A day in Monaco

Nothing to do on a Saturday, we decided to take a day-trip to Monaco. Monaco is one hour by car from Fontan. Sandwiched between French towns like Menton and Beaulieu-sur-Mer and bordering the Mediterranean sea, it is easily recognizable by its gratte-ciel (skycrapers).

The national road leading to the small but very compact Principality (where the American actress Grace Kelly used to be the princess of Prince Rainier, both now resting-in-peace) is some 200 meter high up the mountains so while driving down towards the exclusive gambling capital of Europe, one is easily struck in awe about the magnificence of the entire panorama…. the Port with its as-tall-as-building private yachts, the Royal Palace standing above a giant rock and the gratte-ciel of apartments and office buildings.

Monaco is perched on rocky mountains so it is amazing to see apartments and houses built in-between giant rocks. The hig-rise modern apartments are simply ‘a cut above the rest’ – as magnificent as 5-star hotels! The 19th century architecture on villas and important buildings is simply mind-blowing!

As soon as we found a parking area, we could already smell the Euros and could see the dollar signs written on everyone’s faces!

We could see wealth all over the place….simply amazing to observe and watch but no way in this world, affordable to anyone but only the well-heeled and the jet-setters!

Here are the figures I’ve written down: (in Euros x 75 = Pesos)

Parking – 2.40 per hour

Entrance to the Jardin Exotique (cactus garden) – 6.90
(we thought it’s a rip-off so we just contented ourselves looking at the sample garden behind the Entrance gate)

Rent of 1-BR apartment – 10,000 a month

To buy a 4-BR, 4-bathroom Villa – 8.8 million

To buy a 3-BR apartment – 4.2 million

To buy a 25 sq.m. studio – 750,000

But we thought, the government is probably encouraging business so cost of renting an office is reasonable at 1,200 a month.

food is not so expensive:
a plate of spaghetti – 10euros
Kebab …..5 euros
Beer……3 euros

As Saturdays are the normal days to get married in France, this particular day, in Monaco, must have had the most number of weddings taking place. Every hour, a wedding convoy of several cars, are noisily blowing their horns as they drive past the streets. (It is a tradition that after the wedding ceremony, all cars of the wedding entourage and their guests, would be blowing their horns non-stop, on the way to and from the reception).

What struck us most…. that as late as 4pm, people are still eating in restaurants. In France, at 3pm, they will be closed and will open again at 7pm for dinner.

There are no dog poops around! (France is the dog poop capital of the world!)

Unfortunately, our promenade was cut short when I discovered that my 3-week old 590euros pair of eyeglasses (as i told you in my earlier post) was missing! Cursing myself for being so careless, kinda throwing 590euros down the drain, we slowly traced our way back, hoping that someone, who finds it useless for him, will just leave it where it is, so I, the careless owner, will find it eventually.

Back to where we started, at the parking lot, we asked the guards (whom we saw earlier) if they saw my lunettes (eyeglasses).Miraculously!, they said they found it earlier and had just handed it over to the police for safekeeping.

They quickly called the policewoman who had my lunettes, and I couldn’t believe it when she came driving in her motorbike waving the 590euros worth of thing! 

And you know what she said?

That … in Monaco, lost items including cash are usually returned to their owners because the Monaguesques (citizens of Monaco) are usually honest! 

And my husband’s comment, BECAUSE THE PEOPLE ARE ALREADY ROLLING IN MONEY so those small change or lost things don’t interest them anymore

Concert in Saorge

We went to another concert again tonight. It’s a violin and piano duo by two very talented musicians. It was held in a church in Saorge, a hilltop village just 5 minute drive from Fontan. The church itself, in Baroque style, despite its peeling off old mural on the ceiling, is magnificent! The columns, the ornate designs and everything are a marvelous work of art! C’est dommage that my digital camera is still at the repair shop, otherwise, i would have attached loads of photos here, but I have the website of Saorge for you to browse on!

The performance – music of Mozart, etc, gave me the goose pimples. As always, everytime i listen to a classical concert, I feel like sobbing with joy! it’s like I’m in a different universe! And this universe is free! …. no entrance fee, as half of the concerts organized by the Mairie (town/village hall) are free so everybody – with money or no money – can enjoy one of God’s beautiful gifts… the musical talent of other people.

War documentaries

This month of August, a lot of documentaries and films on French TV have been dedicated to the liberation of France from Germany 62 years ago.

It is very emotional to see hundreds of thousands of civilians and resistance fighters killed in cold blood and beautiful centuries-old architecture just decimated into dust – both by the enemies and the allies (Americans, British, Canadians). If not for that German military officer appointed by Hitler to be the Governor of Paris, Paris would not have been as it is now – it would still be Paris but sans the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Pont Neuf, etc. The Fuhrer’s orders were to burn Paris and turn it into a complete debris. But von Choltitz, like all of us, fell in love with the city and its magnificent monuments and works of arts that he completely disobeyed Hitler (who he admitted has lost his mind…i.e. gone crazy!)
He surrendered to the French who, after learning how von Choltitz actually prevented the destruction of their city, even attended his funeral at his home country. He died of war-related illness.

Airport Inspection

We saw off my old and ill father in-law at Nice airport yesterday morning. A diabetic and has lost much of his physical coordination
after going through loads of surgeries and laser treatment to contain his bladder cancer, he is practically a walking chemist (pharmacy)
because of the number of pills he had to take each day.

As he was flying to London-Gatwick where airport security has been raised ten-fold especially for those passengers going to and from the UK
and the US, nobody – whether you are pregnant, sick or dying – is excused from their ‘No handbags, no pills, no anything allowed,
except passport, money and keys” restrictions.

My husband is so furious about his own country, England, who has become the unofficial 51st state of the US of A, so he is now
determined to apply for a French passport.

It was disgraceful and disheartening to watch my father-in-law, despite his very obvious deteriorating physical condition,
to be stripped off his tablets and asthma spray right before our eyes!

What is happening to the world?

Back in the Var

We are back in the Var.

The Var is the region of France next to the Cote d’Azur which comprises Toulon, St Troupez, Frejus, Draguignan (where we are), etc. It’s a region well-known for its vineyards and rose wine (fruity, light, rose color and best accompaniment for pasta, cheese and fish.

In August, it is really nice to see the vineyards covering the hills and the thousands of hectares of land in the region. These vineyards, heavy with grapes, big, round and dark violet, all ready to harvest!

Last month, we have already harvested our vine plant where we have collected a little more than six kilos of grapes. But for making wine, the grand harvest in the Var starts in September. In this period, the vineyard owners hire people to pick the grapes. In fact, I would like to do it one day! It would be very interesting! Usually, the work takes six hours per day and a big lunch is provided and sometimes even dinner. The money is not really good but it’s mostly the experience…. to meet other people and to spend nice soirées with them! In any case, this experience lasts from one to three weeks according to the size of the vineyard!

Unfortunately, now, several vineyards that we saw 2 or 3 years ago have been replaced by big housing development like villas and apartments! Many vineyard owners, due to bad business, have sold their vineyards to people where nearly half of them are foreigners!

In our town, Draguignan, there is already a big population of Dutch and British. The French are not happy to be invaded by foreigners but, everything became easy since the enlargement of the European Union