I’m just going to say it: I don’t like Monaco. I mean, look at it. It doesn’t exactly ooze charm, does it?
It’s a shame, because it’s actually an excellent piece of real estate, nestled in among dramatic cliffs and the Mediterranean. The views are spectacular, as are the famed Monte Carlo Casino and gardens. Even the old town of Monaco would be cute and picturesque if it functioned as anything other than a tourist trap. There’s no butcher or baker, so dont expect to see locals picking up groceries and a baguette. A Chinese family buying “royal” key chains and tee shirts, well, that’s another story.
Monaco is separate from France; its own little 0.7 mile country (hell, I’ve been to bigger parking lots). It’s not only the most densely populated country in the world, but also has the most millionaires and billionaires per capita. I’m not sure if they’re attracted by Monaco’s natural beauty or her status as an international tax haven (I kid). At any rate, I should probably spend more time here if I want to marry a billionaire.
The Grimaldi family have ruled the principality since 1297AD. Like most royal families these days, they’re pretty much the European version of our very own royal family, the Kardashians (with smaller asses, of course). We’re not sure exactly what they do, but whatever it is seems to be front page news.
Prince Albert, the son of Prince Ranier and Princess Grace (as in Grace Kelly) is running things right now. His sisters Caroline and Stephanie used to be glamorous Euro playgirls and he was always a bit of a schlub (hmmm, this Kardashian analogy works on so many levels). He’s not my idea of a fairy-tale prince, but he is a prince.
So, what brings me to this god-forsaken tax-free monarchy? I’m visiting the residents of the Musee Oceanographique de Monaco.
The building is stunning on it’s own, perched on a cliff with the sea churning below. Inside, there are over 4000 fish and 200 species of invertebrates (sea creatures with spines). There’s also a museum of sea exploration upstairs and a roof that overlooks groddy old Monaco on one side and the sea on the other. It’s a nice aquarium, but probably wouldn’t be anything to write home about except for one thing…well, dozens.
Before exiting into the obligatory museum shop, there’s a darkened room with a large shallow pool of water surrounded by people. Bobbing in and out of the water are the heads of baby sharks (requins), no bigger than a foot long each. The way they pop their heads up and open their mouths reminds me of baby birds. But here’s the piece de resistance: YOU CAN PET THEM!!!!!!!!
I ascertain that nobody is screaming and bleeding from the wrist and nervously dip my hand in the water. The little sharkies kind of butt against your hand like a cat and swim by, rubbing against your palm. As one would expect, they feel pretty slimy. But damn, these future ruthless man-eating machines are sooooooooo cute.
After petting every shark in the pool, we head out through the gift shop. We stop to admire/laugh at some ridiculously expensive bejeweled swim goggles. Then we both feel it …danger. I can almost hear the Jaws music. We’ve got to get out of here. There are Russian tourists circling and we’re pretty sure they’ll rip us from limb to limb for these goggles.
More pictures of Monaco