Palaces, surfing, and escargot
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Yes, Monaco is it’s own country, and yes, it is unbelievably small. In fact it’s so small you could almost walk across it and not even realize you were inside of it in the first place…I almost did.
Officially recognized as the world’s second smallest nation, Monaco comprises a grand total of 485 acres, 100 of which were actually reclaimed from the sea within the last twenty years! Surrounded on all sides by either France or the Mediterranean Sea, the country really only has two districts, those being the older Monte Carlo and the newly created Fontvielle. What is incredibly interesting, is that when you walk into Monaco from the west as I did, there is no border crossing, and there aren’t even any signs that announce your entry into an entirely new country. We had walked nearly all the way across Monaco before we realized we had even entered the country in the first place…such a trip.
Walking around Monaco, one thing that becomes immediately apparent is that there is a lot of money running around this Principality. Luxury yachts line the harbor in Fontvielle, and penthouse apartments stare down over the Monte Carlo Casino down to the azure Mediterranean below. For those wondering about the interior decor and happenings of the Monte Carlo Casino, I can’t really help you out seeing as I was under 21 at the time (though it is now 18), and I obviously wasn’t going to be sitting at the high-stakes tables. I firmly believe that at one point in time I was the poorest person in all of Monaco.
For such a small nation, Monaco still has its fair share of sights to see and things to do. Tennis enthusiasts can visit the posh Monte Carlo Country Club (which took me forever to find on foot), and one of the more popular sights is the Prince’s Palace, home to not only Prince Albert II, but also an overwhelming array of fresco art, marble state-rooms, and the Private Collection of Antique Cars museum. While the car museum is open 7 days a week, the main Palace is open to visitors during the summer months of June-October.
Those looking to tap into Monaco’s beach scene will not find the long stretches of white sand found along other parts of the Riviera, but nonetheless Monaco still offers a few pebbly beaches and glitzy Larvotto Beach for those looking to cool off in the blue waters. Believe it or not, to this day Monaco is still the only country in Europe where I have been able to surf. Upon viewing a watersports center at the far end of the beach, I was able to play the Hawaii card and obtain a free board to ride the choppy windswell off of the rocky shore. Not the best waves I’ve ever seen, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Finally, for such a small country, Monaco prides itself on its fine cuisine and boasts over 120 restaurants and dining facilities. Sampling some of the region’s finest (or at least semi-finest, this place was on a backstreet), I got my first taste ever of escargot, and was seated next to a couple that I am certain was African royalty. Escargot and African royalty? Only in Monaco.