After we had practically rubbed elbows with royalty (past and present), we let our eager feet carry us along the cobbled streets, past the Cathedral (where royalty is buried) and on to ooh-and-aah over the quaint shops.
We had so much fun!
C'est moi! A Grace Kelly moment (minus the elegance)
What struck me on the streets, and in Monaco overall, was how clean everything was. Where was the mess made by the seagulls? Or the crumpled mustard-stained hot dog wrapper? Doggie doo? Were there invisible troops swiftly sweeping all around us? This remains a mystery to me.
Prince Albert II, the reigning prince of Monaco, deserves a good mention for his helping hand in the world. On top of his princely duties, he is heading up well over a hundred international projects in Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, and the Mediterranean to bring people clean water and develop renewable energy. (To learn more you can visit www.PA2F.org) The Prince is also generous with the poor in many lands.
We SO wanted to introduce His Serene Highness to our friend (so he could marry her), but alas!, he was already spoken for.
Dusk started to settle way too quickly and we had to head out. What a fabulous day we'd had!
I want to return one day and catch the rest of lovely Monaco: Boulevard des Moulins, Boulevard d'Italie, Avenue Princess Grace, and the numerous fashion boutiques and interior design shops.
I might even take a dip into the glamor of Monte-Carlo!
Sources for Monaco Part 1 & 2: - My journal and postcards I wrote - Brochure Les Annees Grace Kelly (Complus.mc) - Tourist map and brochure Cote d'Azur (Leader Communications)
In honor of the birthday of Princess Caroline (on January 23), I thought I’d revisit
the International Capital of Luxury:
The Principality of Monaco
We made our way from the southern tip of France (a post of
its own to come), cruising for 30 minutes along the winding road that hugs the mountain
and opens a grand view of the sparkling Cote
We parked the rental
car about a five-minute walk away fromOld
town, Monaco-Ville, as you’re only allowed to drive in with Monaco license
plates. The walk itself was worth it; an enchanting sight of flowers cascading
down balconies over spotless sidewalks lined by lush shrubbery.
We arrived at thePalace Square in Old Town in time to
catch the Changing of the Guards in
front of the Prince’s Palace.
The ceremony takes place daily at exactly 11:55 a.m.
The white dress uniforms are worn in summer and for winter
the guards don black. We learned that guarding the Palace and keeping the
Prince safe aren’t the only duties these fellows have; they are also in charge
of escorting ceremonial processions (civil and religious), helping the Monaco Red
Cross and providing security for sports and public events. Some are trained scuba
divers for underwater security and nautical events, and they monitor water
pollution (which to me seems nonexistent in these waters). The motorcycle troop
escorts the Prince and any important people visiting him. And my favorite: the
guards help children from the Saint Devote daycare center! (There is also an
Honor Guard and a Palace Military Brass band, but we didn’t get to see them).
After watching the guards perform the change with precision,
we moved to the next item on our wish list: The Palais Princier de Monaco (the Prince’s Palace). While it is a
private residence, the State Apartments
adjacent to it are open to the public from April to October. It is well worth the 7 euro fee, to say the
least! We had some time before the next tour, so we grabbed a light lunch at
one of the small cafes by the Square.
The Palace was built in 1215 (yes, it’s ancient!) and Prince
Rainier III restored it to the fabulous palace it used to be. I wish I had photos to show its magnificent details. As you enter, you
first pass through Gallerie des Glaces
(the Mirror Gallery), which is an imitation of Versailles and is used for
visiting heads of state and royalty. The mirrors give you the illusion of
never-ending rooms. The first of the
apartment’s rooms is theRed Room
with magnificent paintings and furnishings in the style of Louis XV. I had
visited castles before, but this was pret-ty
fancy.Next, we step in the York Room that displays royal
portraits. It was named after the Duke of York, the brother of King George III. In the center of the room stands a mosaic
table (made of marble) and the rest of the furniture is ornate ebony. An interesting
Bouille clock catches my eye. The walls are lined with gorgeous frescoes of the
four seasons. Louis XV’s bedroomis next. It’s called the Yellow Room. Fabulous tapestries and period furniture fill
this room. There is also a portrait of Princess Louise-Hippolyte. Next, the
Officers’ Room is for greeting guests for receptions. As we walk on, the blue
silk and Italian gilt walls and the Venetian chandelier hanging from the ceiling
take my breath away. This is the Blue Room.
It displays Grimaldi portraits and might just be my favorite. It is used for
formal receptions –and wouldn’t you like to be among the invitees! An eye
catcher in the Throne Room is, well,
the Empire style royal throne, with a red silk velvet canopy and the royal
crown on top. Above it boasts the Grimaldi Coat of Arms, its motto “Deo Juvante”
(With God’s Help). Fantastic frescoes cover the walls and the ceiling. (We're
tempted to have a sit on the throne, but think it best to mind the guide). Next,
we feast our eyes on the best of Italian woodwork that fills the Mazarin Room. Apparently the
Cardinal Mazarin brought it all to France from Italy and it now adorns the room
that carries his name. (Cardinal Mazarin’s niece married into the Grimaldi
family –hence the connection). The Cardinal’s portrait hangs over the
fireplace. Another Cardinal, Roncalli (later know as Pope John XXII) stayed in
the room that we enter next. However, this room is called the Louis XXII Bedroom. Approaching the end
of the tour, we enter the Matignon
anti-room, named after Lord Matignon who married Princess Louise-Hippolyte
in 1715. (We couldn’t quite figure out why it is called the anti-room, except
that it’s the last room before the actual last one of the State Apartments -so
it’s like antipasti, or appetizer to the last room?). The State Hall concludes our tour. It connects the palace’s south
and east wings and serves as the entrance to the dining room and the private
apartments of the Royal Family, with a magnificent marble staircase. All the
floors of the State Apartment rooms are laid with marble (Carrira).
Not too shabby.
For just another euro you can visit the Museum of Napoleon
Souvenirs, with collections of over 1000 objects and documents of the Emperor,
plus garments of the King of Rome, etc , etc. We ran out of time to do it all.
We did spot ourselves a celebrity, though. Princess Caroline was
just entering her black sedan as we crossed the street not thirty feet from
her. She glanced at us - we were sure she flashed a smile- and with all the
elegance of a Princess in her smart designer skirt and blazer she slipped in
the car and they whisked her away. I googled her and found out that she’s been
appointed president (by her father) to a number of foundations. Among them are the
Ballet of Monte Carlo (to carry out Princess Grace’s wish) and the l’AMADE
Mondiale (Worldwide Association of Children’s Friends), created by Princess
Grace in 1963 to protect children from physical and psychological abuse. Princess Caroline was also appointed a UNESCO
Goodwill ambassador by its director to recognize her commitment to protecting
children and promoting the education of women and children.
Have you ever (almost) met a Princess? Do you think you
would like living in one of the State Apartment rooms in the Prince’s Palace?
My decision to start a blog has been brewing since I saw Julie and Julia.
An interesting tidbit: the word decision in Finnish (paatos, with dots) and Swedish
(beslut) point to "coming to an end". So I have come to an end in my brewing
and this blog is a New Beginning.
I'll be posting about my travels andhomemade treasures. Mostly. Hope you enjoy following along.