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Published: June 26th 2017
When I start telling people that we were off to the Gulf, their immediate reaction was: 'What Regiment are you with??!!' If I was with a Regiment I don't think they'd send me Easyjet!! Although with all the cuts this Government are making at the moment....??!!
Benjamin Frankin once said: 'But in this world nothing is said to be certain except death and taxes!'. He obviously had never started his holidays from Widnes!!!
I seem to recall in my equivelent blog just over 12 months ago titled 'The journey begins'
(17th September - yes it really was that long ago!!), how it was pissing down the day before we set off yet on the day of departure we had a bright start to our big adventure as if Mr Sun had come out (without his hat on), to wave us off!. Today was like déjà vu. So. I challenge Mr B's observation and from now on, the quote shall be amended to: '3 things in life are certain: death, taxes AND the sun shining on Chris and Roisin as they set off for yet another bloody cruise (after it had been pissing down the day before!!)' OK, it may
not flow off the tongue like many other quotations but say it to yourselves a few times and before you know it you'll all be saying it to each other in work. I can hear everyone now in wing 1, ground floor as they forget to say the first part of the quotation and are muttering to themselves: 'Chris and Roisin are on yet another bloody cruise!!'
We took the taxi for the short 4-mile journey to Liverpool airport for our onward flight to Nice on the Cote d'Azur; home of the rich and famous! The journey to the airport was indeed shorter than usual for as soon the taxi driver learned we were off to Monaco he proceeded to show off his driving skills….AT SPEED! He took the chicane in Hale Village as if he had just crossed the start/finish line at the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. The record-breaking journey cost £11.30. I told the driver to take £13 and gave him a £20 note. He gave me £12 change!!! He may be another Michael Schumacher in the making but he'd never make a contestant on 'Countdown'!!!
Having already checked in on line, we dropped the bags
off then headed through security past the duty free and in to the departure lounge. If anyone can tell me why they still have a duty free when all the scheduled flights are to countries within the EU! Either this is an oversight on a grand scale or someone has devised an excellent marketing strategy!!
Whilst queuing at gate 9, I overheard two British ladies chatting away behind me. One seems to have lived in Nice for 18 months at some time in the past and was returning to visit friends. She was impressed by the other lady from North Wales who advised her that she lives in Monaco.
'Wow!' said the first lady. ‘Do you mind me asking what you do for a living?'
‘Certainly', said the second lady. 'I'm an accountant!!'
Now I know a few accountants and none of them, whilst having a comfortable lifestyle, could afford to live in Monaco. She either works for the rich and famous or possibly the rich and infamous!!!
We seemed to be running about ½ hour late. When we were all seated on board, the delay seemed to be increasing. The pilot then made
an announcement that the plane had developed a technical fault but engineers were on to the problem and the delay shouldn't be much longer. It appeared that the aeroplane had broken a fingernail!!! Apparently the radio switch was stuck to the ‘on' position. To me, the engine hanging off is a technical problem. This should have been nothing more than a minor inconvenience!!
As it was a full flight, Roisin and I did not manage to sit together. I amused myself during the 2-hour flight by watching a money spider weave a web between seats 7d and 7e. What did it expect to catch at that altitude??!! As I got up to leave my seat, I was thinking that this could be a lucky omen and there may be a roulette wheel with my name on it waiting for me in Monte Carlo. Unfortunately as I eased myself up I place my hand on the top of seat 7e….Oh dear!!. He would have starved to death anyway. Maybe I should stay away from the casinos after all!!!
Nice was a balmy 23°C. Very pleasant. It was now 5pm (local time). We took the number 99 bus for a
very picturesque 20-minute ride to the main train station along the coast road and from there a further 20 minutes to Monaco.
OK, it should have been 20 minutes to Monaco. After queuing for 25 minutes for our tickets we were in danger of missing the train but were relieved to learn that it was running 5 minutes late. We got on the train with seconds to spare only to find the train still at Nice platform, 10 minutes after we had boarded. Then came a 30 second announcement in French. The only bit I caught was' retard' and ‘cinq minut'
‘5 minutes', I thought. That's not too bad. However, at the end of the announcement the crowd groaned in unison. And it wasn't a good groan!! I know what a good groan sounds like and that definitely was a bad groan!! That said, the train did in fact start pulling out of the station 5 minutes after that announcement. It must just be the impatience of the French!!!
Monaco train station must be a candidate for the most confusing train station in the world. It is nothing but a myriad of tunnels and underpasses
connected by an array of escalators and stairs. There doesn't seem to be any lifts to the platforms so one has to struggle humping large suitcases up numerous flights of stair only to find you have arrived at the wrong entrance. We had 40 minutes of this unscheduled ‘fun' before we hit on the correct exit. Our hotel, the Novotel, Monaco was only 400 metres along Blvd Princess Charlotte.
After checking in and dropping our bags in our room we headed out for a spot of dinner. By this time, darkness had fallen so we weren't too sure what to expect. We headed towards the marina where most of the restaurants and tavernas seemed to be located. Turning the corner onto Avenue de Roqueville, we had visions of San Francisco. ‘It doesn't look this steep on the tele', I thought.
We ate a very nice meal at L'Escale on Boulevard Albert I. It was a very friendly and quaint Italian terrace restaurant with a view over the Marina, sitting right on the start line for the F1 Grand Prix!! At this stage Roisin pointed out to look at this marina with all it's multi million pound yachts then
said ‘think of the one back in Liverpool'. It kind of puts wealth in to perspective!!!
We walked back up Avenue Ostend, part of the F1 track toward the world famous casino. Now, I'm going to try to include a geeky fact in each blog entry. Today's geeky fact is that the casino in Monte Carlo is not that famous as only 1 James Bond film was ever shot on location in Monte Carlo – Golden Eye!!
During our evening stroll Roisin would whoop every time a car powered it's way past us. This would be swiftly followed by, ‘Aww! It's only a Lotus!!' I did well to manage her expectations by suggesting: ‘I expect their other car is a Ferrari!!!'
Now, let's see if this millionaire's playground looks any different in the ‘warm' light of day.
Monaco is the second smallest country in the world; only the Vatican City is smaller. Monaco is also the world's second smallest monarchy, and is the most densely populated country in the world.
It is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. The House of Grimaldi has ruled
Monaco since 1297 . Despite Monaco being independent and pursuing its own foreign policy course, its national defence is the responsibility of France. Even more importantly, Monaco has it's own footie team but plays in the French Football league!!!
We started the morning by strolling down to the Information centre at the top end of the casino gardens. I found out that if you ask, they will stamp your passport free of charge. The casino gardens is a well keep strip of flowers and greenery dispersed by a number of ornate fountains. These gardens slope down toward the casino where we will start our practice lap.
The Monaco Grand Prix F1 circuit is just over 2 miles and the lap record is still held by Michael Schumaker at 1:14.439. If I even had a time machine, I doubt if I could break that record especially when we're walking around. OK, they're lined up…the red ligts are on…and it's GO! GO! GO! Roisin and Chris are neck-and-neck as they head down toward Mirabeau. Roisin in her Masai Barefoot Technology and Chris in his George at Asda trainers. It's down in to 1st as Roisin takes Loewe's hairpin. But
wait, she has stopped to have her photo taken!!! And it's Chris first in to the tunnel by a whisker ahead of Roisin. ‘Ooh, look a Ferrari!! Ooh look, another Ferrair!! Roisin says as she edges once again into the lead as they exit the tunnel and takes the chicane as if she is driving a Nissan Micra through Hale Village!!! They are now bunching up and it's the Grusome Twosome in the Creepy Coop who takes the lead, followed by Proffessor Pat Pendleton and the Ant Hill Mob is holding off Peter Perfect. How to turn one of the most characteristic and world renown races in the world in to Whacky Races!!
We stopped by the swimming pool to once again admire the wealth adorning the marina. They don't look any poorer in the daylight than they do in the dark!!
We turned around La Racasse, past the pit lane and toward the start/finish line. There are plenty of shops and boutiques ‘milking' the F1 thing. Past trophies adorn shop façades and statues litter the streets.
As we walked up back toward the casino just past a stretch of the track known as Beau
Roisin noticed a hospital called ‘Centre Cardio Thoracique' . This hospital looked like a palace. What do we have?? Broadgreen?? Although I'm sure in both hospitals' patients get the upmost care…it just goes to show how far the Health Lottery will stretch!!!!
We arrived back at the casino realising that we hadn't eaten since breakfast and we'd only taken on enough fuel to do 1 flying lap so we were now both running on empty. As there was no chance of making it back down to the marina where prices are slightly cheaper, we decided to have lunch at the Café de Paris. I won't bore you with the details about price etc…needless to say I hope there are McDonalds in Jordan and Oman!!! I notice that we didn't get any nibbly bits on our table. Mind you, the waiter probably took one look at us and thought to himself, ‘You cannot afford our nibbly bits!!!'
It was now time to head back to our hotel, pick up our luggage and then off to the station for the 3 hour journey to Genoa
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