We got up this morning and threw back the shutters to discover...no cruise ships! There was, however, gray skies and a wind. We had another delicious breakfast and got ready to leave. We walked along to the bus stop, getting batteries for the camera on the way. We rode the bus to Monaco.
Monaco - an anachronism, an enigma, a paradox, a living oxymoron. A country with a capital - Monte Carlo - almost indistinguishable from the country. An independent country with its utilities completely supplied by another; a monarchy dependent on a republic for its existence; a country dependent on France, but ruled by an Italian Family; where the symphony orchestra has more members than the army; where the most expensive yachts never to brave the ocean dock; a country carved out of and into rock, but much of its land reclaimed from the sea. A mass of tunnels, narrow streets, moving walkways, public elevators and escalators, and to complete the contradiction, in an area renowned for good weather, we had rain! This, of course was due to Christine leaving her poncho in the hotel.
We alighted from the bus near the old town and took an elevator in the wrong direction, ending up in a very modern shopping centre in the area of Fontveille. Have decided this was not where we wanted to be, we retraced our steps and went where the crowd had gone from the bus, and where Christine had originally said we should go, and found a market filling the Place d'Armee. A delightful melange of stalls purveying every fruit and vegetable imaginable and some we could not identify. We passed through this and looked at some of the older buildings before ascending to the heights of the parade ground in front of the Grand Palace. The guards were on duty and due to change in an hour or so. We explored the old town with its narrow streets where the occupants could hold hands over the roadway from the first floor windows. We returned to the palace to discover it a mass of people ready for the changing of the guard. Too late we realized we should have held our ground and not gone exploring so soon. Precisely at 11:55am the guard detail arrived to relieve the sentries. We were able to see some of the action, but not the detail of what was happening.
We left through the old town and sat by the cathedral to have our lunch, but the rain came on and the wind beat us into the shelter of a large tree where we tried to avoid the worst of the downpour. After it eased we set off for lower ground and decided to take the tourist train with commentary around the Principality. It was very interesting and well coordinated with the sights.
By the time we left the tour the rain had gone off and we walked down to the harbour and looked at the yachts. Rounding the harbour we took an elevator to the terrace of the casino and viewed the waves beating the shore before looking at the casino from all sides. We looked inside, but to go further we would have had to check our bags, which we did not want to do, so I was denied the chance of being the "Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo". Although sumptuous, the interior was not as lavish as we had anticipated, though perhaps further in it becomes more palatial.
We walked around in search of cows which we had seen from the tour. There were as many here as in Geneva. Whoever thought up this ridiculous idea is making a killing. Christine wanted a photo for the one with tartan legs. We eventually tracked it down and headed for the train station to book our connections to Pisa for Thursday. The station is enormous and lavish for only having three tracks. It has three entrances scattered throughout Monaco. We went in at one end and emerged close to where we were to catch our bus back to Villefranche-sur-Mer. We arrived just prior to one arriving and returned on a vehicle becoming more and more crowded as people returned home from work and a large group of school children. As we rose to leave, one of the boys asked me a question, which I did not understand, and as the bus slowed I tried to excuse myself, only to find the majority of the children were leaving at that stop also. We returned to the hotel to rest up for dinner and discovered as we approached, that, in our absence, not one, but two cruise ships were anchored offshore. The Oceanique by Pullmantur Cruises and The Grande Latino, from, I think Costa Cruises.
We again had a beautifully presented dinner in the hotel dining room, unfortunately, our last, as it is closed on Wednesdays. We had a hilarious ending to the meal as an elderly English couple came in who spoke absolutely no French, and the waiter speaks little English. Eventually another staff member came and attended to them, and remained polite, despite their "if they don't understand, speak louder" philosophy. When they asked for "duck, quack, quack", we felt it best to leave. Obviously, the kind of English people who give Americans a good name.
We went out for our post dinner stroll and found a car in the parking lot - a Pagani (never heard of it). It looks as though it would take off if you looked at it. The hotel clerk said it was worth over 700,000 Euros - over $1,000,000Ca and the speedometer goes to 400 kph. Walking further, some young lads came running out of a cafe in front of us, lit a flare and started serenading someone in a first floor bedroom with "Happy Birthday". Several heads appeared, so we do not know who the birthday boy or girl was. Ah! the joie de vivre of a Mediterranean town!
And so to bed.