Sunday, May 22, 2011

April 12th: Putting on the Ritz

We left Chateau de Cruix bright and early this morning and headed south once again.

We drove past many castles. Some in excellent shape...some not so much...

I don't seem to have many pictures from this day. We spent a lot of it driving, and I've probably mentioned before, but it's really hard to take pictures through the window of a moving bus. :)

Plus, the countryside was a lot of the same on this stretch.

Our stop for the night was in the French Riviera, near the city of Nice, in a site with a series of little cabins.

Cabins with very thin walls.

One of the girls and I shared one side of the cabin, on the other side of the dividing was a room full of guys. Who happened to be talking (nicely, at least) about my roommate. I don't think they knew we were there....and that we were listening to every word. We found it hilarious to say the least!

After unpacking, showering, etc., we got back on the bus for a short drive into Monaco. The second smallest country in the world, at about 2 square kilometers, and the most densely populated county in the world, Monaco sits right along the ocean on the hillside. Buildings have been built in every conceivable spot, and not a single road is wider than it absolutely has to be.

Watching two buses trying to pass each other on the road leading to the underground parking (one leaving, one entering the parking) was highly entertaining as they jockeyed back and forth on this tiny, curving street. I'm sure many a coach has lost part of its paint job in this city!

We walked through part of the city, past the church where Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly were married...

...And up to the castle on the cliff side.

The castle overlooks the harbour, with some pretty impressive boats. The Monte Carlo casino is on the distant promontory, on the other side of the harbour.

The weather is looking a little misty at this point in the evening, but it certainly wasn't cold! Even at the end of the night the temperature was still high enough to be outside without a sweater of any sort.

Here's some of the group taking in the view...

For dinner, the tour group scattered into the narrow streets. The smaller group that I was with found this tiny little restaurant with a covered patio out behind it. It was so relaxing to sit outside with some amazing food and a glass of wine, in this beautiful city.

I have to admit, I'm not much of a wine drinker at home, I probably had more wine altogether on this trip than before it combined. Maybe it's growing on me. :)

Once again, a picture of my food...

After our leisurely dinner, we hopped back on the bus for a (very!) short drive to the other side of the harbour.

In the picture above, you can see the part of Monaco where I was taking pictures from earlier. The church is somewhere in the area to the left of the crane. The castle to the right, where the brightest lights on the hilltop are. We had dinner in the streets in between those two spots.

The lights on the buildings at night were really beautiful...

As I'm sure you may have guessed, our destination for the last part of the evening was the Monte Carlo casino...the main entrance is in the picture above. Sadly, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, as the interior was absolutely gorgeous. Such detail!

I did feel a little out of place in the casino....I'm not one to gamble my money away....but I did put 10 Euro in a slot machine and promptly lose it all. But at least I can say that I've gambled in the actual Monte Carlo if anyone asked. :)

Most people played either the slots or roulette for a bit. One of the guys ventured into the blackjack room and managed to leave with at least 100 Euro more than he entered fact, after a recap on the bus, several people did really well for themselves. I think our tour overall may have left with more money than we went in with!

It was obviously a very posh place. But even if you didn't know that to start with, those are certainly not cheap cars parked out front!

To complete our evening, we walked down the hill, past the hairpin turn of the Monaco Grand Prix, and down to the promenade along the ocean, with the waves crashing below. I took some pictures, but in the dark, well, they look like black nothing-ness with the odd pin-prick of light. Not much to show. :)

And as a last little bonus, that pesky Canadian flag, I can't leave it behind. :)


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