Friday, February 29, 2008

Monaco - the jewel of Riviera

Monaco - the smallest country in Europe (about 2 square kilometres) AND the home for the Rich and the Famous - is situated on the coast of Mediterranean Sea, tucked into the Maritimes Alps. I visited this amazing place in a bit cloudy day of 28th of February. I took the train from Marseille to Monaco (3 hours) and it was an amazing ride along the lovely coast of the sea, passing Touloun, Cannes, Antibes, Nice (Nizza)... All lovely holiday cities to enjoy yourself on the beach... Of course, not in February though... But my destination was Monaco anyway, so I didn't mind it.
When I arrived to Monaco, I realized one cannot make a good use of the map. In fact, the map can be confusing - as Monaco is so hilly and the streets, houses and sights are in different levels (almost in the same spot), then you don't really get it from the map; and two paralleel streets on the map can actually be streets tens of metres away from each other in height (and no way you can just step from one street to another what you guess from looking at the map!). Luckily, Monaco is very small, and due to the hills, it's like in a nutshell: you can always see everything. When you are on the top of the hill (for instance, in Monaco Ville in the square of Royal Palace), you can overview everything else, and when you are down on the Port Hercule (the port for the lovely big expensive yachts), you can see everything which is situated on the hills (Royal Palace, Casino etc). So it's almost no way you can get lost in Monaco. But indeed it's a bit tricky to arrive from one lower place to another higher point (NB - one should make use of the elevators and escalators).
Even when Monaco is so small, there's a lot to see. This country has known how to mark itself in the world's map. The Monte Carlo Casino is known to everyone and so is the Monaco Grand Prix of Formula 1. But there are much more...
Monaco has several different parts, mostly tourists visit Monaco-Ville (the old city, where on the rock, the Royal Palace is situated) and Monte Carlo (the other side of the Hercule Port, wellknown spot because of the Casino), but also Moneghetti (where the well known Exotic gardens are situated) and green Fontvieille (with Princess Grace Kelly's rose garden).

Photo: The Port Hercule and the part of Monaco called Monte Carlo.

Photo: Parts called La Condamine and Moneghetti.

Photo: The most well-known (and probably also one of the most expensive one...) hotel in Monaco: Hotel de Paris, situated next to the Casino. The photo is taken from the garden made on the roof of Rainier III auditoriums.
Photo: This is how the Monte Carlo Casino looks like! One can enter the Casino's lobby without charge (it's beautiful there!), photographing is strictly prohibited. You can enter the Casino's playing rooms only when you're 21 years or older (presenting your passport) and paying the fee of 10 or 15 euros.
Photo: The Monaco Cathedral which was consecrated in 1875 (dedicated to St. Nicholas). Many of the members of royal family are burried here, including Princess Grace Kelly (in 1982) and her husband, Prince Rainier III (in 2005).

Photo: I in Monaco.

Photo: Hercule Port and Monte Carlo.

Photo: streets, flowers, palm trees and a photo frame in Monaco-Ville.

Photo: Place D'Armes
Photo: The sculpture to honour the Formula 1 driver Juan Manuel Fangio who dominated the first decade of Formula One racing in 1950's and won several times Monaco Grand Prix as well.

Photo: Karin and the pictureframe overlooking to Monte Carlo.

Photo: Coloufrul Monaco.
Museums in Monaco
There are several interesting museums in Monaco, but unfortunately I couldn't step into any of them, even when I wished to. Perhaps the best well-known museum is Oceanographic Museum & Aquarium which is situated in the very edge of the rocky coast of Monaco. It's a beautiful building with gardens around. Photo: The building of Oceanographic Museum and the Mediterranean Sea

Photo: The garden beside the building of the Oceanographic Museum - it's designed on the roof of a house
Monaco and the Royal Family
Visiting Monaco always means to think of the royality, too, and the celebrities from the royal family of the country... Well, in Monaco, you can't walk around without noticing the ever-lasting aura of Princess Grace Kelly. You really feel her importance in the late history of Monaco - people in Monaco like to say, that "She is a lady who made Monaco a world famous destination". I think it's really true - you can see her presence everywhere. This year (as marking the 25th anniversary of the princess' death) many stages (25 in number) with commentaries are placed on the different spots in Monaco which give a legend about Princess Grace work and big events in her life. Photo: The Royal Family: Prince Albert with his children, and Princess Grace Kelly on the painting (this is a postcard I bought from Monaco :)).
Photo: Royal Palace (has a VERY long history; and The Grimaldi family has fought over their landpiece for centuries)
Gardens of Monaco
Gardens are one of the trademarks in Monaco - and it really pays off. The area of Monaco is small and stucked with many houses, so to have some green spots in the town is very important - it gives you the feeling of space. And the gardens are just wonderful, even in the end of February! They are as small as Monaco is, so you don't need to do lots of walking there, but all of them are carefully planned to make a good symbiosis of different plants growing hand in hand (colourfrul blooming flowers, suculents, evergreen bushes etc), many lovely sculptures in each parc and enjoyable quietness for visitors.
There are 7 main gardens in Monaco: Casino Gardens, St Martin's Garden, Japanese Garden, Princess Grace Rose Garden, Fontvieville Park, Zoological Terraces and Princess Antoniette Parc.
Due to lack of time, I was able to visit only the first three, but the visits made a deep impressions to me.
Photo: Lots of colourful flowers in the gardens of Monaco

Photo: I in the middle of cactuses in St Martin's garden
Photo: a sculpture in St Martin's gardens
Photo: Fontevieille district (the commercial centre)

Even when Monaco is so small, it certainly deserves of exploring more than just one day. I hope I can go back there in summer time to enjoy the beauty of the gardens and the warmth of the clear blue Mediterranean Sea.