Go, See, Write: Monaco
Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. Even though Prince Albert II is a constitutional monarch, he still has immense political power. The House of Grimaldi have ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297. The official language is French, but Monégasque, Italian, and English are widely spoken and understood.
Monaco is bordered entirely by France (within the French Riviera) near the Italian border. This tiny country can be easily walked. There is no border control between Monaco and France but there are signs telling you when you enter the principality.Monaco has the lowest unemployment rate at 0%, with over 48,000 workers who commute from France and Italy each day. According to the CIA World Factbook, Monaco has the world’s lowest poverty rate and the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world. In recent years Monaco has become a major banking centre with no natural resources to exploit other than its location and climate, the state has no income tax, low business taxes, and is well known for being a tax haven for businesses.
Monaco’s main source of income is tourism so there is entertainment at every turn. Everything is elegant, stylish with a tactile ‘French’ presence – luxury emanates from every building, from cars and restaurants. The charm of the steep streets, dotted with exotic plants, and an extraordinary climate attracts visitors all year round.
Monaco falls in the subtropical climate zone. They say that Monaco sees sun for 360 days a year. I however had the grand luck of visiting in the other 5. We arrived in Monacoto a welcoming 6 degree temperature, rain and thunderstorm. However, neither rain nor sleet,hail nor snow was going to keep us from enjoying our night in the land known as the Beverly Hills of Europe! First stop in the blizzard that was Monaco was the Palace.
Built in 1191 the Prince’s Palace of Monaco is the official residence of the Prince of Monaco. The Grimaldi’s occupation of their Palace (unlike other European ruling families) the absence of alternative palaces and land shortages have resulted in their use of the same residence for more than seven centuries. Today the Palace is home to Prince Rainier’s son and successor Prince Albert II. The state rooms are open to the public during the summer.
Infront of its grand entrance a majestic statue stands asa symbol of the Grimaldi’s dynasty. There is also National Guard on-duty, which every day exactly at 11:55 am performs the ritual of their shift. Not too many pictures were taken at the Palace as fairly cheap cameras and pouring rain don’t mix too well. After that stop we were all keen to get out of the rain and enjoy some dinner before trying our hand at the Casino. We stopped for a lovely semi Italian dinner at one of the the many welcoming restaurants around the Princely Palace.
Next stop the world famous Monte Carlo Casino!The Casino is owned and operated by the Société des bains de mer de Monaco, a public company in which the Monaco government and the ruling family have a majority interest. The company also owns the principal hotels, sports clubs, food service establishments, and nightclubs throughout Monaco.
For that one night our wallets permitted us to try our luck at the high life. The casino has facilities to play a variety of games which include different kinds of Roulette, Stud, Poker, Blackjack, Craps, Snap, Baccarat and Poker Slot machines. We needed our passports to enter (as Monégasque citizens are prohibited from gambling at the casino), and the fees for entry ranged enormously from 30€ into the hundreds depending on what room you are going to –we of course were going to the semi cheapest which was 50€. The dress code inside is extremely strict – men are required to wear coats and ties, and casual shoes are forbidden. The gaming rooms are spectacular, with stained glass, paintings, and sculptures everywhere although you are not allowed to take pictures inside and its very quiet- contrary to popular belief there is no loud rejoicing when a Tony Soprano look a likes wins big, just stony silence.
After living the night up as a high roller in Monaco, it was back to Antibes for the night with another drive day bright and early the next morning which would bring us back to Monaco along the French Riviera through Nice, Cannes and finally to our home for the next 7 days ITALIA!!