Thursday, June 22, 2006

Monaco and Monte Carlo

One of the places I was really excited to see on our trip was Monaco. Part Las Vegas, part Miami Beach and part something entirely different. The entire principality is only a couple of miles long so once we were there, it was really easy to get around. Built on the steep hills around a bay, the tough part is all of the climbing but they have built public escalators into most of the hills so even that part is easy.

Monaco is absolutely gorgeous. The architecture, the views, the immense yachts and the museums are all outstanding. Space is really at a premium here so you find interesting things like an aquatic stadium right between the marina and the International Horse Jumping championship which is going on this week. It makes for some interesting juxtapositions. Leslie and I were amazed by the yachts we saw in Cannes but the ones in Monaco blow them away. It left me wondering why I don't have a yacht with a helicopter on it.

My new boat

We went to two museums, the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium (where Jacques Cousteau was the director for many years) and the National Museum both had lots to see though I think my favorite part was the aquarium. It is the first aquarium I've been at that not only allowed photography but also did a great job of lighting the different tanks so that you could get pretty good results. The Canon 5D's low noise at 1600 ISO helped out some too :)

The Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium

There is a Japanese Garden right near the National Museum which should not be missed. It is very nicely done and really neat with the views of the mediterranean through some of the trees and the hills of Monaco on the other side.

The Casino at Monte Carlo

Much of Monaco's income comes from the casinos which, given my experience there, is easy to understand. Our last stop of the day was at the main casino in Monte Carlo (which is more of a neighborhood than a city). It is a beautiful building overlooking the waterfront but nobody really looks out the windows. Compared with the Las Vegas casinos I'm used to, it was subdued and tiny. There were only 2 blackjack tables open, one with a 25 Euros minimum and the other with 100. I sat down with 95 Euros and lost the first three hands with 16, 17, 16. I tried a bit of roulette but lost the rest there (I've never liked that game) Well, that was that. Leslie had slightly better luck at video blackjack, losing only 10 Euros. It wasn't that we were losing, though, it was that there was no excitement in the whole place. While I was watching roulette, people were winning a bunch of money but you wouldn't know it from their laissez-faire attitude. OK chalk one up for Vegas but with all of the other unique advantages of Monaco, it is high on my list of places to return to.

You can check out the full photo album here.

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