Sunday, February 17, 2013

Monte Carlo (Monaco)

 Monte Carlo, Monaco

Apropos that the coast line is a golden hue. Monaco has the richest population per capita in the world. 
Perched over the Mediterranean Ocean, Monaco is a picturesque country. With very high prices, most travelers can afford to spend only one day in this gathering place for the rich. Thus, we were going to stay one day.

We had chosen a walking tour of Monte Carlo. I chose this picture of the journey up into the city because the real path to this point was a bunch of steep steps. Even though it was a sunny 77 degrees, it was a real workout. 
The views made the climb easier to bear.
We think this beauty is Princess Stephanie's private home. Nice little bungalow, and the average price of real estate is just $65,600 per square metre. 

Front facade of Saint Nicholas Cathedral. 

Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly were married in this cathedral in 1956.

One of our tour destinations--the Prince's Palace of Monaco. The Prince's Palace is the official home of Prince Albert II, son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Of interest also, in the wing behind the trees is the residence of Princess Caroline the sister of Albert.  

Princess Caroline is very active in civic affairs but is over-shadowed by Prince Albert. The flag over the Sainte-Marie Tower is flown whenever Prince Albert II is in residence. To the right is Albert I's clock tower in white stone.

The famous panorama of La Condamine, the second oldest district in Monaco known for its distinctive wide harbor and moored yachts.
Changing of the Palace guards. We will just show the sequence of the changing without comment.

The courtyard is guarded 24/7 but the formal changing of the guard happens at 11:55 a.m. everyday. We were there at noon that day but our good fortune was not being hungry. One person stated that he spent $75 for a meal in a Mexican restaurant in Monte Carlo.
 Christine was quite pleased with the changing of the guard ceremony.
 After the Palace, we were taken to the "rich" section of town where we could wander around on our own or be escorted back to the ship by the guide.
 The Hotel de Paris established in 1864. It is part of the elite Palace Grand Hotels in Monaco. Why do travelers stay only one day in Monte Carlo? An inside courtyard room is around $636. If you want a room with a view--$831. (No, we did not see a Motel 6 in Monte Carlo).

THE Casino of Monte Carlo.

The world-famous Casino Monte Carlo, the gambling center which has made Monte Carlo "an international byword for the extravagant display and reckless dispersal of wealth." A lot of the wealth is dispersed to Monaco as the Casino put the small country back into financial wealth long ago.
The casino is featured in the James Bond films Never Say Never Again and Golden Eye. To Catch a Thief was an Alfred Hitchcock film with Monte Carlo and the famous casino as the setting and featured Cary Grant and the future Princess Grace of Monaco as the stars. Incidentally, there is a scene in the movie where the then Grace Kelly drives a car very quickly--and dangerously--along the steep winding roads of Monaco that surround the height of Monte Carlo, an interesting coincidence to her actual fate in 1982.

This is as close to the casino as I would let Christine go. Can't be too careful.
So I tried to distract her by some pretty flowers nearby.
Nearly perfect bloom.
There were a series of fountains and gardens that fronted the casino.
The rich and famous Family Dollar Store.
The Chanel Store. 
Members only gambling salon.
Talk about exclusive--in case you can't read the sign--billionaire Sunset Lounge. That says it all.
Hey, look what I spotted. Bring your own toys to Monte Carlo. They are checking into the Fairmont Hotel (only $900 for one night).
Not a problem for these travelers. A Bianchi bicycle starts at $5,000.
On the way back to the ship. Doesn't this just make you want to don your snorkeling gear and jump in?
A tribute to Formula One racing. Every year Monte Carlo hosts the Monaco Grand Prix on the tiny streets of the city. Besides tiny streets, there are elevation changes and tight corners making the race a dangerous one. It has been held since 1929.

This looks like one of the yachts from a James Bond film.
And here is James Bond parachuting onto the yacht to rescue a maiden in danger.
All of the hob-knobbing with the rich and famous made us want to dress up for dinner.
Even I washed behind my ears. 
 And then we topped off the night by attending a performance in the theater. Ah, luxury is great.

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