We arrived late morning, and, after exiting the station, slowly headed west. At Rue Princesse Caroline, named after the current Prince's sister, we stopped for cake and coffee. We got talking to a Monegasque, which is a person of Monaco nationality. His name was Georges, and he said he is a Marshall for the Formula One Grand Prix during that time of the year, and otherwise his day job is a croupier at the casino here in Monte Carlo. He had surprising knowledge of Australia, and even of Australian Rules football teams.
From there, we climbed the ramp that leads up to the palace of the Prince of Monaco, which stands about 60 metres above the bay and its $10 million yachts. The current reigning Prince is Albert. His famous parents were Prince Rainier III and the tragic, but still much loved, Princess Grace, formerly Grace Kelly, who, clearly, is not forgotten. Jean and I spent a fair while walking around up there. We admired the view from all angles. Monaco is surrounded by France. The mountains in the background are France, and so are the buildings in the middle ground. Much of Monaco lies along the coast, which makes parts of it rather thin. Right in front of the palace are several buildings which shade multiple little alleys packed with souvenir shops, cafes, eateries, and ice cream shops. Right under the noses of the royals. Well, they do say that this country makes its money through gambling and tourism. (Jean bought a new bag here.)
The Palace itself is dominated by the dramatic backdrop of the mountains. They appear to hang over the palace like a large, wide curtain that reaches all the way up to an enormously high ceiling. Jean didn't want to enter, but I did. I went through quickly. No photography allowed. Paintings here and there throughout of reigning princes of Monaco, and various other Grimaldi family members. One was of Princess Grace and her family from 1981. She plunged to her death off a cliff in her car the following year.
I was interested in Monaco as a student of international affairs. Monaco as a sovereign state. It has managed to maintain its independence throughout the centuries. And when I come to a small country like Monaco, I imagine myself as an international fugitive, on the run from the world's police forces, but enjoying sanctuary in the small country. Would I be happy in a place like Monaco? Yes, I think I would be. I'd take coffee and cake around 10, I'd go swimming, I'd sample the delights in the different restaurants, maybe I'd have a little flutter at the casino, I'd see the Grand Prix, and everything would be fine. Monaco is not bad at all.