5 December – Monte Carlo in tiny Monaco

Ah – it has finally happened – in spades – the dreaded drizzle. Very low clouds and visibility today along the lines of what is to be expected on the Mediterranean in December.

Our guided tour through the old part of Monte Carlo was very pleasant despite the damp. Viking provides enormous red umbrellas so most people stayed dry enough. There were a few in down jackets with no rain coat, some in jeans, – those people got wet. Well duh – if a person dresses this way what else can they possibly expect.

But speaking of getting one’s shoes and clothes wet – here is a funny story. Monaco has no military forces and I think I may have discovered why…. The changing of the palace guard was scheduled to take place at a certain time. It always lasts five minutes. Shortly before that time dad and I noticed a mini van of palace guards arriving. They all hopped out of the van and disappeared into the palace. Just before the appointed time, crowds gathered to watch the spectical. A chime from the palace tower gave fair warning, things were about to happen. The guard currently in his little guard post popped out of it and scuttled inside the palace gate. A moment later a new guard scuttled out and popped into the guard box. We all waited with baited breath, cameras at the ready, for the ensuing ceremony. And waited. And nothing. The mini van showed up and the old guards all scurried out of the palace into the the van and away. Turns out they don’t like to get wet. What kind of mamsypamsy soldiers can these guys be? Really! They did sport quite pretty uniforms. Imagine if the guards at Buckingham Palace and various other palaces through out the wet realms of the world didn’t go out in the rain?  

Monte Carlo sports really expensive real estate, but no one who lives there needs to pay any type of taxes. The country is very wealthy thanks to casinos and moorage fees and the like. The place is spit spot clean. No graffiti here! There is also an outstanding oceanographic museum and aquarium. Dad had some state room down time while I zipped back there. It was soooo nice to be lollipop free and walk at a normal speed! Kathy, Pat and Jan who normally walk so much faster than I do would be beside themselves on these lollipop following tours because the pace is slow – oh so slow! 

Anyway – back to the aquarium – I went blissfully sans lollipop – it was really well done. A couple from California, who dad and I have chatted with several times on this trip, say it’s one of the best they’ve ever been to and they’ve been to many. A highlight for me was the shark petting tank. Yes seriously, a shallow tank in which were swimming small curious sharks. The visitors are invited to put their hands in the water. The wee sharks swim along and we pet them if they come close. Because these sharks were active and curious there were ample opportunities for shark petting. 

Upstairs were a couple of floors of maritime museum, beautiful as it’s an old museum and with fabulous displays. One was a sound and light marine skeletons show. The skeletons of whales, sharks, seals etc hanging on wires from a high ceiling are lit up in various lightings, a requiem is played over underwater sounds. Part of the lighting effects give the impression of being under water.  Deeply spoken words come at the end to the effect “we are life, we are all around you.” It was a moving experience. In an other area of the museum are replicas of an ocean research vessel, funded by Monaco’s king Alexander II. He was one of the first people to be concerned with climate change and the effects it would have on marine life and thus on the lives of everything else on the planet. A perfect way to spend a rainy cool afternoon and all within a five minute walk from the ship. Pictures of whimpy palace guards and marine skeletons to follow.

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