Tricholore 2: Sunny Spot, Shady People

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Europe » Monaco
June 2nd 2018
Published: June 8th 2018
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We disembarked at the huge, cavernous railway station in Monte Carlo. The platform seemed to go on for half a mile. After several banks of escalators we emerged in a high part of the town and worked our way towards the older parts of the Monte Carlo. This was my very first visit to Monaco and my first impressions of the capital were measured. A bank of low cloud blanketed the hills surrounding town. The air was thick and humid. The city seemed somehow buttoned-up and subdued. The tall buildings impart a slight sense of claustrophobia. Window shutters were tightly drawn and there were few signs of normal life. There is also a distinct waft and sour smell of indolent, unearned income about the place. The maxim that the place is “a sunny spot for shady people” drifts quickly into mind.

As we approached the harbor/marina, we heard the clanging and hollow bell sounds of scaffolding being stacked. The grand-prix had been in town the week before and workmen were pulling down the super structures of large stands, pits and other paraphernalia. The party had headed onwards to its next decadent destination. A view over the harbor allowed us ten engaging minutes googling the yachts. The sleek lines of Philips Green’s “Sharp Practice” dominated. Also present was Nasser Al Rashid’s “Done Fiddling”; its’ four stories of decks hiding a number of other smaller boats. The combined value of these yachts would likely wipe out the national debt of many grander nations. The vast majority of the other boats were charters and likely to be as itinerant as their owners.

A walk up the nearby hill took us towards the Prince’s Palace. Hugging the sea, we passed the Oceanographic Museum at the seaward side. This face of this building is incredibly impressive as it rises to a full 280 feet from the water. It is a real confection in white stone. From the fake baroque of the museum we then entered the fake byzantine edifice of Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée. Again built in stunningly white stone, the interior is very restrained. Many of the royal family are buried here and amongst the other Grimaldi’s is Grace Kelly. It is quite striking and a little surprising that the tombstones are so plain and unadorned.

Within a few couple of minutes from the Cathedral, we reached the top of the hill and a wide courtyard flanked by banks of cannons. In front of us stood the Prince’s Palace, the main façade is painted in a pale yellow and the building from the front seems to resemble a renaissance palazzo. However, there is a real hotchpotch of architectural styles. It may be a reflection of the long-lived nature of these princely digs and the fact that the ruling family’s residence may have been somewhat episodic over time, due to occasional forced evictions by the surrounding powers. The building does remain the principal residence of Prince Albert and his wife, who is still considered a flight risk by the ultra-snobby locals. It was a twisty route back towards the railway station, looping back around the marina before making our ascent for the not-to-be-missed photo opportunity outside the casino.

I was quite pleased to leave this comic-opera principality and head back to the place of more honest vitality back along the coast. The second pale and subdued band of our trichlore trip had been accomplished; we headed back to the large modern railway station for our train back to Nice.


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