Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Friday, October 3, 2008

Monaco

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we took a bus trip to Monaco this past Sunday. It was put on by the Vous Accueil association and the tickets cost 25€ for us and 10€ for Irie. We were dropped off at the "top" of Monaco (Monaco is a "principality" that is all of .75 square miles, built into the side of a mountain that descends into the sea) at the Jardin Exotique where we started our day. The Grotte (cave) was also in, or rather under, the garden and was used in prehistoric times by different groups of people including the Neanderthals. The Grotte has some nice formations (see pics above) but I was most struck with the difference in how they protect such an edifice. In the U.S., for instance at the Oregon Caves very near our home, they talk of the micro-climate, the unique organisms, and the absolute rules of not touching anything. In The Grotte, we were ducking and weaving through stalagtites and stalagmites and everything seemed very "loose." We, of course, didn't touch anything, but honestly we could have probably carved "Rick ♥'s Lisa" into a formation if we had so desired. Then again, the tour leader was speaking in French so what do I really know?

Monaco is a constitutional monarchy of about 33,000 people. The head of state is Prince Albert II who came to power when his father, Prince Rainer, died in 2005. Many of you will be familiar with Prince Rainer as the husband of Princess Grace, ie. the actress Grace Kelly who died tragically here in a car accident in 1982 (we were glad we didn't have to drive these streets!). Princes Rainer and Albert are, respectively, the 25th and 26th ruling Princes of the Grimaldi family which came to power in 1297 and has ruled ever since. Many are also somewhat familiar with the Monaco Grand Prix, which is considered the most difficult Formula One race on the circuit, and the Monte Carlo Casino (the trinket shops are full of memorabilia of both). Our bus went by the large gardens in front of the Casino, but we didn't even get close enough to take a picture. When we were both in Europe as college students in 1985 we met up in Nice and tried to get into the Casino that day, but wearing shorts and tennis shoes we were laughed away from the entrance. Now we just don't have any interest.

After touring the très impressionnant Jardin (which Lisa described as the ultimate rooftop terrace garden overlooking the entire country) and The Grotte, we took the city bus which wound down through Monte Carlo then back up to Le Rocher (The Rock) where the Palais, Cathédrale, and the Aquarium/Musée Oceanography sit. The building towers impressively on a bluff high above the sea, Jacques Cousteau was it's director for many years, and Irie loved it! We then wound our way through the typically European narrow streets browsing the stores and finding some tasty wood-fired pizza for lunch. The Palais was not nearly as impressive as Versailles, but hey it's not France, it's only surrounded by France, and speaks French, though they do have their own language, Monégasgue. It was a delightful day with the family. Monaco is a very picturesque place, video and I learned much more about the place than when I came through as a college student...imagine that!

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