Saturday, 18 August 2012

Day 10 - Monaco

Sculptures in the gardens
on "The Rock"
It was an early start by chance which managed to capture the Casino bathed in first light sunshine from our balcony at least an hour before the lady of the house woke.

Later then, we ventured to the 7th floor for breakfast on the deck with its million dollar view of the Cote d'Azur. It was sizzling by eight o'clock but with a view and accompanying breakfast that removed all discomfort.

The first half of the day was to the old part of Monaco, called The Rock and incorporating the old town and the Prince's Palace. It was quite a place. Starting from an underground carpark, it was two elevator rides separated by a crowded lift which took us up to a point beside the oceanographic institute which had been a particular favourite of Prince Rainier and had featured Jacques Cousteau as a long term director. We walked up into the old town and stopped by St Nicholas Cathedral to view the burial plots of Princess Grace (formerly Grace Kelly) and her beloved husband, Prince Rainier III. My Mum would have been impressed.

We didn't go into the Royal Palace, against Sue's wishes. Instead, we made our way back down through gardens which were beautifully maintained and contained exquisite statues. We ate lunch with the help of what a local referred to as a gullard - an oversized seagull who was keen for scraps.

The amazing fountains at
Villa Rothchild
Rejoining the coach, we traveled out to the Ephrussi de Rothchild (Villa Rothchild), located on an isthmus to the east of Monte Carlo. An example of money gone crazy, the villa was largely the result of excess by Baroness Beatrice de Rothchild after the death of her husband. It makes for an impressive dwelling, with its sumptuous bedrooms and collections of Chinese clothing and porcelain on the inside and musically coordinated fountains and accompanying gardens on the outside. Every twenty minutes, a new piece of classical music is orchestrated by fountains which flow in unison to the music playing in the gardens. Placed as it is, strategically above the cote d'Azure and it's resident display of power and wealth through boating and dramatic buildings, it is a place well worth the seeing but sick with money and the power it brings.
Dinner in the hills
behind Monte Carlo

The evening was at a country restaurant bookended by a spectacular drive which climbed slowly through hairpin bends of the 3 Corniches, coastal roads which run almost parallel between Merton and Nice and reveal much about the glorious coast line, the cleverness of the engineers who constructed the roads and the sharpness of our driver. It was hair raising stuff. However, the payoff was seven courses of delicious fare and almost too much red wine ... almost.

The late evening was marked by those who wished to visit the famous Monte Carlo Casino and those that didn't. I was nearly alone as one who didn't and Sue was a loud protestant for those who did. As a result, we had a rare moment of disagreement which, as always, ended in her doing as she wished. I won't die in anticipation of her early return. Having marked out her territory, she'll be sure to exaggerate her ownership of the decision and her return will be late.

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