Day 19 A Day in Monaco

I've always wanted to visit Monaco. The fact that it's such a tiny, yet wealthy country located on a peninsula in the Mediterranean that has such interesting stories from the glamorous life of Princess Grace Kelly to the Grand Prix, makes it seem like a world only for the rich and famous. Today we found out it's a great place to visit.

We took a local bus to Monaco on the costal road and the views of each harbor we passed were stunning. Monaco is actually a city rising up on the cliff with layer upon layer of buildings that are all in the same color palette, almost a pale sandy yellow. On one of the hills is the Prince's Palace in Palace Square. Guards in crisp white uniforms and white sun helmets, march back and forth. While that's interesting, everyone is gathered at the fortress wall looking at the view. In the harbor are more magnificent yachts than the mind can imagine and two cruise ships.


We visited the Cathedral of Monaco. It was dimly lit and elegant. Everyone was gathered in front of Grace Kelly's tomb. It's sad to think she was only in her early 50's when she died. Walking out I spotted the organ and have never seen anything like it. It's modern and the pipes look like they are glowing in crystal blue light.

Out the door is a pathway leading through botanical gardens that people are invited to just enjoy that leads to the Cousteau Aquarium - the Musee Oceanographique which Jacques Cousteau directed for 32 years. It's housed in a gorgeous palace overlooking the sea and has something for all ages.

"Gentlemen, I am opening the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco as a gift to the servants of scientific truth. Here they will find the peace, independence, and emulation that fertilize minds," said Prince Albert in a speech at the opening in 1910."



On the top floor outside the cafe, for example, are tiles with turtles on them placed like footprints to follow to a turtle discovery and play area. The bottom floor is an aquarium with 2,000 species. It was very crowded, but all of the fish were beautifully displayed. In one tank, a giant crab hid in a rocky hollow waving his pinchers at all the iPhones taking his picture. Upstairs in the natural history area was a two storey cabinet of curiosities style display with old diving suits, trunks, nets, and glass bottles. Skeletons of giant sea creatures hung from the ceiling in another room enhanced by a wall length visual technology display that showed what the fish looked like swimming and then their skeleton and internal organs. On the top floor in elegant old wooden display cases were specimens of sea creatures and artist's journals from when Prince Albert in the early 1900's became interested in the study of the sea and opened the museum. We learned that man first became interested in sea creatures when some unfamiliar species were found clinging to part of the Trans-Atlantic cable when it was pulled up for repairs. This means the sea has only been explored for scientific purposes since the mid 19th century.


The day ended all too soon. On the bus ride back to Villafranche we talked about how we must come back to Monaco again soon and perhaps stay awhile.


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