Saturday, June 28, 2014
France 2014: Road Trip to Monaco
When we bought an IPAD SIM card with a data plan for France from the TelComm provider French Mobile, we were told that it would not work in Monaco. We quickly established that this was not so, and we were able to use our IPAD everywhere within Monaco with no issues.
Many of the vintage cars had sleek hood ornaments that imbued speed and motion, including a greyhound, a panther, a goose, and several art deco styled winged female forms with long, flowing hair. Another unique decoration popular in the 1910-1940s was the bouquet holder or car vase, made of either glass or metal and which came in different colours and patterns. It was attached to the dashboard to hold a few sprigs of fragrant flowers and was the precursor to the modern day cardboard pine tree air freshener. With so many gorgeous vehicles to look at, lyrics from the Loving Spoonful song comes to mind–"Did you ever have to make up your mind? Pick up on one and leave the other behind?"
A bronze sculpture in the courtyard and multiple paintings inside the palace commemorate the tale of how François Grimaldi seized control of the castle in 1297 by disguising himself as a monk to infiltrate the stronghold. From the rampart walls, you can look down to see beautiful views of the harbour and other parts of the area.
One of the highlights of a palace visit is watching the changing of the guard, which happens daily at noon in the courtyard of the palace. Large crowds gather in a semi-circle to witness the ceremony, which includes a fleet of white-clad soldiers who march in various formations, salute each other, raise and lower their rifles and stand for inspection while a small military marching band plays a reveille.
In fact, Albert provides the welcoming introduction to the audio guide. Many of rooms on display are decorated and furnished in the styles of former French palaces. There is a Mirror Gallery that is modeled after the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, while a gold bedroom is named to reflect its inspiration–"King Louis XV Bedchamber". The regal red Throne Room is where all state ceremonies are held and features portraits of former princes and dignitaries. The modern and rather tacky family portrait of Prince Ranier III, his wife Princess Grace, their three children Albert, Caroline and Stéphanie, complete with family dog, seems out of place with the rest of the paintings. It is interesting to note that although Ranier is the head of state, Grace seems to be the head of the household, since she clearly is the focus of the portrait. Another point to ponder is why all the rest of the family are touching one another, but no one is touching Grace?
An art exposition for both professional and amateur local artists of Monaco was being held at the Ranier III Auditorium by the harbour. It was actually quite difficult to find this building and we had to use the Google maps on our IPAD to track it down. Once there, we saw some interesting works in various mediums including painting, photography and sculpture. I particularly liked the sculpture of a pair of black stiletto-heeled open-toe sandals with multi-coloured paints dripping from the shoes down the stand on which the piece is displayed. I like when a work of art leaks into its environment, similar to when artists extend their paintings onto the frame or the sides of the canvas.
Our day spent in Monaco was a great way to top off our weekend road trip and allowed Rich to tick off another country from his bucket list.