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Phespirit goes to Monaco
districts     November 2005

From Nice on the French Mediterranean coast, Phespirit boarded the 9:06am train heading east, arriving in Monaco twenty-five minutes later. He detrained in the middle of the vast subterranean station, took a few minutes to get orientated, then marched back towards the Nice end of the platform where a long access tunnel leads out to Boulevard Rainier III, on the edge of La Condamine district. The length of the platform and the tunnel together is over 700m; quite significant in a country whose total land area is just two square kilometres.

Monaco is the second smallest nation on Earth, with only Vatican City smaller. This means that visitors stand a pretty good chance of being able to walk its length and breadth, north, south, east, west, all in single a day. Phespirit set to his task accordingly:

First to Stade Louis II, close to the western border with France. Phespirit was keen for a look around the home of AS Monaco Football Club but was uncertain of their guided tour times. He arrived shortly before 10:00am, about half an hour too early for an official tour, but the supremely helpful receptionist was kind enough to relieve him of two Euros and personally escort him through the back corridors of the stadium and out onto the pitch. Excellent service. First objective achieved.

Where next? One of the done things for tourists is to observe the midday Changing of the Guard at the Prince's Palace. This being a full hour hence, Phespirit detoured to the Jardin Exotique, high upon the slopes of Moneghetti. Nice gardens, nice views, but Phespirit was particularly seduced by the Grotte de l'Observatoire: the underground caverns. His dilemma was that entry is by guided tour only; tours last forty minutes and the next tour was at 11:00am, so he would miss the ceremony at the palace. (thinks for an instant). No dilemma really: the guards were blown out. Instead, Phespirit got to wander around one of the most spectacular cave systems he has ever seen anywhere in the world. Well worth it.

With no other time-dependent activities to distract him, Phespirit sauntered down towards the headland of Monaco-Ville. He took time to appreciate the character of Monaco: a country painted in mustard and apricot; a city to be navigated in three dimensions. As with Hong Kong, what appears to be just a short walk on a street map may actually involve a steep climb or sharp descent. Once on the headland Phespirit photographed the palace and cathedral, and visited the Musée Océanographique et Aquarium. More must-see ticks.

From Monaco-Ville he walked on to La Condamine, from where the Grand Prix starts and finishes, and where yachts worth inestimable millions are moored by the hundred in Port Hercule. From here he walked to Monte Carlo and popped into the Casino. Being wretchedly scruffy, Phespirit never stood any chance of getting close to the gaming tables, but was at least able to lower the tone in the foyer for a few minutes. Finally, from Monte Carlo he walked to Larvotto, location of Monaco's man-made beach. Larvotto marks the eastern frontier of the country, so having walked the length and breadth of Monaco, all in a single day, Phespirit's work here was complete. He returned from whence he came - job done.

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