19 August 2013

About the size of NYC's Central Park, the principality of Monaco is only about three miles long and a half mile wide. It's packed into the side of a mountain between the French Riviera and the Italian Riviera. (The only country that's smaller is Vatican City.)

But Monaco is seriously growing ― into the sky, down into the soil, and out into the sea.

Using landfill, Monaco keeps expanding into the sea. The country is now 20% larger than it used to be!

Plus, new plans have just been announced to add another 30 acres to its current 500 acres of land. (See image of the proposal on the left.)

Casino de Monte Carlo
Arriving in Monte Carlo (the central part of Monaco) with a proletarian chip on my shoulder, I did not expect to like it. I was ready to be a counter-snob about the pretensions of the rich, nouveau riche and vieux riche alike.

Hôtel Hermitage (left) and the famous Hôtel de Paris (right)
in over-the-top Beaux-Arts style
Surprisingly, however, I liked Monaco ― even if I did not arrive by yacht, stay at the Hôtel de Paris, or gamble in a tux with 007 at the grand Casino de Monte Carlo. Maybe next time.

Steps are great exercise on the steep hillsides packed with buildings,
but it is also wise to know the location of key elevators and escalators.

Monaco was genuinely impressive. Some much is crammed into this tiny area, using every inch for upscale buildings or perfect little parks, yet remarkably it did not seem congested. I assume it's a product of both wise urban planning and sheer economic factors when land values are astronomical.

The downward expansion is remarkable too. Many highways and even roundabouts are buried underground. Vast parking lots are hidden underground. The only rows of parked cars I saw were as ornaments in front of hotels with conspicuously placed Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis.

The lineup of so many yachts and super-yachts was staggering. Here are a few.
Also for tourists: Daily "changing of the guard" parade;
and an outstanding Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium;
but visitors must show some decorum; anyone
parading around city streets in a speedo can be prosecuted.

Another surprise was that tourists are welcomed so warmly. I'd imagined that the hoi polloi might be annoying intrudors in this enclave for the rich. But I suppose, as one long-time resident (a nice, not-so-famous British film director) remarked to me, tourists both help finance and provide the audience for the show.

Au revoir, Monaco!

Also see my post: Microstates of Europe.