----- Principality of Monaco ---------------
The Principality of Monaco is the 2nd smallest sovereign state in the world, second only to Vatican City. Monaco has an interesting history, and has been under the ruler ship of the Grimaldi family for generations. This was my 2nd time in Monaco, and again it was an amazing visit. It is impressive with so much wealth in such a small area. When at the Monte Carlo Casino you are surrounded by Bentley's, Ferrari's, Rolls Royce and AMG Mercedes. A standard Mercedes doesn't cut it here. The AMG version is what is driven. The streets, buildings and parks are immaculately clean and well cared for. The shopping mall has crystal chandeliers and is very elegant. As a side note, it was interesting to learn that only 3% of Monaco's income is from the Casino as most people believe is the source of the majority of its wealth.
Upon exiting the bus which carried us from Nice to Monaco we were at the tourist center in front of the Monte Carlo Casino. As you walk the streets and gardens, people are dressed very well wearing their Armani , Dolce & Gabana and other high end fashion clothing. The poorly dressed people are generally the American tourists wandering around. Although for an American tourist I was fairly dressed, I looked like a bum in comparison to the Monagasts and other European nationals.
Walking from the back of the Casio I came upon the famous Buddha Bar which turns out some good music tracks. The casino in general is a great place to people watch. It is funny watching all the kids take their pictures by the exotic cars. It definitely reminded me of my childhood as I did the same. After a short stay at the Casino, we walked around the harbour to the base of "the rock" as locals call the high point where the royal palace lies. We ascended the steps and arrived at the palace where we watched the changing of the guard. I found a place to stamp my passport with a Monaco marker, but I had forgotten my passport at my hotel. I was pretty angry as I knew I wanted to bring it. Along the south side of the upper village and along the cliffs was a wonderful panoramic view of the marina and high rise condo buildings with gardens and trees on the roofs. Plus the buildings had helipads. Princess Stephanie of Monaco has the whole top level penthouse on one of the buildings overlooking the sea. Checking real estate here I was flabbergasted by how much a studio sells for; over 1 million USD for 300 square feet.
This is a wonderful place to visit and walk, but if you are not fabulously wealthy, it can be quite intimidating.