Visiting Cap-d'Aïl and its peaceful railroad station: last stop in France before an international border

Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Building of Cap-d'Ail railway station, near Monaco in Alpes-Maritimes, France.
Building of Cap-d'Ail railway station, near Monaco in Alpes-Maritimes, France. | Source
Coastal railroad between Nice and Monaco, 1902
Coastal railroad between Nice and Monaco, 1902 | Source
Monaco border
Monaco border | Source
Map location of Alpes-Maritimes department, France
Map location of Alpes-Maritimes department, France | Source

How it can be done

This sleepy railroad station at Cap-d'Ail often does not even have any employees of the SNCF (1) present, and yet it marks the last stop in France before an international border. There are usually no customs or immigration officials in sight.

So how has this state of affairs come about?

The border in question is the one between France and the Principality of Monaco. By treaty, all visas valid for France are also valid for Monaco, and vice-versa. Hence the lack of activity by officials at this quiet outpost near the French border (2). Travelling by coach from Cap-d'Ail into the Principality is comparable: usually, the coach does not even stop at the border, but sails through, with only the alert passengers even aware that they have just crossed an international border. (So: the next time an empire building border official somewhere behaves in an unreasonable and obstreperous manner: just remember that he or she is being paid to give a service, which is necessary in some places but which, between the borders of some countries, has by treaty been made largely redundant.)

The vegetation around the railroad station is lush and green; the Mediterranean laps quietly a relatively short distance below the building.

The building dates from 1881. It was subsequently enlarged in 1905. Features of this two-storey building include roof terracing with a balustrade.

This building was erected by the Compagnie des Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée (Paris - Lyons - Mediterranean Railroad Company), sometimes shortened to Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée . This company was absorbed into the SNCF in 1938.

June 19, 2012

Notes

(1) SNCF — Société des chemins de fer français — is the French, state-owned railroad company.

(2) In fact, once the railroad has passed through the territory of the neighbouring Principality, it enters France again, and there are various other railroad stations still on French territory until the railroad finally arrives in Italy near Ventimiglia.

Also worth seeing

Monaco Town (distance: 2.6 kilometres); among its many visitor attractions are: the Cathedral, the Princess Grace Rose Garden, the Museum of Stamps and Coins, the guard changing ceremony at the Prince's Palace and the Oceanographic Museum, among many others.

...

How to get there: Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur ), where car rental is available. The French railroad company SNCF maintains services to Cap-d'Ail from Downtown Nice. Please be aware that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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