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    Posted August 9, 2012 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel snapshots: South of France

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    Monaco & Beyond


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Having spent two days walking around Monaco during the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert, mapqueen says she feels that she experienced Monaco in a very unique way. "The city was totally quiet in every area except for where people gathered to watch the wedding on the big screens," she says. " It was such a lovely place and everything I'd imagined it would be." Her first photo was selected as CNN's Travel Photo of the Day for November 5, 2012.
    - Anika3, CNN iReport producer

    I traveled to Monaco a year ago to do a news story for the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert. I'd always wanted to see the French Riviera, and was delighted to be driving the coast in a rental car so that I could go at my own leisurely pace. I was staying in a town on the border of Italy and France called Menton, and drove to Monaco each morning I was there. The first time I turned a bend and saw this spectacular nation sitting grandly on the side of the cliffs, I was captivated...there have been very few occurrences in my life when I was truly in awe--dumbstruck at how big, luxurious, and ostentatious it was.

    Big, pastel buildings, rising straight up out of the sea it seemed. It was not a stretch of the intellect to believe it to be the most densely populated nation in the world. And as I stared at the countless yachts out in the water, it was not unbelievable to think of it as having the largest number of millionaires and billionaires in the world (per capita).

    I experienced the nation over the course of only 2 days, and they were exceptional at that. All the people could be found by the harbor, at the bottom of the cliffs where the royal palace and wedding festivities were located.

    Despite it being only the second smallest nation in the world, I must have walked several miles worth of space thanks to all the running around I had to do to collect my shots, interviews, and stories. After watching both the civil and religious wedding ceremonies on the big screens, and interviewing spectators who'd come for the events, there was a huge concert at the harbor by Jean Michel Jarre on Saturday night.

    The morning after the celebrations, I left Menton at sunrise so that I could make the arduous 8 hour journey back to Geneva by way of Nice. Driving through Monaco at 7am on a Sunday, I felt like I had the entire nation to myself--a Grand Prix driver zooming down the winding roads between buildings and through tunnels. On the way to Nice via the scenic coastal road, I had to pull over and snap some shots of the ideal French town of Villefranche-sur-mer, the stereotypical image of a perfect French getaway.

    I really only had an hour in Nice before I was desperate to hit the road, so I parked at the harbor, had a chocolate crepe for breakfast at a sidewalk cafe, then walked around just enough to get some pictures of the boats and lovely architecture surrounding the harbor.

    The couple of days I spent in this very particular region was short, but left an impression on me that will last a lifetime. I'll never have the type of wealth to make roots in that part of the world, but to be a wanderer and observer is probably the only way to capture the true magic of the Monaco area.
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