Day Nine – Tuesday 17th November
Monte Carlo, capital of the Principality of Monaco
They speak French here, which makes me happy.
We had lots of warnings about tenders yesterday, but woke to find we had moored alongside, so no need for tenders at all. This meant that those with limited mobility and full-time wheelchair users could go ashore after all, whereas tenders would cause them problems and prevent some from going ashore altogether.
Weather: warm but overcast with a slight breeze. About 19 or 20 degrees in the shade. Very pleasant.
The local ‘hop on hop off’-type tour bus stopped right in front of the ship, so we boarded and got our bright red earphones, to listen to one of the most bored-sounding guided tours I have ever had on one of these buses. It drove us around the various sights – past the Grand Casino and a VERY expensive-looking shopping centre (I probably couldn’t afford to even look in the windows, never mind walk inside), and then along the marina with the rather silly-sized yachts. At what point does a boat stop being a boat and become a floating house? Some of these were four or five stories high! We even saw one with a helipad on the front. Just silly. Pretty (for the most part), but silly.
Then the bus took us up what they call The Rock (confusing of those of us who know Gibraltar and/or Alcatraz as The Rock). This is the old/original town, and site of the Palace and the lovely quaint little alleys and streets that we were hoping for. We got there with not long to wait for the changing of the guard. They have a little four-piece marching band – two drums, two bugles – to escort them from one side of the square to the other. Very nice. The flags were at half mast.
Then we bought (surprisingly reasonably-priced) souvenirs, and found somewhere for lunch. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised it was called Café Tony. Doesn’t sound very French, does it?! But the steak was good and mum and dad finished their pizzas, so no complaints there. Mum’s pizza topping was something called aubergine caviar, which we have never seen anywhere else, but which she seemed to thoroughly enjoy. And I had my last steak cooked by a French chef for the foreseeable future. Which is a little sad.
Then more pootling and shops and admiring the cleanliness of the place. It is all very pretty here. They have clearly made an effort to make everything look as nice as possible. All the flowerbeds are manicured, all the gutters are clean. Absolutely no graffiti. It all appears spotless. Until you go down a side street. Then you start to find chipped paint and broken toilet facilities, and it all seems a bit more ‘normal’. Out on the main drags, it’s what I would expect Portmeirion to look like if it was a country, not a town. Very pretty but perhaps a little soulless.
Then back onto the tour bus and back to the ship by 3. For some reason BOB was 4.30 today – that may have been because of the tenders, but I don’t recall any announcement changing the time because we had moored. Still, we’ve seen pretty much the whole country, so that’s fine by me. Just enough time for a shower while the ship is still. It was a nice day – I got to speak some French, and mum and dad seemed happy. Tomorrow: Barcelona.