to stretch it out. Cannes…that was one of those places where I can say I’ve been there. But, not interested in going back as there really isn’t much there to see.

Here are some of my favorite photos:

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Next stop…Milano!

Nikki’s Nest: Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort (Monte-Carlo, Monaco)

My Mom and I stayed at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort in January 2010.¬†¬†The resort has a casino, gym (with free personal trainers) and a spa.¬†¬†While it is not on the main drag,¬†it’s within walking distance to most of the attractions.¬† When you arrive, you feel like you are special…because for what the rooms cost, you¬†should be¬†ūüôā¬† If you feel¬†like splurging, I highly recommend staying at this hotel.¬† If not (and honestly, it’s cheaper to stay in Nice and take the 30 minute bus over for the day), I’d recommend you visit this hotel for the Cinq Mondes spa.¬† I guarantee you will not be disappointed.¬†

Rates & Promotions

I’m not going to lie…like everything else in Monte-Carlo, the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort is expensive.¬†Rates in the low season run around¬†276 Euro/$369 per night for a Superior Room¬†(326 Euro/$463 per night for an Exclusive Room).¬† High season (May –¬†August)¬†is¬†about 377 Euro/$504¬†per night for a Superior Room¬†(485¬†Euro/$649 per night for an Exclusive Room).¬† This usually does not include meals (the continental breakfast cost me 35 Euro).¬† The hotel¬†has special offers¬†that focus on gourmet experiences, Monte-Carlo nightlife and the annual Monte-Carlo Grand Prix.

Room numbers are located on the floor (not on the wall or door).

Rooms & Suites

The resort offers 6 types of Rooms & Suites (3 Rooms and 3 Suites).¬†¬†The 3 Rooms offered are the Superior Room (city view), Exclusive Room (sea view) and¬†the Prestige Room (sea view).¬†¬† The 3 Suites offered are the Duplex Suite, Exclusive Suite and Top Roof Suite.¬†¬†We stayed in the Superior Room and it was wonderful.¬† The room was very comfortable, spacious and cozy.¬† It’s tempting not to leave the room at all!

    

Fitness Center

The resort has a small gym with personal trainers on-site.  The equipment was fairly new, bottled water & towels were provided.  And, if you had the time, you could take advantage of the free personal training.  I was able to do a 45 minute run and strength training without having to wait on a machine.

The Cinq Mondes Spa

My absolute favorite thing about Monte Carlo?  THE CINQ MONDES SPA!  OMG, this place is heaven on earth.  Seriously.  The purpose of our visit to Monte-Carlo was to gamble & spend a day at the spa.  We lost at the casino but the spa more than made up for it. 

I’ve been to countless spas in the U.S. and abroad and this has to be the absolute best in my opinion.¬† We started out in the hammam to relax prior to our spa services.¬†¬†

My first service was the “Aromas & Flowers Japanese Bath” — and it was the most fabulous thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.¬† It was like Christmas!¬†¬†

The Japanese Bath is essentially a big wooden tub that traps heat so the water never gets cold.  You step into a tub of very warm water, then aromatherapy oils are poured in the water.  Once that is complete, rose petals are sprinkled on top of you.  Then, the masseuse places a pillow under your neck and proceeds to give you a scalp and neck massage.  Afterwards, you are left alone for about 15 minutes to relax.  Later, the masseuse brings you peach tea, honey and dried fruit to snack on while you relax in the bath.  Did I mention that the water never gets cold?  OMG, this was HEAVEN!  I do not think I will be able to replicate this in my own tub with some Calgon & Lipton.  My next home needs a relaxation room like this.

After the Japanese Bath, I had¬†the Oriental Massage which was basically me¬†laying on hot towels while being massaged with warm oils.¬† Total bliss.¬† Once the services were over, I was taken to the “Relaxation Room” to¬†recline with some peach tea & honey.¬† I would go back to Monte-Carlo just for the spa.¬† It was just that fabulous.

Not sure what to do when you visit Monte-Carlo?¬† Check out Visit Monaco’s website for the latest news on upcoming events and recommended attractions.

¬†Nikki’s Rating: 5 (Absolutely Wonderful)

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 =¬†Absolutely Wonderful)