FORTY-THIRD MOVEMENT: MONACO
I woke up in my hotel room in Genoa after 07:00. I then showered, dressed, packed my bags, checked out, and walked to the Genoa Brignole Railway Station, reaching it by 07:55. I then took the next available train to the nearby Genoa Piazza Principe Railway Station at 08:04. In several minutes, I was at Genoa Piazza Principe and waiting for my next train to depart (scheduled for 08:56), one that would carry me to my destination: Monaco. At 08:35, the train arrived and I climbed aboard and found my seat (it was a full train, but would thin out considerably near the French border). The train then departed at 08:57 and I was on my way. The railway tracks skirted the southern coast fairly close and many times I could see the Mediterranean Sea and various beachgoers from the windows (I can’t imagine enjoying a beach with loud trains passing by every so often). During most of the journey, I read from the kindle application on my iPhone and I tried to keep myself from dozing off. Eventually, we reached the French border sometime around noon (I’m not exactly sure when since I saw no signs and no one checked our passports, but the loudspeaker did began announcing upcoming stations in French as well as Italian).
Shortly after crossing the French border, Monaco came in to view, looking rather splendid on the coast. In several minutes, we were at the Monaco-Monte Carlo Railway Station and I was disembarking with my bags. I then walked to the hotel I had booked with earlier (it was not far, but then again, nothing really is in this microstate). Since I had arrived at the hotel prior to 14:00, my room was not ready and I was not able to check in; however, I was able to store my bags. I then grabbed my camera and tripod and walked outside to see Monaco (all 499 acres of it . . . uh, well most of it). I first walked up to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco (“Palais Princier”), which is located on the high point where a Genoese fortress was built in 1191 AD; since the end of the thirteenth-century AD, it has been the stronghold and home of the Grimaldi family who first captured it in 1297 AD (legend has it that in January 1297 AD François Grimaldi, disguised as a monk, sought shelter at the castle and upon obtaining entry he murdered the guard, whereupon his men appeared and captured the castle); the Grimaldi ruled the area first as feudal lords and then, from the seventeenth-century AD, as sovereign princes, but their power was often derived from fragile agreements with their larger and stronger neighbors; also, the Grimaldi family has lived in this palace for seven centuries right down to the current ruler of Monaco, Prince Albert II. Upon reaching the palace, I bought an entrance ticket, received an audio guide, and began my tour of the publically accessible parts. Since the royal family still resides in the palace, no photographs were allowed due to security concerns. I walked upstairs to the Hercules Gallery and then entered inside the State Apartments and toured each room looking at the opulent furniture and tasteful style; I also enjoyed the Mirror Gallery with its reflections ad infinitum. Once done touring the palace, I returned my audio guide and walked to the terraces overlooking the kingdom outside the palace (on the edges of the Place du Palais), getting great views of the marinas, city, and surrounding mountains. I then walked back down from the rock and headed to the southwest side to the Monaco Top Cars Collection, an automobile museum comprised of the cars collected by Prince Rainier III (1923-2005 AD) as well some additional cars placed there by his son, Prince Albert II; this collection was very impressive and I especially enjoyed the pre-1970s vehicles (my favorite was the Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing AMG – a beautiful automobile); in addition to all the classic cars, there were also quite a few Formula One racecars on display, many from recent years. I walked around this museum taking multiple photographs of almost every vehicle on display. I wish I was a prince . . . maybe I can marry in to the family somehow (perhaps Charlotte Marie?). After spending over an hour inside the museum, I walked back out in to the sunlight and made my way back up the rock, past the palace, and in to the old town of Monaco-Ville. I made my way past St. Nicholas Cathedral (the Catholic Cathedral where many of the Grimaldis are buried, including Rainier III and his wife, Grace Kelly) and walked to the Oceanographic Museum, which was inaugurated in 1910 AD by Monaco’s modernist reformer and aquatic enthusiast, Prince Albert I; also, Jacques-Yves Cousteau was director from 1957 to 1988 AD. I paid for the entrance ticket and entered inside. I first walked through the bottom two floors, which contain many aquariums with all sorts of fish and sea life from around the world. I then toured the first level, which contained many specimens, documents, water colors, lab tools, and many other items that were mostly acquired by Prince Albert I. Next, I made my way up to the rooftop and enjoyed the panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea (the view of Monaco itself was not that great). Finally, as I was making my way to the exit, I stopped at the “touch tank”, where visitors can stick their hands in and pet sharks – seriously, although these particular sharks were a smaller species than the sharks most of us are familiar with from watching television and films; I did make sure to stick my hand in and pet one of them just to try it (I kept my fingers well away from its mouth). Overall, I was impressed with the Oceanographic Museum and it almost made me want to become a convert like James Cameron (. . . almost). After visiting the museum, I walked back to the Cathedral with the hopes of seeing the inside, but it was closed to visitors for the day. I then walked to the edge of the rocky headland of Monaco-Ville, walked down to the Théâtre du Fort Antoine, and made my way to Port Hercules. I then ended up walking by where the Longines Global Champions Tour for Horse Jumping was set up. When I reached the course, all the riders were walking around it and taking measurements of the distances between each obstacle. I decided to stick around and watch the competition, which began at 18:30. I ended up watching the entire first round, which lasted until around 20:20. I was hoping to catch the end since this was the final day of competitions, but I deemed that it was already too late and I did not know when it would end; so, as the workers were taking down the obstacles and setting them up for the final round, I decided to leave and find a place to eat dinner (based on cheers I heard later that night, I believe the competition ended shy of 22:00; I checked the results the following day and found out that Scott Brash (from Great Britain) and his horse, Hello M’Lady, won the competition – I personally was rooting for one of the female riders to win, such as Jessica Springsteen, who was “Born in the U.S.A.” Yep, her father is the Bruce Springsteen. In the end, Jessica Springsteen was ranked fifth, the highest ranking female rider for the day. After leaving the horse jumping behind, I walked to a nearby supermarket, bought some raspberry lemonade, downed that, and then found a restaurant where I had beer and a pizza with merguez sausage, mushrooms, peppers, chorizo, and artichokes. I then returned to my hotel after 22:00, checked in, grabbed my bags from storage, walked up to my room, showered, checked my emails and the news on the internet, and then passed out, falling asleep before midnight. I was tired.