Chemin des Revoires – 528ft
Eric and Matthew Gilbertson
Date: June 26, 2011 – 2:34am and 9:15am (Eric), August 5, 2014 (Eric and Matthew)
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.