Monaco famously occupies a very tiny spot on the French Riviera coast, but its topology is such that if you move from one part of it to another on foot, you will be well-exercised from all of the climbs and descents along terraced stairs.
On our visit to the principality, we spent an entire day there with several sightseeing and entertainment targets in mind. Our planning rested on the notion that sights cannot be that far from one another, but after taking into the account time constraints for a couple of sights and the desire to have a dinner at the end of the day in the historic center, we ended up repeatedly shuttling between Monaco Ville, Monte-Carlo and Jardin Exotique area.
At some point towards the end of the day, we decided that we had enough of walking and instead took the bus. This was on the route that we already covered in one direction – a convoluted and lengthy walk over quite a number of slopes and terraces – but we were pretty sure that the bus ride would not take more than a minute or two, with at most a couple of stops.
We got on a completely empty bus and paid the fare to the driver. He gave us back a receipt. We sat down.
Not a hundred meters into the ride, there was the first stop. A man in a suit and a coat got onto the bus, said something to the driver, and stepped towards us.
“Les billets, s’il vous plait” he said, flashing some sort of a badge.
I did not expect anyone to start speaking to me in French at that particular moment, so my reaction must have been that of a complete confusion. The man caught up immediately.
“Your teekets, pleeze.”
I mimed utter relief in response and, after a second of difficulty trying to recall which pocket I had put the damned receipt in, produced said receipt.
The man carefully inspected the piece of paper, nodded with satisfaction, gave it back to me, said “Tres bien. Merci!“, and got out of the bus at the next stop. Which, as it happened, was the last stop and our destination.
I had to produce public transport tickets for inspection on quite a number of occasions in my life, but none of such occasions left a similar imprint on my memory. A completely empty bus, only two stops to ride, no more than a couple of minutes of time on the bus, the tickets bought directly from the driver – and still the inspector did not neglect to show his zeal. Those Monegasque must be really serious about law and order in their little country, I thought to myself.
I haven’t been back to check whether they still do, unfortunately.
This reminds me of the trip my wife & I took to Italy, specifically Venice. Several sights in Venice require public transportation (Murano, Burano, the Jewish ghetto, etc.). Much like a land-based city, your choices are taxi and bus (in this case, water taxi and water-bus). The water-taxi is personal (small boat, driver takes you where you want to go). The water-bus is cattle-car style (makes set stops, you get on & off as you please).
We chose the bus, bought our tickets from a ticket machine near the stop, and then got on the first boat. Not only did no one ask for our tickets, but there didn’t seem to be anyone who was supposed to be doing the asking. As we went from place to place, we also noticed that we appeared to be the only ones with tickets. Everyone else just got on & off the buses as they pleased. And so, after a while, we stopped buying tickets as well and just took whatever bus we needed (for free). To this day, I wonder if you really are supposed to buy tickets (and if not, why is there a machine?).
At any rate, it seems perhaps the Venetians and the Monegasque could use an international exchange program to even out this discrepancy…
I seem to recall a number of places where there seemed to be no ticket controls on public transport – or, at least, on some modes of public transport. I don’t think you can make a generalization for an entire city, although my recollections for Venice circa 2003 align with yours. However, we were to Venice again last year, bought multi-day all-you-can-ride tickets, and at some point were stopped in the boarding area because we were trying to catch a ready-to-depart vaporetto and neglected “validate” our tickets for that particular ride. Things changed even in Venice…
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