Thursday, June 15, 2017

Monaco - an unprincipled Principality?

Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco, sits on the French Riviera bordered on three sides by France and on the fourth by the Mediterranean Sea. At a minuscule total area of 3/4 square mile and a population less than 40,000 it is the second smallest country in the world and the most densely populated, even after years of aggressive land reclamation which increased its area by 1/5. To squeeze the utmost out of the available space, many roads and most parking lots are now underground making double use of that land area. 

The latest upscale high rise apartments, available from as little as $7,500 per square foot, have solved their parking problem as follows. Approach your address and press a button on a remote control. A large door opens in the side of your building. Drive in and press another button. Aha! - this is not your garage it is an elevator which whisks you up to your apartment level, still in your vehicle. Another door opens and you drive into your garage right next to your living room. Cute. Known as a playground for the rich and famous it is estimated that around 30% of the Principality's population are millionaires.
Billed, somewhat laughably, as a loose constitutional monarchy, Prince Albert II, as head of state, essentially runs the place. In fact, Albert's family, the House of Grimaldi, have ruled Monaco almost without interruption since the late 13th century. Never a family to get along well with others, the Grimaldis were ejected from their original domicile, the Genoa region of what is now Italy, in 1297 or thereabouts. They traveled west along the shoreline until they came upon a monastery of affable monks who agreed to let them abide a while while they got their act together. The Grimaldis took a shine to the highly defensible location and decided instead to slaughter the monks and call the place home. Monaco became a full United Nations voting member in 1993.
Enjoying the good life for almost 5 centuries by taxing the folk in the locality, all went quietly until around the time of the French Revolution. Emboldened by events throughout France, the local uppity serfs said "No more" and Monaco began to fall on hard times. Eventually, after a false start or two, the dynasty was saved by the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century along with the opening of a casino modeled on similar businesses flourishing in Germany at the time. The later stroke of declaring the country a tax haven sealed their recognition as a playground for the excessively rich and more or less famous, all with year round gorgeous weather. What's not to like?
Monte Carlo - literally Mount Charles in Italian - is the largest of the four administrative areas of Monaco and, near its western end, lurks the world-famous Place du Casino as well as the Hôtel de Paris, the Café de Paris, and the Salle Garnier, home of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo. The eastern part of the quarter includes Monaco's only public beach, the recent Grimaldi Forum convention center, and the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. More images, click here.

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