The Only Tourist in Monaco

Posted: Dec 6, 2003 8:55:40 PM

The schedule has become crazy. Tomorrow I wake up at 5 in the morning, and I won't sleep in a real bed again until Tuesday night. In that time I am travelling almost half way across Europe, from Barcelona to Andorra, back to Barcelona, overnight to Nice, then overnight again to Rome.

But that is in the future.

For now, a quick narrative on my trip to Nice, and another itty bitty little country near it: Monaco. Everyone in Nice was remarkably like the name of the city - I was practically dragged into a hostel by the owner, and it was a very nice hostel as well. Bed, private kitchen, private bathroom and shower, and all for 16 Euros, a remarkably good price. There were a few empty beds around, but I wasn't complaining, because I had to get to Monaco.

Monaco is the powerhouse of the rich and decadent in Europe. All of the expensive brand-stores and decadent luxury yachts radiate out from the country's cultural heart, the Monte Carlo Casino. It costs NZ$20 just to get in the door, and you have to be well dressed also. Guess which one disqualified me? Actually, I didn't try, because I don't gamble, but given the fact that I hadn't washed in a couple of days I think they could have determined that I was One to be Kept Out blindfolded.

Instead, I explored the natural history side of the country: one of the former Princes of Monaco was quite the nautical person, and he set up a truly incredible aquarium and oceanographic museum that is without a doubt the best underwater thing I have ever visited. It is perhaps one of the best museums that I have seen on this trip. Some of you will know my fascination with all things of the Deep, and this the museum had in spades.


Amidst the mass of 1.9 metre moray eels, upside-down bottom-feeding Cassiopeia jellyfish, lethal surgeonfish (the scalpel's in the tail), scorpionfish (completely covered in spines), stonefish (the most deadly fish in the world; a quarter of all human-stonefish incidents result in the death of the human), shrimpfish (which can be dried out, sanded down, and used as knives), giant box crabs (and I'm talking Giant here), lantern-eyes (their little glow actually produced by symbiotic light-producing bacteria), and of course my favourite underwater animal, the nautilus, not to mention the various sharks, stingrays, anemones, starfish, sea cucumbers, rock-urchins, lobster, and octopi, I was in seventh heaven.

In the Jardin Exotique, which has the world's largest collection of succulents and cacti, I began to appreciate exactly why everyone on the Med was so friendly. There have been floods a little north of the coast, effectively cutting off (or at least severely delaying) any contact from Paris, Lyon, or Bordeaux. This place was deserted. This explains why I was abducted in Nice, and why in all the time I was in the Jardin I saw no other tourists, and ten staff-members acting bored. I only interacted with one of said members, because there is a fantastic underground grotto that you can only visit on guided tours.

I was the only one on the tour. The guide spoke only French and German. Surprisingly, I discovered that my high-school French (coupled with a little etymological knowledge) was sufficient to communicate with the guide quite loquaciously, to the extent that after we finished he complimented me on my communication abilities. And for those of you who are wondering, no, he wasn't French. They would never admit that a foreigner could produce anything like capable French; he was from the French-German border.

I could write so much more, of course, but I never intended this to be a long report, so I shall have to stop here. For the last couple of days I have been looking around the fantastic Gaudi architecture in Barcelona with a new friend: Greta, from Slovakia, who has been protecting me from the various muggers hereabouts. For those of you not familiar with Gaudi, consider this: Gaudí's Barcelona works. They are better live.

For those of you who were wondering, the castle in the last report was indeed the one in another itty bitty little country, San Marino (my only impression of it: all the stores have nothing but alcohol, perfume, and guns). And the title of the Paris report is the name of the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock's amazing film 'Vertigo' is based. Something which was very appropriate today, as we climbed the Sagrada Familia.


lian   Dec 6, 2003 11:14:26 PM

Happy Nikolaus, Damon! (Nikolaus is a German holiday in which the good children get sweets and the bad ones a whipping ^_^) my parents obviously thuoght I was a very good little daughter cause I got a parcel packed with chocolates and stuff. YUM!

Anyway, so you did not have to go all round to Japan to see great underwater worlds as I suggested. Monaco, who'd have thought?
I'm really wondring at your, umm, stamina, though. Don't you ever get nauseous/sick/exhausted from insanely rapid travelling? I'm more with Siobhan there. 4 hours in the car, and I feel ill.

What a flurry! Hope you have fun, though. (Greta...cute name.)

*goes off to eat more chocolate*

Charlotte   Dec 6, 2003 11:44:54 PM

*sigh* I guess the 8 levels of the Osaka Aquarium (it has the world's largest tank) will hold no interest for you now. Heh! Fortunately I have plenty of other, more interesting things lined up for us to do!

And Greta might be a cute name, but the way you mentioned her makes me think she's 6'4" with hulking shoulders and a moustache! *laugh*

You have alloted only 4 hours to visit Andorra? That's funny. And crazy. But good crazy, if there is such a thing.

Siobhan   Dec 7, 2003 12:19:00 AM

You're going to be a tired and cranky boy. Maybe not cranky.

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Dec 7, 2003 12:23:50 AM

So what´s the final country count going to be? 23, not counting New Zealand?

Mmm, vertigo on the Sagrada Familia - so many fond memories...

Damon   Dec 7, 2003 4:45:18 PM

Hee - the Slovakians have something like that holiday too, Lian, except the bad ones get onions and potatoes. Of course, they have it easy. What I wouldn't give for an onion or a potato...

I never get tired of aquariums, and if this is the one I've heard of that has a whale shark I'd absolutely love to see it. And Greta is certainly a cute name, and she is a very cute person, so I hope it's apparent that any other impression was unintended! (she has the address for this website - I'm afraid she may come and beat me up *grin*).

I'm never cranky. And no-one can prove otherwise, unless my family and PN friends actually start posting again...

There was almost nothing to see in Andorra (it's mainly winter sports, and I don't have any skis), so I just wandered around and did some shopping. Four hours was plenty (and more than I had for San Marino). Not counting NZ, Japan will be the 23rd country I have visited on this trip, yes. Unless you count Scotland and England as separate countries.

Charlotte   Dec 7, 2003 6:55:37 PM

It has *two* whale sharks, so I guess it can go back on the list then. *grin*

Chris   Dec 7, 2003 11:32:53 PM

Well, because you complained that we never post anymore, I am not going to now.... Dammit, too late.

To answer the cranky question. You almost never cranky. Almost being the important word here.

Oh, and scotland and england are two separate countries. Well to the scotish they are anyway.

Damon   Dec 8, 2003 11:46:35 AM

Aha! See, there is life in Palmerston North after all. And what's with the almost? *gets cranky*

Oh damn.

Fraz   Dec 9, 2003 1:44:25 AM

yep, well, not much to say, Christmas is cumming ... the goose is getting

Damon   Dec 9, 2003 8:40:12 AM

I've had goose twice on this trip, once in Hong Kong and once in Vienna. The Viennese goose is far superior.

Also: have arrived in Rome. I shall attempt to write a new report tonight or tomorrow, about the truly awful journey from Barcelona to here.

Rimmers   Dec 9, 2003 11:28:42 AM

yay for the goose!

erhm... haven´t read the article yet ;)

hope everything´s still as you´ve planned, Damon.

Charlotte   Dec 9, 2003 1:58:38 PM

Ah well, hopefully it's the last long train ride you'll have to take while on this journey. Only short train (or superfast shinkansen) rides when you get to Japan.

Today is bloomin' cold here. I hope you have reasonably warm clothes.

*waits patiently for next report*

lian   Dec 9, 2003 10:15:04 PM

*joins the waiting queue*

Bad Barca trip? *blinks*

Damon   Dec 9, 2003 10:24:01 PM

Erm, think a connecting train that breaks down two minutes from the station, then stays there for two hours. Think occasional total power loss. It'll all be in the report, if I can find the time to get it all down.

Peter   Dec 10, 2003 12:57:28 AM

Well, there had to be something that's good in Vienna, eh?
And we didn't lose electricity either, or break down just because Damon was waiting for a train...

Looking forward to the next report, and hope that this is the worst thing happening to your transportation on this trip...

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