Friday, February 09, 2007

January 2007 - Monte Carlo, Monaco

Given the lack of snow in the Alps, the crisp blue skies, and moderate temperature, we shed a few layers and again ventured south to the Mediterranean coast, but this time to Monaco - the second smallest country in Europe (after Vatican City). Monaco is stunning to look at. And immaculate! From its bright blue harbour and perfectly manicured gardens, to its cliff-hugging palaces and hotels, ubiquitous mega-yachts, luxury automobiles, and haute-couture-clad inhabitants, everything looks perfect, almost fake, like a town that only Disney could dream up.

As we stepped out of the train station, hidden within the mountain you see above (a train station would surely disrupt the visual harmony that is Monaco), we were immediately greeted by this mansion balancing on the cliff and a perfect blue sky beyond.

We quickly learned that pretty much every structure in Monaco is built on or around the cliffs that practically encircle the harbour. Even the church (above) was barely squeezed in between the rocks.

We first walked along the Port de Monaco and admired the yachts and gorgeous water. We'd never seen a marina with such clean waters. As we approached "The Rock", the promontory on the west side of the Port on which sits the old town, Monaco Ville, the seat of the Royal Palace, the government buildings, the Cathedral and the old Armory. Halfway up the Rock, you have this great view of the modern skyline of Monte-Carlo (Monaco's glitzy capitol situated on the east side of the Port) and the mountains that surround and protect the tiny country.

On our walked up to the Rock, we snapped a few pictures of the beautiful Port.

Here's us in front of the Armory. The tower with crenellated battlements, the retired cannons, and the stacks of cannon balls looked like something out of medieval Disney village.

Above is Casandra with more cannons aimed towards the harbor west of the Rock.
And here's that harbor. Could they cram in any more yachts?!?!

Above is another shot of the west harbor from a more southern point on the Rock.
The white marble of Monaco's cathedral sparkles against the blue sky. This cathedral overlooks the bay from a large bluff.

Above is a shot of the main naive of the catherdral. It seemed rather autere for such a decadent country.
Also, on the large bluff overlooking the bay is the Jardin St. Martin, a beautiful park full of bronze statutes and walking paths.

The views of the crystal blue sea (below) are most amazing from the top of the Jardin.

Below is a view of the old Palace, now the Oceanagraphic Museum, which towers over the sea on a rocky cliff.
The park provided some great sepia shots. This one of the bronze mariner heading out to sea is our favorite.
The Old town of Monte Carlo is very colorful and quite french looking, similar to Nice, except much neater and nearly too perfect. The cuisine in this area of town was a mixture of Italian and French but not really the better cuisine of either nation. Overall, we were disappointed by the food.

The Avenue Monte-Carlo (below), the place to shop, is home to haute couture shops like Gucci, Valentino, Hermes, Prada, etc., no designer was left off this bustling street.

Off the main avenue and with a spectacular view of the sea is Monte Carlo's opera house (below). Kenny is standing on the suicide terrace (where people would jump off the cliff after gambling away their family fortunes). The opera house abutts with the Casino. Both are in one amazingly opulent building.

The circular gardens in front of the Casino (below) provide a great place to stand and watch the fancy cars go by. Kenny was thrilled to see luxury cars not yet released in the U.S.

The Casino (below) shines like a brilliant gold palace behind us. Luckily, we dressed up and were able to go inside. We didn't gamble but we enjoyed watching the high rollers bet 500 euros at every spin of the roulette wheel.

The Casino is fronted by a series of fountains and lush gardens. At this point, we expected nothing less than perfection from this country.

Now it's back to the cold, less perfect but real Limone. Maybe we'll return to some snow???

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