Raj: You'd think going on a 6 month trip around the world we'd feel lucky and privileged to be doing what we're doing. Every now and then I reflect on what we've been able to see and experience and I'm grateful we can all share this opportunity together. Yes we're bleeding Euros against a declining exchange rate and sometimes I'll be a bit tight with the wallet, preferring to self cater wherever possible as accommodation, tourist entrance fees and food are our biggest non-prepaid expenses. However today we went to Monaco for the day and we didn't feel as special.
There is huge money and status here. Check out the photos and videos... We saw so many flash cars and mega yachts we lost count (well, Harley tried to keep a running tally of car makes and numbers). Ferraris, Porches, Rolls Royces and Bentleys were as common as Toyotas. Audis, Mercs and BMWs appeared to be for the "less" well off. The boys were quite excited; however the girls simply got bored with it.
Even though money is on every turn of the eye, Monaco has a lovely feel to it - different from Nice and Cannes. At only 2 sqkm it is the second smallest country in the world (after Vatican City). Everything is tidy and well presented and there are no bad areas. Having parked up we strolled the streets and waterfront spying all the wealth around us. On the way I thought I'd visit the casino just for a quick look. The kids were encouraging me to gamble and 'win big' - yeah right. Disappointingly I only got as far as the foyer as you had to pay 10 Euros just to get in. I would have been tempted to spend that money at a table but not to get in. So rather than leave Vikki and the kids waiting (kids aren't allowed in the casino), I decided to flag. I did however do better than the residents of Monaco who are not even allowed to enter the casino or gamble! And to be honest I would have felt rather uncomfortable and out of place in my well used attire, smelly shoes and faded velcro Quiksilver wallet.
Venturing on I imagined the Monaco Grand Prix and how drivers might tackle the city's tight corners, narrow streets and famous tunnel. After a good gander, it got very hot, perfect timing for a swim at Larvotto Beach. Again, the water was great and we saw lots of fish (quite big) not too far out.
Now back at home base and writing this blog at a respectable time while Vikki and the kids are back at the beach again - the local one down the road. Later this evening we'll head into the village after dinner to take in the fireworks display and celebrations of Bastille Day (which marks the start of the French Revolution in 1789 when the Bastille prison was stormed). We only just heard about the train crash in Paris (killing 6 people) so festivities will be understandably dampened. One last French experience is timely as the day after tomorrow we head to Italy. The language will change (key words and phrases are loaded on the kids iPods), not sure if driving experiences will improve, and hopefully the coffee will be nicer for Vikki (it's quite awful in Europe so far). At least the ice cream is consistently good and full of choices for me!