Friday, May 22, 2009

5.21.09 Monte Carlo

Melba and I have found a new place to live and it is Monte Carlo, Monaco. This place is gorgeous. We slept in this morning because people with excursions (a paid tour the ship does) got priority so we knew we wouldn’t get off of the ship until later in the morning. We were anchored and therefore had to take a boat into the port.

We had breakfast in the dining room (no room service this morning because we didn’t know when we would wake up). We filled our Camelbacks and went down the main deck. The tender ride was in a life boat with a motor – they had lowered several of them into the water and were shuffling people back and forth all day. I don’t think I could’ve ever been a sailor because even though the ride was pretty short, I got a little bit sea-sick as the waves (which weren’t big at all) tossed our little boat around.

Monte Carlo is one of those picturesque towns on the Med that looks EXACTLY like what you see in the movies. Except, it’s everywhere – and I mean everywhere. I had absolutely no need for a viewfinder on my camera because anywhere I pointed was a good picture. Our map showed us some museums and gardens within walking distance from the port so we decided to go on foot today. We walked up lots of steps and inclines to the main area where the museums were.

Along the way we saw plenty of street vendors selling shirts, hats, programs, etc for the Grand Prix. Turns out that the Monte Carlo Grand Prix is tomorrow (I think) and the cars were racing today for pole position (I think). What I mean is that the cars were out racing full speed today through the city – certain streets were closed off to make the track – and I know it wasn’t the real race and I heard that it was for pole position for tomorrow’s race. Grand Prix racing is a big event in Europe and the Monte Carlo race is perhaps the biggest. We weren’t able to dock at the port because so many people had brought their boats in to watch the race. We got a glimpse of the cars racing – they were going really fast and it was fun to watch. After about 3 minutes, though, it got really anti-climactic because it was just loud cars going really fast through the streets. We stopped watching to go do other things, but there were TONS of people trying to get a glimpse of the cars.

We strolled around looking at the Med and the beautiful countryside of Monaco. (Monaco is a microstate on the Med in between France and Italy.) We walked through a palace/castle where the royal family of Monaco lives, and has lived for hundreds of years. It has obviously changed over the years, but the style of the home was stunning – not only a sign of money, but of power and legacy. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures. Our ticket got us into a museum about Napoleon Bonaparte as well. It was pretty lame. There were a few items that belonged to Napoleon, but other than that it was pretty lame.

We then walked down to the side of the mountain that was on the Med – there was a huge garden there for people to walk through. It was so relaxing to stroll through the trees and flowers while overlooking the Med. It was hot outside, but these gardens had a nice breeze blowing through them. (Speaking of being hot, our Camelbacks are a lifesaver – not having to buy bottled water in cities designed to overcharge tourists is nice. It’s also nice to carry around snack bars to keep us from getting too hungry.)

On our way out of the garden we did a quick walk through the cathedral. Lots of nice artwork – similar to the other cathedrals we have seen. They have also buried some of the royal family here. Nothing spectacular, but for some reason it always nice to take a quick stop at a cathedral.

We stopped for lunch at a sandwich stop. The sandwiches, no surprise, were delicious. Very similar to what we got yesterday. We walked back into the gardens, sat at a bench and ate lunch. For dessert, we bought a grilled Nutella sandwich – a bread roll with Nutella spread in it and grilled. A seagull landed on a fence right next to us and stared at me while I ate. I assumed it was waiting for me to drop some bread or something. Melba pointed out that this bird was our “European Phoebe” – she is referring to how our dog, Phoebe, always sits by me while I eat steak knowing that I’ll eventually give in to her begging and give her a piece. So as we left the bench I looked over at the bird and said, with a twist, what we always say to Phoebe when we leave her alone, “Bye, bye, Phoebe. Be a good bird.”

We headed back to the tender pick-up point around 3pm. The last tender would leave at 4. We could see from where we were standing that the line was really long (but I was sure that as long as people were in line, they would keep running the tenders until everyone got back on board). We got back on the ship around 3:30ish and went swimming. At 5pm we got the announcement that all of the tenders had returned and we were heading out.

As the ship started sailing away, Melba and I went down the 3rd deck and admired the French Riviera. Wow. That’s all I can say. Hard to take a bad picture here. Well, the sun was setting right in front of me and there was some mist so the pictures didn’t end up as nice as I would’ve liked, but they’re not bad. By the time we got to Nice, we could see the French Alps in the background. I know now why so many people long to live here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything nice about the French – I’m just acknowledging that the geography upon which they happen to be located has a very high level of aesthetic beauty.

The performance the ship had tonight had us laughing our heads off. (Last night’s performance had us laughing, too, but tonight’s was intentionally funny.) The comedian, Richard Gauntlet, was very witty and dry – what one would expect from British humor. He started out with some simple jokes about getting a call to do this show while he was “in a dirty, mining area west of England called Wales.” Someone came in about 10 minutes late and he looked right at them, smiled and said (in a very polite British way), “Oh welcome, welcome, come right in – please sit down. Can I get you anything? Like a watch?” He mumbled the last line under his breath. It was really funny.

Tomorrow is a sea day so we get to sleep in. Sleeping in is easy when you don’t have a window – the room stays dark and you can just keep sleeping. Going to port is fun, but it is a bit tiresome with all of the walking. I’m looking forward to staying on the ship and relaxing all day.

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