Miniscule Monaco, by Ted Cookson

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MINISCULE MONACO

by Ted Cookson
Published in October 2006

Monte Carlo harbor, Monaco, 47-second video clip
Monte Carlo yacht harbor, Monaco, 35-second video clip
 

Covering less than two square kilometers (half a square mile), this principality is nothing if not picturesque.  Playground of the rich and famous, Monaco owes its existence to the elegant Monte Carlo Casino, the principality's primary tourist attraction.  The casino was built in 1878 by Charles Garnier, the architect who also designed the Paris Opera.  Nowadays the casino's ornate nineteenth-century decor can be savored by anyone at least 21 years old who is willing to don a jacket, show his passport, and pay an admission fee.

The capital of the principality, also called Monaco, sits some 180 meters (585 feet) above sea level on a kilometer-long rock.  The Palais Princier (Prince's Palace), located in the medieval-looking Old Town on the Rock of Monaco, may be toured during the summer only.  A changing of the guard ceremony takes place outside the palace daily at 11:55 a.m.  Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace are both entombed in the nearby Cathedrale de Monaco.  The Musee Oceanographique (the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium), also a scientific research institute long directed by Jacques Cousteau, is well worth a visit.  The museum building itself has a classical facade, and the exotic species it contains are interesting.  The museum was begun by the current prince's great-grandfather, the scholar-prince Albert I, who was an explorer with a strong interest in marine biology.

The Exhibition of the Prince of Monaco's Private Collection of Classic Cars boasts over one hundred very fancy vehicles.  Containing everything from carriages dating back to the 1880s to the vehicle which won the first Grand Prix de Monaco in 1929 to the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud which transported Prince Rainier and Princess Grace on the day of their wedding, this museum will appeal to automobile enthusiasts.

Perhaps the most unique attraction in the principality is the Exotic Garden of Monaco.  This cactus garden is accessed by paths which snake down the edge of a steep cliff.  In the winter the African crassulas and aloes blossom, while during the spring and summer the cacti are at their best.  The Exotic Garden contains over a thousand plants gathered from arid regions the world over, including the American Southwest, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Far East.  The garden's panoramic views of Monaco and the French and Italian Riviera are a bonus. 

The Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology, established in 1902 by Prince Albert I, was opened in the Exotic Garden in 1955.  The museum contains prehistoric remains excavated in Monaco.  Nearby is the large natural Observatory Cave.  Human and animal remains were discovered in this cave, which was inhabited over 200,000 years ago.

Monaco offers several other museums too.  A naval museum contains models of ships.  The Musee des Timbres et des Monnaies (Stamp and Coin Museum) displays rare stamps from the prince's collection plus coins, notes and medals dating back to 1640.  The rather unusual "national museum" features the world's most complete collection of mechanical dolls.  Most of the 2,000 or so objects in the national museum are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

PRACTICALITIES:

From September through November the temperature in Monaco is warm, although afternoon temperatures decrease by November.  Visitors should expect daytime rainstorms, especially in October and November.  From December through February the weather is mild and wet, with daytime rainstorms, especially in December.  From March through May Monaco is mild to warm with occasional rain.  From June through August the weather is dry and hot.  Although rain is rare in the summer, there can be an occasional rainstorm.  In the summer the temperature of the Mediterranean rises to 20 C./68 F. in June, 21 C./70 F. in July, 23 C./73 F. in August, and 21 C./70 F. in September.

In July 2006 round trip airfare from Cairo to Nice, France was approximately EGP 4,390 on Air France via Paris and on Alitalia via Milan.  Monaco, which makes a lovely day trip from Nice, is 15 minutes from Nice Airport via helicopter or about 30 minutes from downtown Nice by train.  To conserve space, Monaco's very modern train station is situated in a tunnel.


ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 307 of the 315 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  ept@link.net.  Web site:  www.eptours.com
 

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