Monaco

IMG_0660I try not to be into ‘country counting’, crossing places off against a list so as to brag “now I’ve been to xx countries”.  Countries should be like Facebook friends, where it’s not about the number but the quality.

However.

I got to cross off another country today when I went to Monaco, bringing my total up to 57 (but who’s counting? Ok, maybe I am. A bit).

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, undersized only by Vatican.  It is surrounded by France, although Italy is just down the road. Its main claim to fame is as a tax haven for the super-rich ( Philip Green, head of Top Shop, ‘weekends’ in Monaco and avoids UK tax).

I got a train there from Cannes, which takes a little over an hour and drops you in the middle of Monte Carlo (Monte Carlo is one of four regions of Monaco). No passport control; you just get off the train and you’re there.

Monaco is a bit like a very upmarket Gibraltar (I’m thinking of selling them that line to use in their tourist campaigns: ‘come to Monaco it’s an upmarket Gibraltar’).

IMG_0692Whereas Gibraltar has the online casinos (in another life I used to cross into Gibraltar from Spain to work in what was effectively a call centre for online gaming, taking credit card details off of Americans; even by my usual standards this was one of my shorter-lived jobs), Monaco specialises in the real thing. Monaco’s casinos are very formal places, quite different from a Las Vegas casino. Men have to be ‘properly attired’ in jacket and tie; I’m not sure what the dress-code is for ladies but I am pretty sure jeans and Ugg boots wouldn’t be it. Luckily I’m not a fan of gambling anyway.

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You can climb up some steps for around ten minutes and see the royal palace. 

 

Good view of the harbour from the palace.

Good view of the harbour from the palace.

Of course there was the obligatory Christmas market.

Of course there was the obligatory Christmas market.

Monaco is an interesting place to visit but unless you’re fond of gambling or have a few million to tuck away with one of the numerous private banks, then a day is enough for it.  The Jardin Exotique looked interesting (lots of cacti) but it was further than I thought and by the time I got there I only had a short time left before my train back and didn’t want to pay the €8 admission for 15 minutes.

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