Monte Carlo. The very name conjures up visions of men in black tuxedos playing baccarat with stacks of black hundred dollar chips in front of them and beautiful blonds dripping with pearls urging them on as they gamble away their inheritances. Wait a second. That's the movies---Sean Connery as James Bond, even Steve Martin in the movie, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". Unfortunately, the reality is much more mundane.
The Grand Casino in Monte Carlo, which just happens to be the capital of the small independent country, Monaco, is located on a hill in a building which doubles as the opera house. There are lots of tourists outside snapping pictures of themselves in front of the casino. Inside it is quite a different story. First of all, there is a charge for entry. Just a few euros, but nonetheless, annoying since the whole purpose in going to the casino is to gamble. You should not have to pay for the privilege to lose your money! Interestingly enough the residents of Monaco are forbidden by law from gambling at the Grand Casino.
Although we had read that a jacket was appropriate for men and a dress for women, we were overdressed when I wore my blazer and my wife wore a cocktail dress. Everyone else wore typical casual clothes. Now, admittedly, we visited in the middle of the day, but still. Inside the casino were rather large cavernous rooms, which were mainly empty. There were a few scattered blackjack and craps tables and a few players,but most of the main room was filled with slot machines of the 1 euro variety. Although I had gone there to "break the bank at Monte Carlo" with my blackjack skills, we ended up playing the slots for half an hour and left. By the way, the slots were quite accommodating and we were able to pay for our lunch at the nearby Cafe de Paris with our winnings. The restaurant, where it is said the French dessert, crepe Suzette was invented, was quite good.
After leaving the casino, we decided to walk down the hill to the port, where our cruise ship lay at anchor. It was a fascinating walk as we went through the tunnel and the course where the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 race is run each year. The stands were already set up for the race which was to take place in just a few weeks.
Although the casino was somewhat of a disappointment, Monte Carlo had several interesting places which we will describe in another post. These include the Palace (which is open to visitors), the Cathedral where Princess Grace and her husband, Prince Rainier are buried and the Oceanographic Museum, which has one of the best aquariums in the world.