Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 38 - "High Roll" Homann Goes To Monte Carlo

Hey Team,

After a rather lengthy train ride (I left Barcelona at 4 PM), I rolled into Nice, France and the beautiful Cote d'Azur of the French Riviera around 9 AM the next morning.  After checking in to my hostel and cleaning up (a very necessary step after 15 hrs on a train) I strolled about Nice in search of some food.  After that I was in bad need of a nap due to my overnight train showing up 100 minutes behind schedule (How is a train over an hour and a half late?).  Normally this is just annoying, but this time it meant that instead of going to sleep a little after midnight, I got to sit in the 40 degree weather until after 2 am.

So I went back to my hostel, recharged the batteries, and decided today would be the perfect time to hit the Principality of Monaco 25 minutes away and its world famous municipality, Monte Carlo.  Monaco is the 2nd smallest country in the world and and also the most densely populated one as well.  Obviously known for it's casinos, beaches, tax shelters, and of course Princess Grace Kelly, this is a beautiful yet expensive part of the world

Here's a shot of  Monaco Bay (or whatever it's called).

Are you rich?  Do you own a yacht?  Well come on down!  You're the next contestant on the Price Is Ridiculous.   Many of these behemoths dwarfed a 2000 square foot home.

This is the Prince's Palace of Monaco which is found on a huge cliff called the Rock of Monaco.  It was founded in the 10th century.  I don't have a shot of it here, but I found the decorum around here a bit odd.
They're military guards, old time cannons and cannon balls, and a whole lot of other stuff that would indicate a militaristic characteristic to the country.  Funny thing is, their military protection is provided by France.  Hmm. .

Here's another shot of the castle against the backdrop of these beautiful mountains.

This is a shot of the interior of St. Nicholas Cathedral.  This is where Grace Kelly was married and buried.  I don't know if the country still has a love affair with her or if they play it up for the tourists, but there are signs and information about her time as the Princess of Monaco all over the place.

Here's a shot of the Oceanographic Museum.  It's basically an aquarium but it was well worth the 9 bucks or so.

Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming. . . .

Unlike Barcelona, these guys know how to play up a perfect Mediterranean sunset.  How cool are shots of the ocean where you aren't completely sure where the water ends and the sky begins?

I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to live here and have to look at this every single night.

After the sun went down, it was time to get down to business.  If you go to Monaco, you also have to go to Monte Carlo for the casinos.  Things are a little different over here than say Lake Charles.  No neon lights and no all you can eat chicken wings at the buffet next to the slots.  No, it's scotch, British accents, and black tie over here.  Classy all the way.

Here's the shot of the front of the world famous Monte Carlo casino.  I hadn't lost an inordinate amount of money gambling since Prague, so I figured I was due for another round of effortlessly donating half a day's budget in a matter of minutes.  So I sauntered up through the door, checked my bag, and prepared to show everyone how to inexplicably draw a 20 four straight times in Blackjack and lose.

As it turns out, there is another difference between casinos over here compared to back home.  Apparently there is a cover charge before they allow you the privilege of giving them the rest of your cash.  10 euro just to walk through the door!  I decided this wasn't worth the time so I turned around and found a dinky (i.e. free) slot machine room in the building and promptly lost what would have been my entry fee.  This actually might have been the break of the evening for me because if I would have made it into the real part of the casino, I would have been down much more than a 10 spot.

After my time in Monaco, I went back to Nice in search of some grub.  I found a recommended restaurant and took a seat.  After perusing the menu, I decided I'd try "beef carpaccio".  I didn't know what the carpaccio part meant but I knew i liked cow, so I figured I was safe.

I quickly learned that "carpaccio" must be Italian for "right before we started to cook your meal, the oven exploded".  I don't mind my beef red; I'm definitely a medium kind of guy, but this was a bit much.  To my credit I got 2/3's of it down and only almost threw up once.  Jonas "If it ain't mooing, we ain't eating" Fontenot will be so proud.