When we woke in Monte Carlo, it was clear we had fallen prey to cruise ship kennel cough. We didn’t feel as rotten as we eventually would, but our edge was definitely dulled. Here we had to call the hotel for a pick up. I snagged a satellite link long enough to make arrangements and then began the frenzy of goodbyes. We missed a few. We made a few, but most of this had been taken care of the night before.
The van picked us up after the usual — “if all our bags are together when picked up, why are they all scattered throughout the mass when we need to load them?” It took less effort than it seemed, but like I said, our edge was off.
When we arrived at Le Meridien our room was waiting, but we left quickly to catch the Hop On – Hop Off, narrated, open-topped tour bus to do the loop around the principality. Our main targets were the changing of the Guard and the Oceanographic Museum.
We were early to the changing and walked around the surroundings taking pictures of beauty and wealth. One thing that struck us throughout the day was the cleanliness of the place. But we were back in the world of all the gift shops sold the same stuff, and all the stuff was fixated on the Monaco Grand Prix.
The noon-time changing of the guard was memorable, but it wasn’t Buckingham Palace.
We rejoined the bus to arrive at the Oceanographic Museum hungry and made our way up to the rooftop cafe. It reminded us of a small airport restaurant. With family style tables and table cloths it also had the feel of church supper. The menu was extensive. We had pasta. Very good fish & pasta — last time we had food that good in a museum was at the National Museum of the American Indian in DC. The Italian family next to us had a youngster sleeping in a stroller, and as manic as the wait staff was, they always came to a screeching halt and maneuvered silently past the child before resuming their headlong rush. It was so consistent it looked choreographed. When we left the restaurant at the same time as the family, I complimented the child in Italian and his mother broke into a radiant smile (probably amusement at my Italian). There would be echos of this later.
The museum was not what we expected. It is essentially the record of one man’s life as an oceanographer, Prince Albert I. Jacques Cousteau who was also the Director here was completely missing — I had hoped for something but understand why he was a silent and invisible presence; it’s the Prince’s principality after all. The history, design, decor, exhibits, aquarium were captivating, and we spent quite a bit of time here.
But our missing edge, the weight of lunch and the overcast sky were all murmuring, “take a nap.” And we went back to the hotel to deal with post cards and to rest a bit.
When dinner time rolled around, we were inclined to skip it. Instead we opted for something memorable — within the hotel. The hotel restaurant was quiet when we entered and that lasted for about fifteen minutes when two large groups began arriving — a family reunion and a group of about 20 clerics. We were glad we got our order in beforehand. We had an excellent white Beaujolais (rare, but far from the most expensive table wine they offered), salt baked sea bass, mashed potatoes garnished with sauteed spinach, bread, and a pastis each for dessert. The tab was just shy of $300 US. The portions were modest. The Value Added Tax on the food was 34%, on the wine 17%, and on something else 11%. Prandium Cave!
The next morning found us feeling about the same. We went down for our included breakfast expecting coffee and a croissant. Instead it was a full on breakfast buffet with excellent food. Given what these usually cost and Monaco’s VAT, we evened out the dinner bill — a bit. Once we cleared the room, we were sitting in the lobby waiting for the limo that had been told the wrong time to pick us up, and the father of the sleeping child walked by and said, “Oh, Hi,” and stopped for a chat. He was Norwegian married to an Italian — his accent was vaguely…Minnesotan. It had been their family having the Reunion — 40+ folks had come to that dinner the night before. It was a delightful conversation that left us feeling good about the end of this trip… and then Yves showed up.
Yves of the beautifully maintained vehicle, the excellent suit, the excellent English, the sunny attitude raised our spirits even higher — until he revealed he was a graduate of the University of Texas (his English having come from there and being a hotel manager very near our house in LA). When we told him I was an Aggie, he not so solemnly had to inform me we had lost to Auburn the night before — heh, heh, heh. The trip to Nice was simply fun. When we arrived at the new airport, he parked the van, walked us and luggage all the way to the check-in counter and waited to say au revoir after we were done!
We arrived at our concourse with less than an hour to wait and by the time we seated ourselves in the new and different pods of the upgraded aircraft, we both realized we were not going to feel very well for the next few days. The flying didn’t help. By the time we pulled into the hotel in Alexandria, VA, we knew we needed medical appointments… I guess a few gallons of hand sanitizer just isn’t enough.
It was a wonderful trip. We are thinking of rejoining the ship in Monte Carlo in the future and sailing coast-wise along France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and the Azores before crossing to St. Martin.
There will be three galleries — Monaco to Nice followed by The Museum (12/4) and then the Aquarium (12/5). This was a visually rich day. Also, Monte Carlo is tightly packed, so some of the camera angles reflect that.
Please enjoy the photos. Photos without captions don’t really need them. Click on first one to scroll.