17.07.2010 91 °F
On Thursday, our ship, the Ruby Princess, arrived in its last port of call, Monte Carlo in Monaco. Monaco is the 2nd smallest country in the world (besides the Vatican). Its area is under 1 square mile, but it has a population of almost 33,000 … and those 33,000 are incredibly wealthy! The whole country is pristinely kept, beautiful, and opulent! It has been ruled by the same family for over 700 years, and is under the control of Prince Albert II. You have probably heard of Prince Rainier III, the previous ruler (and Prince Albert II’s father), who married Grace Kelly, the actress.
We watched the docking from our balcony, and were amazed by the views. Monaco is such a well built-up country tucked in a little nook, with France surrounding it on all sides but with Italy just a few miles away. Look how beautiful it is! (In case you couldn't have guessed, Kev made me do this pose. It was easier to humor him than argue!
After breakfast, we disembarked the ship and headed out to a guided tram tour of Monaco. This was a great way to see the entire country, which is long and narrow (almost 3 miles long). We saw stops such as Le Musee Oceanographique (Oceanographic Museum, seen here), Le Café de Paris (a famous café where the wealthy hang out), L’Hotel Hermitage (an ocean view room here is 5,200 Euros for 2 people, 2 nights!), Le Ministere d’Etat and Le Palais de Justice (government buildings), and the famous Casino de Monte-Carlo (seen here and also known as James Bond’s “Casino Royale” … we didn’t go in because it was a 10 Euro cover charge, and 50 Euro minimum tables! Way outside our range!)
The Monaco Grand Prix (part of the Formula One) runs along a similar course to what we took on the tram and apparently takes 6 weeks to set up and 3 weeks to take down, which puts a big part of the city out of commission for a good chunk of the year.
The tour gave us a great sense of the country, and after it ended we were able to visit several more sites on our own, as well as tour some of the less busy areas with great views of the French Riviera. We first walked through a beautiful park, the “Jardin Exotique de Monaco.” It was so well kept and provided great views of the ocean (with TONS of nice yachts) and the country.
We next went to the Palais Princier (the Palace of the country, where the Prince actually lives). The Palace was built in 1191 and has been in control of the ruling family (the Grimaldis) since 1297. We were able to walk through a majority of the Palace (besides the Prince’s current living quarters) on a guided tour, and it was full of elaborate decorations, historic works of art, and artifacts of current and former rulers of Monaco. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the Palace, but take our word that it was gorgeous!
After the Palace, we went to La Cathedrale, the main Cathedral of Monaco. All of the former Princes of Monaco, as well as Grace Kelly, are buried within the Cathedral. They also had several beautiful works of art throughout. You can see the tomb of Grace Kelly here in the picture.
We spent a few hours walking around enjoying the views and walking through the streets, which are lined with nice cafes and high-end retailers. What a beautiful country! Kevin especially enjoyed this one, and thinks it definitely rates in the top 5 places we’ve been on the trip.
Once we got back on the ship, we read a little bit more and then worked out. I had my final spin class, which was fun! We packed up our suitcases (bummer! We never wanted this cruise to end!) and headed out to enjoy the last night on the ship. Enjoy we did! We spent several hours in the bars and casino, and couldn’t even take time out of our enjoyment to eat at the seated dining room, so we ended up going to the buffet instead. Here is a picture of Kevin’s plate … I forgot to capture mine! We came out ahead after several days of playing $5 blackjack, which is always good news, and we shut down the bars early in the morning, which gives you a good idea for how we were feeling the next day. The upside is that we enjoyed every moment of this cruise and feel like we have seen SO much of Europe and the Mediterranean. We are SO happy that we decided to include this as part of our honeymoon, and would recommend it to anyone!
Friday, we woke up after about 4 hours of sleep, finished packing our last things, headed to breakfast, waited for our boarding time, and disembarked. We were very impressed with Princess’ disembarkation procedures – incredibly organized and easy. We had to wait in line for a long time in the sun for a taxi, but other than that we have no complaints! We got a cab to our hotel, Le Meridien Barcelona, which is right on La Rambla, the main street of Barcelona. La Rambla is such a hub of cultural life, and has a unique mix of international vibes. Barcelona itself attracts a ton of young, adventurous travelers, and you can feel the energy walking down the streets. We walked around La Rambla for a few hours and had lunch before heading back to our hotel. We took a LONG nap – which was very necessary after the night before’s short sleep – and proceeded to be lazy the entire rest of the day. We know, we know … first day in Barcelona and we spent at least half of it cramped up in our hotel room … but we are lucky enough to have 4 days here so we felt OK about “wasting” the day and resting up. We did head out for dinner, at a restaurant on La Rambla in prime people-watching position. Kev had cheese pizza and I had an asparagus, mushroom, and parmesan salad. More on the food in Spain tomorrow, when I’ll tell you about the long day of touring Barcelona that we had today. We are sure soaking up these last couple of days before heading back to Miami and moving to Chicago! Hope all is well!