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Published: October 17th 2015
We were in no rush this morning, with no tour planned for Monaco. Instead, our modus operando was to get on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus and take a loop of the town including stops at the casino and palace. We ate breakfast in the Dining Room, a fritata for me and some French toast for Sharon. I stopped by the Exploration Lounge on Deck 11 to pick up the Sudoku puzzles and returned to our cabin with them. I finished both of them slightly ahead of Sharon who winked and said that she was just being nice to me… again.
The forecast called for a mostly sunny day. On the first leg of our cruise I’d talked with a couple who said they’d really enjoyed the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus in Monaco; but a couple on our trivia team said they heard the Destination Specialist say that using the bus was just dreadful, that they were forced to stand. There was a line when we boarded, and there weren’t many seats left when we sat down on the top level (no roof). It was a chilly 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind was piercing. We got off at the palace with
a great view overlooking the harbor. The green roof of the casino could be seen across the harbor. The Nieuw Amsterdam loomed below. Off the coast a regatta of dozens of tiny sailboats could be seen darting across the seas like a swarm of bees. The harbor is filled with many yachts in port belonging to the rich and famous. When we arrived, we were forced to delay until a yacht cleared our berth. Across from us a massive yacht was docked at the neighboring berth. The water is a deep blue-green and the shoreline is framed by a skyline of hotels. The Hop-On-Hop-Off bus costs 21 Euros for adults to ride all day (23 Euros for a two day pass). It includes a headset that plugs into a docking station that allows you to select one of 8 audio channels, including Japanese, Chinese and Russian. I pointed out a car parked closest to the palace and told Sharon, “Look, the prince drives a Prius!” Sharon was more interested in getting a sweatshirt at a local souvenir shop and she looks really dashing in her new red Monaco Grand Prix Pilot’s Jacket. As for myself, I found a baseball hat
that would have looked really good in my former green sport’s car. I expected that the hat would be made in China, or possibly PRC as my hat from Rome, but this hat was made right here in Monaco! We saw a restaurant down a side alley that looked like a likely spot for lunch, but it was still much too early for that. Atop an ancient aging wall that goes back hundreds of years stands the palace. Piles of cannonballs are neatly stacked by ancient brass cannons showing deep bluish green patina from exposure to the sea-air.
We got back on the bus and took it to the Casino. Monaco was facing a financial crisis when they looked at the casino business being run by the Hapsburgs, and in a generation created a stylish regal casino of the rich and famous. We tried to enter the front of the casino, but there was a 10 Euro charge to go inside. It was unclear if this was a cover charge to go into the casino and play, which we wanted to do, or whether this was the early morning tour of the high roller’s room that is
featured in such films as “Casino Royale”. We walked all around that building and could find no other entrance, and then we spotted a Casino entrance in the neighboring building with the famous green roof. The made us check our bag of souvenirs and camera, and we went inside. The lower level that we went in had only slot machines so we took the elevator upstairs. Here too were just slot machines. Sharon found a machine to play just to say that we’d gambled in Monte Carlo. Our ten Euros didn’t last very long. We decide to ride the bus back up to the palace and eat there.
I noticed that my phone was still in airplane mode, so I switched that off so it would synch with the local place and time. It takes some time for it to figure out that it’s in a new country. We had decided to sign up for the international plan on my phone. We sat down at a table at the sidewalk café that we’d seen earlier, under an awning on the sidewalk. I ordered a ham and mushroom pizza and Coke. Sharon ordered a rump steak with vegetables.
She’d wanted chicken, but the only chicken on the menu was the “pollo pizza”. And I’m thinking that probably won’t work for Sharon. I felt a vibration of incoming messages of the phone in my shirt pocket, and reckoned that the phone had just figured out that it was in Monaco and Verizon sends you three text messages welcoming you to the new country and letting you know what your international plan offers and what any overages cost. We then ordered what had really caught my eye: The chocolate mousse. When my friends Ron and Linda and I had visited Monaco back in 1985, we had rated the chocolate mousse that we’d gotten in Monaco as the best in Europe. This was the same place of course. That time we’d been served two small ramekins, one containing a milk chocolate mousse and the other containing a dark chocolate mousse and they were unquestionably the best we’d ever had. The mouse we were served here came very close to that dark chocolate mousse; only, the size of our serving was quite massive. Sharon wasn’t sure she was going to be able to finish hers; but, she did without any help from
me. I finished first and decided to check my text messages and I noticed that I had 4 text messages, one more than the three that I’d expected. The first three were indeed from Verizon. The fourth however was from Linda and started “Urgent. Call mom…” My first thought was, “Now what’s happened to the house.” I wasn’t prepared for the text that followed: “Buddy has passed.” Buddy is my mother’s 9 year-old collie and companion. We had seen him just before we left on this trip, and while he wasn’t moving well, it wasn’t something we were concerned about because collies tend to have a problem with arthritis once they reach this age. I did call home, even though it was about 4 AM in the morning in California. My mother was up and couldn’t sleep. Buddy had died about 16 hours earlier. The vet listened to my mother describe the wobbly legs Buddy had had walking in the park, and the difficulty she had getting him back home and suspects that he’d had a blood clot, which he said is not uncommon. He said sometimes a dog can suffer for a couple weeks, and she took some comfort
knowing that Buddy did not suffer.
We took the bus back to the ship. Up headed up to trivia at 5PM; while, Sharon went to mass. I sat at a table up front with space for others, ordered a “Happy Hour” Martini Rosso on ice (and wound up with two glasses, rather than the normal double). A couple asked if I was waiting for others, and I said that I was, but that they were welcome to join me as I suspected none of them would be coming (three of them go to mass). Show Host Joel was pinch-hitting for Dave today, so it was in his Pub Trivia format… just fifteen questions each worth two points. “When Superman first came out in the comic books, what could he not do?” None of us had a clue, but went with the one that he’s become famous for: “Fly”. Then he hit us with “What was the two-word advertising campaign for Volkswagen initiated in 1959 and considered the most successful ad campaign of the 20th
century?” We went with my newest teammate’s suggestion “The Bug”. I doubt anyone came up with “Think Small”. And we had a fifty-fifty chance at coming up with what country is where the Atlantic and Pacific meet. We chose Chile… oops. We had a 33% chance of guessing which game console system was considered so technologically advanced at the time that Japan classified it as containing military secrets: a) X-Box, b) Nintendo-64, or c) Play Station 2. We somehow went with the right answer: c. Then came a question of what nation is named after the Portuguese term for “Glowing Embers”. The only country I could come up with a definite association with Portugal was Brazil; but, that was good enough to get it right. I never did watch “Saturday Night Live” so it’s not surprising that I couldn’t name who has hosted this show the most; although, I probably would have agreed with the answer once I’d heard it: “Steve Martin”. We went with the same answer most teams did as to which day is the most common day for layoffs. And like most teams we got it wrong with “Friday”. It evidently is “Monday”. Then we missed a Coca-Cola question: “What communist country was able to drink Coca-Cola for the first time in 2002?” It wasn’t China! It was North Korea! There was another pick one-of-three question: What is the most common form of execution in the world: a) Lethal Injection, b) Electrocution, or c) Firing Squad. Again, the answer is c. I’m wondering if this is a pattern that you can count of for questions from Joel. The final question was “How many times does the average human blink in one minute: a) 5, b) 15, c) 25, or d) 30 or more.” We got it right with b) 15. When the smoke cleared we got the high score with 18 points, not bad for 60%. Sharon wasn’t impressed, “You won with a D!”
Tonight’s dinner menu didn’t have much that really popped out for me, and I resorted to the “Daily Menu” to choose the French Onion Soup. I did pick the green salad being featured today, and enjoyed that. And I went with the fettuccini with white sauce and pancetta, which was quite tasty. Sharon went with the cold sour cherry soup, which she enjoyed, but is looking forward to having the pear soup again. Again she got the Daily Menu chicken. I had the opera cake and the cordial of Frangelico and Bailey’s Irish Crème. Sharon went with the default crème Brule.
Tonight’s comedian was Tom Sutton, who bills himself as the clean comedian. He has a heavy British accent and had a comment on how much he enjoys performing in front of a half empty house (half of the front section was bare). He had some comments on politics, chiding Americans saying… “…Donald Trump, really?!?” He also referred to the current president as Obi Wan Kenobi and his wanna be heirs, the Klingons. He commented on the three ports that we’d missed saying that our navigator was reported missing in Dubrovnik. That is why we were unable to find those ports; but, he did say the captain was doing the best he could; although, he wasn’t sure where we may find ourselves tomorrow! Tom also made several comments about the cruise director, and his relative youth compared to himself. When talking about him, he would pause, and then continue with “… the boy, Dave.” He kept us entertained for nearly an hour.
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