Monaco – Another [Very Small] Country Down

After rousing from what was simply awful sleep on the ground, I was off to Monaco.  The positive side of my sleeping so badly was that I could get an early start to the day, but I was exhausted straight away.  My train was bound for Cannes, and I briefly entertained the idea of walking around Nice, or some other southern French port city.  I quickly ruled it out though, I just couldn’t be bothered.  So there I was, standing in another principality, very much inflating my country count.  This place is even smaller than Lichtenstein but has a .  The GDP per capita of this place at 120,000 USD/year is one of the highest in the world and this place is little more than a playground for the rich and famous.  Supercars were commonplace.
So I arrived and had little idea of what I should be doing here.  On a map I saw that they had an exotic garden so I decided to make that my first stop.  It was located high a cliff and would offer a wonderful view of the country, but after getting lost trying to find it I gave up.  I later learned that it cost money to get in anyway, so I lost no more sleep over this.  There were other free gardens where I could enjoy myself just as much, including a Japanese garden.  I have to say that it didn’t quite feel authentic.  It was close, but they had used plants that you would never see in a proper Japanese garden.
One of the other stops I made was to the Grand Casino, well, just the front of it.  This place has a strict dress code and is the stomping ground of those that like to make it rain.  I’ve heard that one must have 5000 euros just to sit down at one of the tables. Peanuts to some, but it would be problematic to my bare bones budget, so the outside was good enough.
The next spot on my walking tour was to the Hercule Port, where the sea toys of the rich and famous are all parked.  I’ve never seen private boats this large before, and I couldn’t fathom what they must have cost.  Scurrying about them were deckhands, working for the pleasure of their overlords.  In some cases as many as fifteen people.  The largest boat in the marina went full inception with two speed boats and two Seadoos all parked on the lower deck.  Necessary I’m sure.
By this point I was pretty well exhausted but able to haul myself up the steep graded to the royal palace, which I had timed out so that I could see the changing of the guard ceremony.  This has been done the same way for hundreds of years and was a quite a spectacle.  At precisely 11:55, they came out tooting on horns and rapping on drums.  Then after displaying that they were capable of following orders, everything reversed but with a new guy at the guardhouse.  It drew quite a crowd.
This palace, like the one in Lichtenstein, had an incredible view out over nearly the entire principality.  I joined the droves in posing for a picture.  I was able to use my Japanese to talk some oriental tourists into snapping one of me.  The hardest part of traveling is not showing up in many of the pictures, but this one had to happen.
I returned to the palace to take the tour.  This to me was more exciting because it is still used and lived in by the royal family.  I had already been through the marvelous Hofberg in Innsbruck, but the opulence inside here was immense on a different scale.  Unfortunately, it was a no foto situation but as always Google to the rescue.  Each room was decorated in a different style and color, and of course with the finest of materials and furniture.  The throne room too felt like the subject matter of fairy tales.
After that tour, there was a collection of memorabilia, including several items from Napoleon Bonaparte.  His signature blue hat was my favorite piece of the exhibit.  The other stop I needed to make was to a cathedral that contained the graves of many royal family members, across hundreds of years.

At this point I was finished with my day in this small country.  I was successful in spending only 8 euros throughout my entire time there.  The only money I spent was for the very worthwhile palace tour.  The Monegasque people live in an interesting piece of the world, and though I see no likely reason for me to come back, I’ve really enjoyed checking it out.


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