Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monaco - Le Casino, Jardin Japonais, & Palais du Prince

I will never mistake Poland and Monaco's flags: Poland has the vertically inverted Indonesian flag, and Monaco has... the exact same flag design as our flag. It led me to cheering for the wrong country during the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

This was my first trip ever to Monaco, and I was excited, especially to see Monte Carlo simply because that name appeared once (or maybe more than once) in stories of Uncle Scrooge (or in Indonesian version, Paman Gober) and Donald Duck. It's scarily amazing (or amazingly scary) how I can still remember a foreign name that has not been mentioned often enough to stay at the back of my mind. 

Monte Carlo, the most populous Quartier of Monaco, is famous for its casino and it's not just any casino; it's The Casino (Le Casino). 

Taking pictures with my smartphone was not the smartest thing I could do. If I could zoom in without making blurry pictures, I would zoom in at the parabolic metal structure in the middle of the little garden in front of the casino. When taken from the right angle, you could see the entire casino building in that structure, including the sky and the features surrounding it.

Unfortunately, taking pictures inside the casino is prohibited. Although the casino is not as large as other casinos I have visited (Las Vegas and Macau), the interior design was just absolutely stunning and grandiose. I did not play any games when I was inside the casino (although I'd normally try the roulette with minimum bets). I was sitting at the corner, gazing at the gorgeous dome of the casino.

When we went there during the weekdays, the casino was pretty empty. Perhaps you would find more people in the private rooms, but you'll have to pay extra to enter the private rooms. And I believe that the minimum bets in those rooms are higher than the ones outside.

We also explored Jardin Japonais de Monaco, or the Japanese Garden of Monaco. To be honest, this was my favourite place in Monaco. I'm not so much into casinos. And this garden just reminded me of my days in Tokyo last year. It was a serene garden that somehow exists harmoniously with man-made features of civilization. What's even better: there is no entrance fee :)

The journey to Palais du Prince (The Prince's Palace) was a little difficult to figure out since there was no clear sign on the road. You could see the palace from below, since it is located on a cliff. We had quite a difficult time trying to figure out the way, although eventually we managed to find our way up to the palace.

You have to climb up quite a flight of stairs up the hill, but there are plenty of spaces to rest since the steps are wide. It takes about 10-15 minutes to climb up at a moderate pace.

And again, I regretted not bringing my camera with me because it's annoying to bring a bulky camera (it's not even an SLR - it's a compact Sony camera) on a 7-day trip.

Oh well, photos can be ugly as long as your eyes enjoyed it when you were there, right?

Once again, no photos are allowed inside the palace (although I've seen quite a number of people sneakily taking pictures with their mobiles phones).

By the way, the view from the hilltop is worth the effort to hike.

We went down the alleys close to the palace after the short tour around the palace. You can buy nice postcards here, and if you're a fan of Movenpick ice cream, you can get one here, too :)

For dinner, I had a nice bowl of fish soup from the restaurant next to Le Casino.

And the Monaco beer was pretty refreshing. It's not very bitter and it's pretty smooth. I'm not an expert in beers, but everyone has a different preference and this is one of the beers I would love to drink casually.


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