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Villefranche, Monaco, Monte Carlo

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Villefranche Shore 1

Villefranche is a busy town in a busy part of the Côte d'Azur, with a very nice old town, vieille ville.   The narrow cobblestone and bricked streets slope steeply down towards the sea or traverse along the slope, with vaulted passages beneath the houses. There's quite a medieval feeling here, with just the many little restaurants to remind you you're in tourist country.  We went ashore via the tenders and walked around for awhile just enjoying the charming town.

The port was created in 1295 by Charles d'Anjou. The Rade de Villefranche (the protected deep-water bay) is the best on this part of the coast, and was the most important port until port of Nice was opened in the 18th century.

Later in the afternoon, Villefranche was also our departure point for our tours to Monaco and Monte Carlo.   (click to see our excursions)

Villefranche harbor
Villefranche harbor
Barb and Chris Tender in harbor Barb and Mom
We're Heeeeere !! Does the crew sleep on board? 
(Oh wait, that's just the tenders for shore)
Land Ho!
Barb and Chris Harbor Harbor
Arrival on the tenders in the harbor Villefranche harbor Harbor

The Citadelle (Fort Sainte Elme) dates back to 1557, built by Vauban (Louis XIV’s fortifications engineer) now houses the city buildings, a museum and some gardens. 

Fort Entrance Inside the fort View from the fort
Fort Sainte Elme Inside the fort View of the town from the fort
Inside the Fort Harbor City Streets

Look closely at the sign by the green door ...

The harbor Old City streets (it's always stairs ...)

Window boxes

Flower Planter

Flowers and cannon

Prolific flowers in the fort - notice the old cannon on the right

There is an extreme example of a vaulted passage on the Rue Obscura, a street about a block in from the seafront that's completely covered for about half its length. Lighted only by white, wire-gridded lamps in the roof, the "obscure" street reminds you of the days when the town's population sheltered here from bombardments.

Barb Chris
Vaulted passageway
Vaulted passage Stairs, more stairs ... And MORE stairs ...
After lunch aboard ship, we returned to Villefranche for our afternoon tour.  Driving along the Middle Corniche Road, we saw the pine-studded peninsula of St. Jean Cap Ferrat and then on into Monaco.
Monaco

The Principality of Monaco is the second-smallest independent state in the world (after Holy See); almost entirely urban.  Its surface area is nearly 2 square km (or about three times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC).  Monaco lies on a narrow coastal strip, which sometimes rises vertically upwards with its highest point at 206 feet. Its width varies between 0.65 miles and a mere 382 yards. Its coastline is 2.5 miles long. 

It all began on January 8, 1297 when the Guelf François Grimaldi dressed as a Franciscan monk, seized the fortress protecting the famous rock of Monaco and the port of Hercules from a rival Italian faction.

In 1861, Monaco relinquished one-half of its territory to France in exchange for cash and independence. On the throne at this time was Prince Charles III. He realized that most of Monaco's natural resources had been lost with the land and something had to be done to reestablish an economic base in the Principality. He decided that the answer was tourism and gambling. In 1863, he established the Societe des Bains de Mer. The company consisted of a handful of hotels, a theater, and a casino, which would soon flourish and become the foundation of the magnificent district of Monte-Carlo.

Map of Monaco

Trivia:  people from Monaco are called "Monegasque" or "Monacan".

Rock of Monaco

Monaco consists of four quarters - Fontvieille, La Condamine, Monaco-Ville, and Monte-Carlo.  Monaco-Ville on the Rock consists of the old fortified town, with the Prince's Palace, the ramparts, the gardens, the Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum.

The Rock of Monaco is an ancient walled city, overlooking the sea.  It was interesting to reach "The Rock of Monaco" - we drove into an "underground" parking garage and took an elevator and escalator to the top where we disembarked on the Rock of Monaco!

Cathedral Building Coat of Arms
Monaco Cathedral (19th Century)    
Rock of Monaco Soldier Rock of Monaco
Inside the Palace Square   Guards
Monte Carlo

Monte-Carlo, created in 1866, named in honor of Prince Charles III, hosts an internationally famous Casino, luxury hotels and leisure facilities, some created recently from land reclaimed from the sea.

En route to Monte Carlo, we traveled along a portion of the Grand Prix Motor Race circuit.

The Casino was Barb's top priority destination on the cruise.  We had to plan our entire cruise wardrobe around this stop - "Bathing suits, beachwear, jogging suits, jeans and/or tennis shoes are not permitted in the Grand Casino".   (yeh, like we were planning on wearing bathing suits ...)

Monte Carlo Harbor Casino Barb
Monaco Harbor The back of the casino  
Casino sign

Cha-Ching !

Lady Luck smiled on us - the slot machines tripled our Euros in about 30 minutes.

Casino
Casino Monte Carlo

Charles Garnier, the architect of the opera house in Paris, built the Casino in 1878. The “atrium”, paved in marble, is surrounded by 28 Ionic columns in onyx. It leads into the auditorium of the opera, called the “Salle Garnier”, which is decorated in red and gold, with a profusion of bas-reliefs, frescoes and sculptures. Here, for some than a century, outstanding international performances of operas, ballets and concerts have been staged. The “gaming rooms” comprise a succession of numerous rooms featuring stained glass windows, admirable decorations and sculptures, allegorical paintings and bronze lamps. 

It's pretty ritzy!   You can just picture James Bond sitting at the high stakes tables in a tuxedo. 

Casino Floor Plan Casino Atrium
Casino floor plan Casino Atrium
Casino Casino Harbor at night
Casino Monaco flags Leaving Villefranche harbor
 

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