43:44.18N 07:25.92E Monaco
We were happy that Ariel was safe and sound at Villefranche in the bay so Sue, Frank, Jim and I planned an all day trip to Monaco by train. We packed our picnic and made our way to the train station where we were horrified to find not a space on the platform and two huge queues. Unfortunately, the cruise passengers were there before us. The train was late and just as we got our tickets the train arrived and everyone got on this very new double storey train. The graffiti artists had been there before us. Thank goodness Britain seems to be on top of the problem now.
We arrived at Monte Carlo and descended two floors and walked down a beautiful marble tunnel for about 200 metres which took us out for our first view of Monaco. Fabulous cruisers some 3 and 4 decks along with large sailing boats was our first impression. Monaco is only 2 miles long and no space is wasted as high rise buildings are everywhere. It is quite a shock to take in everything at a glance.
As it was very hot and we were already starting to melt we decided to take the little hop on/off bus tour to see the principality on wheels. It was the best decision as we stayed on the bus and did the full journey before being put down at the harbour as it was the driver’s lunch time. We took the ferry across the harbour and walked up to the Monte Carlo casino next door to the opera house and wonderful hotel area which is overlooked by a beautiful garden running up the main street for several hundred metres. We wandered into the casino which is just as grand as you see on the TV. Afterwards we watched several players betting 100 Euro notes at a time in a different lounge but it didn’t seem to mean anything to them.
Back on the bus we headed across town to the Royal Palace of Monaco and museum. The palace has an advantage point and overlooks the harbour and cannons are lined up along the wall with stacks of cannon balls cast in the reign of Louis XIV.
Sue, Frank and I had a super time in the palace with its wonderful murals and fine pieces of history including the blue and gold Louis XV salon and the Throne Room. Among the royal portraits of many generations of Grimaldi’s there is a beautiful 8 feet high painting of the late Princess Grace with her husband, son and two daughters. It just strikes you of a very loving family and many people found it very difficult not look at the picture for several minutes.
Monaco was historically a Greek then Roman colony and is the oldest monarchy in Europe where the monarch still has executive and legislative powers.
In 1346 Charles I started building a fortress on the rocks of Monaco and every since the family has ruled this principality and even today Prince Albert is the ruling Monarch. Every morning at 11.55 a., the changing of the Guard takes place and a ceremony performed in full dress uniform, white in summer and black in winter.
We wandered down to the cathedral and Palais of Justice before boarding the bus which took us past the Oceanographic Museum which overlooks the cliff face and houses thousand of specimens of fish which Prince Rainier started over 30 years ago.
The bus took us back to the harbour via the Princess Grace gardens in her memory, the famous sports stadium and motor museum started by Prince Rainier. Back on the train we were all looking forward to a swim in the bay before tea.