As we glided into Monaco, our waiter said “Now you will start to smell the money!”
What an accurate description of this principality where the cost per square METRE averages 60 000 Euros, and each letter on the Yacht “Lady Moura” docked beside us is printed in 24 carat gold!
We assumed that Monaco and Monte-Carlo were one and the same – wrong! Monaco is the (tiny) country, and Monte-Carlo is the area on the hill that houses the famous casino and most of the luxury hotels.
We walked around the medieval “Rock” section and through a very pretty garden – we gave up calculating how much each flower or leaf would be worth in real estate value!
We could see the Musee Oceanographique literally hanging on a cliff. It was directed by the wonderful Jacques Cousteau for many years – how many people recall watching his magic TV shows? Wish we had known ahead of time as we certainly would have goofed off to explore there…
Then it was off to the famous cathedral where Grace Kelly was buried. Sadly we had reached our quota of religious and royal exposure for the week.
The police detail that appeared suddenly scattering the crowd was interesting though – suddenly an armoured car with the number plate MC01 whisked past us. Yep, Prince Albert 2 self driving in his Lexus! Guess we still got our quota of royalty for the day!
Speaking of which, the crime rate in Monaco is very low. This could be due to having 1 policeman to every 40 people, not including any of the palace guards.
Also it was great to hear that social housing is provided for citizens ‘without wealth’ for a tiny 400 euros a month rent. We saw some of these apartments around the harbour which looked great and were well located.
That evening was a fun night organised by Don Lehman for our group of 8 at the Chef’s Table on board the Viking Star. Thanks Don, we really enjoyed the night!
The five course “Sweet and Salty” menu gave us a chance to try out several new tastes. We will spare you from the full menu with all the diatribe of posh ingredients, but Ian’s rave dish was the beetroot jelly with grilled scallops and a hint of passionfruit.
Ginny loved the dessert – not usually her favourite part of the menu. A thickened Bavarian cream with basil jelly and strawberry sauce … Finished with a tiny scattering of rock salt. Sublime!
Each course came with a selected glass of wine which was perfect over the evening. Later on we even managed to dance the night away at a Beatles tribute. Well, the ‘we’ is not quite true as the pain in Ian’s knee prevents such frivolity (roll on his operation in November!) but fun was had by all.
Next morning saw a stunning French sunrise as we arrived in Toulon.
The local Provençal market was interesting – beautiful flowers everywhere and about 12 different varieties of olives…
However we saw some limp blackish cauliflowers that were a worry! We’ve seen this in a few places now and it seems weird and such a total contrast to all the other beautiful fresh produce. Does anyone know if there is a reason for this? Maybe a special recipe?!
There are many fountains and squares throughout the city, some in better shape than others. Our guide indicated that funding to maintain and renovate the Old Town is very limited in the current economic climate. Parts are uninhabited or unsafe, and sadly they have a nasty virus in many of their palm trees.
In contrast the Opera House is in constant use and is a very beautiful building with many sculptures adorning it.
So there you are. Monaco & Toulon, third and second last port of call before Barcelona…