This Saturday I was pleased beyond words to visit Monaco, the second smallest sovereign nation in the world occupying just over one square mile of precious space on the Cote d’Azur, the principality that happened to be home to my favorite actress, princess, and long-time paragon Grace Kelly.
It is difficult to express how much I enjoyed my trip to Monaco. We arrived by bus early Saturday morning, all the glory and glamour of Monaco tumbling down the side of the hill our colorful bus climbed. Have I forgotten to mention our bus? It is shockingly turquoise, adorned with airbrushed space-odyssey scenes, a Venetian canal complete with gondolier, and a gap-toothed Farrah Fawcett look-alike. Only in France, the land of contradictions, would this gauche bus be captained by a delicate and cultivated woman named Francoise. I digress only because Francoise has been our driver, ambassador, historian, and friend on each and every expedition we have taken on this trip, accepting even the most unpleasant of French pronunciation with a generous smile.
Monaco was most certainly the crown jewel of the Cote d’Azur, as ironic as it may be. The inhabitants were delightful–I was even permitted to use the bathroom in a cafe without first buying something, an achievement unheard of in a corner of the world where D’abord il faut consommer! follows every request to use the facilities. I visited the Prince’s Palace, the gardens, the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium, and Monte Carlo and, sick of salade nicoise, feasted on aigneau and chocolat ad nauseum.
It was wonderful to follow the steps of Princesse Grace, especially to glimpse the interior of the Cathedral in which she was married in April of 1956. So popular was this Cathedral that I witnessed no fewer than three brides emerging from the church as I passed it throughout the day!
A further highlight was the principality’s aquarium which housed a wide array of both tropical and Mediterranean fish, although some of the creatures exhibited in the tanks tempted me to regret all those times I took a dip in the sea this trip.
Before saying goodbye to Monaco (for now at least), I closed the day lounging in the principality’s official chocolaterie, musing over princesses, palaces, and, of course, dark chocolate.