Thoughts on Nice, Monte Carlo, Cannes, Zurich, and Taipei

When it comes to writing trip reports I focus almost exclusively on the journey as opposed to the destination. That’s not because I don’t do anything on the ground, but rather it’s because I feel that’s where I can add the least value when it comes to my reviews/thoughts. There are tons of resources out there for what to do at destinations, and they have a million times more insider knowledge than I’ll ever have. At the same time I don’t find the same to be true when it comes to the airline/hotel experience, so that’s where I choose to focus my energy.

That being said, I figured I’d share my general thoughts on the five places I visited during this trip. These are by no means intended to be comprehensive reviews of these cities, but just rather the thoughts I’m left with a few weeks later without having taken any “notes.”

Up front I should say that I generally judge destinations based on whether I consider them to be “Google Images” cities or not. For me a “Google Images” city is one where the experience you get from looking at a picture of the place doesn’t differ much from what you’d experience when you get there. That’s to say that the city lacks a vibe. I firmly believe everywhere in the world is worth visiting at least once, so there’s nothing wrong with going to those types of cities, but I don’t necessarily need to return to them.

With that out of the way, here are my general thoughts:


This was our first stop and probably also my favorite of the European cities we visited. Nice just had an awesome vibe, the average age was 30 years younger than Cannes (at least among men, since the women in Cannes were all young), and it had great shopping and restaurants without being as crazy expensive as Cannes.

It’s also beautiful due to its setting on the Mediterranean, and it’s tough to beat the views or people watching from the Promenade des Anglais. I’d return to Nice in a heartbeat.

Streets of Nice

Streets of Nice

Promenade des Anglais

Monte Carlo

We weren’t actually planning to go to Monte Carlo since we didn’t have that much time, though the afternoon we left Nice for Cannes we decided to quickly take the train to Monte Carlo, which is less than 30 minutes away. We only spent a couple of hours there, but damn was it fascinating. It’s a bit like watching your favorite Bravo TV show, only in real life. I’ve never seen so many nice cars, and for that matter such expensive ice cream sundaes. I’d love to return at some point and spend a night or two there. I’m not actually convinced there’s more beyond the surface, though the “surface” sure is damn intriguing.

Monte Carlo train station

Monte Carlo casino

Monte Carlo2
Cars outside casino

Prices at Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo

Small selection of yachts in Monte Carlo


Unless you’re 60+, have a huge ego, and have a nine figure net worth, Cannes really isn’t that interesting. It’s kind of like Nice minus the vibe and with double the price tag.

There’s a beach and there’s a nice promenade with lovely restaurants, but aside from that it doesn’t have all that much to offer. It seems to mostly be about people showing off their cars on streets with 40km/hour speed limits by accelerating like douchebags. I’m happy to have visited, though don’t need to return.

Beaches of Cannes


Zurich is kind of the Singapore of Europe, except prettier and more expensive. It’s incredibly clean, efficient, somewhat sterile, but also has one of the most beautiful settings of any city in Europe, right on Lake Zurich.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a city with as many people in suits as Zurich. As a matter of fact I almost felt uncomfortable walking around outside in shorts, given that literally everyone else was wearing a suit.

I quite enjoyed the food there as well, and while there don’t seem to be many tourists, it is a lovely city to just stroll around.

Would I return? It’s not at the top of my list — I think there are cities with more character out there — but I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to return if I were enroute to another destination.

Lake Zurich

Lake Zurich


Near Old Town


Taipei was awesome, though for whatever reason I have a really hard time describing it. It’s not as sterile as Singapore and it’s not as much of a (totally awesome) clusterf*&# as Ho Chi Minh City, for example. It’s somewhere inbetween, and really quite unique. Also, while cities like Shanghai are super modern, Taipei is a fascinating blend between old and new architecture. On one hand you have Taipei 101 and all kinds of modern shopping malls, but most of the rest of the city has buildings that are much older.

Taipei 101

The food and night markets in Taipei were awesome, and naturally I was in heaven given that I’m obsessed with bubble/milk tea. I literally spent half of my time in Taipei going to different tea shops to see if I could find any tea that matches what Drive Thru Boba offers here in Bellevue. The owners were kind enough to provide some suggestions (since one of them is from Taipei), and I have to say the milk tea at Chun Shui Tang was pretty unbeatable.

Taipei is definitely an awesome city I’d love to return to.


So now that this trip report is done, I have a question for you guys, since I have two big trip reports I have to write: would you rather first read the trip report from the trip I took with my mom to Bali where we stayed at Amans, or first read about the trip I just took to Singapore where I flew ANA new first class, Thai A380 first class, and Singapore first class? Let me know in the comments section because I’d like to start posting the next report tomorrow.

Filed Under: Travel
  1. “Singapore where I flew ANA new first class, Thai A380 first class, and Singapore first class”

    Definitely this.

  2. Bring on mom first. I mean, she birthed you after all.

    BTW, while I agree that you add more value describing premium cabins, hotel suites and how you snagged them, I did enjoy your descriptions of the cities. It adds a bit of context and reminds us that the purpose of those first class cabins is to actually get someplace. I think the way you did it by giving your brief impression was fine.

    PS On occasion during your hotel reviews you don’t mention what part of town you’re in. I would also love a quick sentence about where it is and what it’s close to.

  3. I totally share your impressions of the cities you visited in this report and particularly look forward to your report on Bali as I’m going back there next May after a 27 year hiatus.

    However, in terms of priority I’d love to read your analysis of the AA-U. S. Air antitrust action (oops, that wasn’t one of your options).

  4. Bali, for sure! From the little bit you posted about it, sounds like you and your mom had a great time.

  5. I vote for Bali since it was last year you helped us with our flights to there, and we stayed in that same resort. Did you walk back from the beach. Now that was a set of stairs! I think you even stayed in our exact villa! My quads hurt just looking at the pictures, but it was more then worth it and I would do it again.

  6. Loved the report. As you said you are not providing a travel guide to the place but your impressions which are very valuable. Singapore and Bali please and keep them coming.

  7. Thanks for the overview. Too often the “vibe” of a place is lost in discussions of cities. And really that is what you take away from it. The comparison of Nice and Cannes is quite helpful as we are planning to spend some time in southern France soon.

  8. Trip to Singapore. When I first read your blog, I thought you were Asian who was so fascinated with East Asian destinations until you revealed that you have a German passport, which comes in handy when visiting South American countries. You also mentioned few times about Cathay/ Singapore flight attendants but not from other Western/ Middle East airliners. Also, will you share your analysis on AA/ US Airways possible merger or not.

  9. Bali – and also get your mum to write a blog post to see her views as well!!

    And do you really think Singapore and Zurich are similar? I wouldn’t call singapore sterile – i actually find it really enjoyable!

  10. @ Justin — I didn’t say Singapore was not enjoyable, I actually love it as a stopover point if I’m headed somewhere else. But compared to most other major Asian cities I do think it’s a bit sterile.

  11. Bali and the Mama trip!

    And to chime in, I also appreciate when you do talk a bit about where you were/what you did/etc. I know that’s not the gist of your blog and I don’t come here looking for tips on what to do/see at places, but your style is quirky/funny and I appreciate your commentary. 🙂

  12. I totally agree with you on those cities, except for Taipei (never been there). We went to the south of France, Monte Carlo and Zurich just last summer. These places were on our way to Italy from Paris, so they were on our list to cross-off. It would have been nice to rub shoulders with the rich and royalty, if you can find them. We passed and gawked at the Monte Carlo casino and the kids said, “this is where Iron Man was filmed.”

  13. Skip the flights and hotels. Just tell my why u should go to Bali, given that there are many nice places in the Caribbean or even Thailand. I don’t care much for the actually trip there destination over getting there and back.

  14. I really don’t care about which you do as long as the reports are detailed and fascinating (no problem for you). If you do the Bali trip first and you have a picture of your mom, please post it.

  15. @ ABC — Well if you don’t like the experience of getting there then by all means go to the Caribbean.

    Why Bali? There’s some indescribably mystery element that makes Bali really, really special. But beyond that the people are literally the most sincerely hospitable and friendly of anywhere I’ve been and it’s reasonably priced compared to other areas. For what it’s worth I don’t find service in most parts of Thailand to quite be on par with what you’ll get in Bali.

  16. @ Stuart Falk @ globetrotter — Hah, sadly I was traveling that day, and by the time I was at a computer and actually able to share my opinions I felt like everything had been said by just about everyone on the internet. And I don’t feel like I have enough government/legal expertise to contribute to the conversation beyond that.

    Do I want to see the merger go through? Assuming the airlines would otherwise survive on their own (which it seems like they would based on recent results), heck no.

    Legally, should the merger be blocked? I don’t think so, but again, I’m no expert on the law.

    Do I think the merger should be blocked based on my views? No way… as much as I’d like to be able to say yes.

    If there’s any further news hopefully I’ll be on top of it and can share more of my opinions there.

    Thanks for the interest!

  17. Chun Shui Tang claims that they invented boba milk tea to begin with, so even though you’re paying a hefty price (90 NT for a cup vs. 35 NT out in a typical store), you’re guaranteed quality. I’m glad you enjoyed Taipei – not a lot of non-Asians place Taipei on their list of must-see places. Taipei really is an interesting mix of old and new, and it’s also constantly changing. And while Taipei is great, next time in Taiwan you should take the opportunity to roam around and explore the island more, not to mention sampling the variety of food Taiwan has to offer. Perhaps I can even show you around if we happen to be there at the same time!

  18. Thank you so much for writing up your thoughts, which I would appreciate even if they didn’t neatly echo my own 🙂

  19. Obviously you missed the shopping and the sights shopping in Cannes………but I guess if you like traffic jams and exhaust fumes then Nice is a superior location…………but Eze and Cap Ferrat are the true destinations but they don’t have budget places or hostels………….and Grasse and other Relais and Chateau locations have a great vibe if you have the money to go there………………

  20. Bali please! You sold me on that trip and I dropped everything and flew there right after you got back 🙂 Thanks for that!

  21. And Monte Carlo really does have a sorta misogynistic vibe that would appeal to some mindsets……..sorta straight out of a Dr Strangelove movie………….

  22. Bali and Aman report first please. A guest post by your Mom would be great if she is willing. Your teaser posts while you were there inspired me to book a similar trip to HKG and Bali on CX First with my Mom next year. My Mom has never even been on domestic first much less International First. My Mom is still worried about your Mom’s swollen legs from the trip!

  23. Bali does have an added appeal to the young, uncommitted male in search of the sex trade………..certainly seems to be a demographic and psychographic consideration here……………

  24. Zurich can be quite nice, it´s just that it takes a while to really learn about everything. E.g. search for “Limmatschwimmen” which is held every year and something I haven´t seen elsewhere.

    Or, next time you´re here, let me know and you´ll get a tour 🙂

  25. Being a Taiwanese and long time reader to this blog, I am excited to read your articles about my home town , Taipei. There are actually a lot of very good bubble tea stands in night markets throughout Taipei. Please do come back and spend more time to enjoy what Taiwan has to offer.

  26. The treasures of Zurich are a little hidden, I agree. Next time you’re around, I’ll give you an inside tour through the vibrant parts of the city – there’s plenty of culture and excitement to be had if you go look for it 🙂

  27. I vote for the Amans first. In particular, I’m curious whether you found the Aman experience worth the added cost relative to other Bali properties you’ve stayed at in the past. Also, I’m curious how the Amans compare to other high end properties that we all might be more familiar with, such as Park Hyatt (anywhere) as a Diamond.

  28. So what exactly do you mean when you say Zurich is “kind of the Singapore of Europe”? Certainly doesn’t compare in terms of size, landscape, buildings, population, food, climate. The only parallel I find is the banking industry although that is even much more obvious in Zurich than in Singapore IMHO.
    What exactly did you mean? Thanks

  29. Really enjoyed this post with your thoughts on the cities. I hope you continue to do it for other destinations as well.

  30. Both sound good.

    I dug the ‘vibe’ reporting here. Once you are off the plane, checked into the hotel, drop your stuff off, and set off into the city proper, you get an immediate vibe. I would argue it can be very neighborhood specific, so a sense of how much exploring you did and how specific your comments are to the immediate hotel area would be helpful.

    I thought I saw you in ORD yesterday but decided I must be wrong – the person I saw was buying food and I’ve never heard of you doing that.

  31. My BF spent 3 weeks in Singapore for work last year and described it as like being in a theme park of what they think the US is like. I have another friend who compared it to a high end shopping mall in New Jersey. I’ve heard Zurich described as being very business-focused and and light on the cultural options, so I see what you’re getting at.

    I do agree that cities have vibes, and sometimes I get one that surprises me – I’m a huge fan of Brit movies, shows, and literature, but my visit to London & Manchester left me mostly disappointed. On the other hand, I never get tired of Paris, even when it’s raining and cold in February.

  32. I agree with your thoughts on Zurich. It is definitely worth a stopover, but not quite a true destination. plus they give you yummy chocolate when you fly Swiss! If you make it back there, definitely do a day trip to Lucerne. Rick Steves has great walking tours of both cities.

  33. Ben, I am traveling later this year to Hong Kong with my wife. We both love HK and but since this will be our 3rd time we are looking to add another destination to our trip. We’ve been to many places in Asia but never to Taipei or Macau. Which of these two destination would you recommend ?

  34. @ FabinhoBP — Hmmm, that’s a toughie. Guess it depends how long you have. Personally I prefer Taipei to Macau, but if you don’t have much time then I think a trip to Macau makes more sense. Otherwise I’d probably do Taipei.

  35. Someone must of pointed you to the right places in Taiwan. Bubble milk tea was invented at Chun Shui Tang in the early 80s. They still make the best milk tea.

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