Sunday, February 13, 2011

even the rain was classy.

One day in Monaco… Saturday January 29th 2011

A couple weeks late, but here’s the bit on Monaco.

The tour started in Aix where we all met in front of the tourist information center and got on the busses at 8:30am. I took the bus there from Luynes and had The Slowest Driver! I got there at 8:35, thankfully not the last one.
First view of Monaco

I spent the next three hours chatting and getting to know Anna. She’s in my French class and is from Russia. Oddly enough, she doesn’t speak English, so we had to talk to French, which was more than fine with me! On the way we passed through many towns, but some of the more notable ones were Cannes and Nice. I had no idea how close they were.

Probably looking more onto
Beausoleil than Monaco

An interesting thing I noticed, was that to me, this was ‘just a three hour drive’, like driving to Regina, but to others, this was ‘a three hour drive’. Maybe I’ve just become immune to sitting for extended periods of time and looking out the window has grown on me, but these fellow tourists were packing for a trip. Eye/night masks, books galore, portable DVD players, you name it. Wait a second… This is starting to sound like my own family going somewhere…

Building Up

We arrived in Monaco just after 11:00am. Our guide, George, made a comment about how he hoped we all brought our passports. I had mine, but wondered why we needed them. That’s when I realized that Monaco is it’s own country but I’m pretty sure I knew that already. Turns out, we did not need our passports. I was kind of disappointed, I wanted mine to get stamped again.

The Cathedral

With a population of just over thirty thousand, Monaco is about the size of Lakeview to Wildwood Golf Course, but a lot thinner. As you can imagine, the population density here is absolutely insane. It is easily the country with the densest population in the world, and not to mention, the 2nd smallest country too (Vatican being the smallest). Monaco’s space is limited, very limited, so they build up. Since new space is next to non-existent, land reclamation is in order. Around 30% of Monaco has been built out into the Mediterranean Sea. With buildings towering over you and the adjacent streets ten feet higher than the one you’re on, navigating is difficult. The whole city feels like a maze.

Prince's Palace
also under construction...

The first area we went to was Monaco-Ville. It is the oldest part of the city and was built out on a broad, rock peninsula. Here we found the Prince’s Palace. We were lucky enough to catch the Changing of the Guard at 11:55am. That was when my camera died.
Just above the head to the left of the first tent
is the green roof of the Grand Casino

Still in Monaco-Ville, we checked out the Cathedral and found it to be closed for interior work. Not having many options, we went to the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium. With only an hour, we only made it through the aquarium, which was incredible. There were all kinds of fish, small sharks, anemones, you name it. The presentation was amazing. Sadly we did not make it to the museum part where I believe are all kinds of old boats that one of the old kings or princes used to collect all the samples. Whoever it was had collected many first specimens of sea life.

building on the right (in the cliff)
is the Aquarium
The next stop was Monte-Carlo.

For you Bond, James Bond fans, yes we did take a peek at the Grand Casino. There was not much to see, as you can imagine, security was fairly tight and I couldn’t even take a photo of the inside (if my camera was working). Still in the Place du Casino was l’Hôtel de Paris Monaco; the definition of luxurious hotels that strive to excel in hospitality. I also walked in to see what I could see, and was instantly greeted by a bell hop who asked me what I needed. I explained that I just wanted to look around and he said that this is all there is to see. That was when I realized that I wasn’t seeing anything but canvas (beautifully decorated canvas at that) covering areas of construction work. Just my luck eh.
intense sky.

Regardless of the unrelenting rain, we walked around Monte-Carlo for an hour and a half. The whole city just wreaked of class. Not a leaf was out of place nor a blade of grass too long. Everything was picture perfect, even in the rain. Not to mention the streets lined with shop and shop of designer fashion’s that just don’t make sense to me. 300 euro for a belt? Unfathomable. To name a few, that I recognized: Prada, Gucci, Valentino, Hermes, Armani and Chanel. Oh, and let’s not forget the cars. I have absolutely no eye for car makes or models, but I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Mercedes Benz in my life and despite the rain, they were all spotless.


On the way back, we stopped at the Fragonard Perfumery. We went on a tour of the factory where they make perfume and soaps. Someone who makes perfume, in English, is called a Perfumer, but in French, they are called a ‘Nez’, which translates into Nose, which I find rather fitting. Between education and real training, it takes ten years for people to become Noses. They told us that the only “nose schools” are in France, (which I didn’t believe) and that there are only 100 Noses in the world (undecided on that one). If you are a Nose, you can only Smell for three hours a day so that your scent sensors (I’m getting writer’s block here, haha) do not become saturated and prolong your sensitivity. Along with being able to distinguish over 200 scents, you have to be creative. I guess this cuts me out; I could not identify the scent of Lemon.
Their commands were
en francais..
and I understood..
which I found odd..

Ever wonder what the difference between Eau de toilette and perfume is? Chances are, you haven’t ever put perfume on. Technically, it is the percentage of perfume concentrates (oils) that are mixed with alcohol. Perfume has a 15-40% concentration of oils and is the purest scented product. It is also the most expensive, but lasts the longest. With a percent of 7-15 of oils, Eau de parfum is apparently the most common, even if I’ve never heard of it. Lastly, we have Eau de toilette, which I’m sure everyone has heard of. It has 1-6% of oils and has a very light scent that does not linger long, ideal for those of you who love to douse yourself in scent before leaving the house.
They kept coming!

Lucky us, everyone got a little sample of some Eau de toilette. I love tours.
Last photo of the trip...

On the way back, I heard a very familiar kind of French being spoken from behind me. I turned around and asked the guy if he happened to be from Canada. Sure enough, this guy was from Montreal and spoke extreme Quebecoise. It was refreshing.

Hope you enjoy my few photos. Hopefully I can get Anna’s soon.

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