Monaco – Country Roads of France

Our first stop in this principality was at the 19th century neo-Romanesque Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the resting place of 17 sovereign princes of Monaco and their wives.  It is also the burial place of the Grimaldi family. As the crowds file silently past the tombs of past princes, many took most interest in the tomb of Princess Grace.  September 14th was the anniversary of her death and numerous garlands and baskets of flowers decorated her tomb.

At the main square, the crowds were jockeying for pole position to watch the changing of the guards at 11:55 am.  It was a smallish ceremony, but nonetheless caused excitement amongst the throngs of tourists, and cameras clicked non-stop.  The light drizzle developed into heavier rain and indoor activity was called for.  We were advised that a ticket covering both Grimaldi Palace and the Museum of Napoleon Souvenirs was cheaper than buying individual tickets.  With an hour to spare, we were assured that we would have sufficient time as there was not a lot to see in the Palace itself.  But the queue to go into the palace was huge, so we chose the museum only.

This turned out to be a good call as there was so much to see in the museum – a lavish collection of over one thousand items and documents relating to the First Empire, with items belonging to Emperor Napoleon I, garments of the King of Rome, religious tokens from Saint Helena and the like.

It was amazing seeing the famous hat worn by Napoleon at Marengo, his red leather desk blotter, the watch he wore during his campaign in Russia, his signature at the bottom of a letter, and more.  Certainly more than one hour is required if you’re keen on seeing the memorabilia of the Emperor and the exhibition of military uniforms worn by french and monagesque soldiers down the centuries.

An evening visit to the Casino was disappointing as 007 was nowhere to be seen and neither were the glamorous set.  Obviously standards have lowered and jeans and tracks shoes are now permitted.  True to prior warning, it was very quiet in the casino.  It may be that the high rollers are gambling in private rooms, away from the inquisitive eyes of tourists, but the main rooms we saw had a kind of faded glory to them. You can get food there too if you want, but I can’t tell you what kind of standard you can expect, as we didn’t sample any. 

If the Casino is not your scene, go across to the Hotel de Paris next door and enjoy a drink at the bar (on the left towards the back as you wander into the lobby); many famous people before you have done just the same…

See our photos from Nice and Monaco here

Helen Page

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