September 22, 2011

Monaco - No Income Taxes; 0% Unemployment and #1 Export is Pharmaceuticals (hmmmm)

While we were in the Cote d'Azur, we thought we'd take a roadtrip to visit Monaco for an afternoon. The only thing I really knew about Monaco was that it was very small, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956 and the current Grimaldi's (Albert and Caroline) have had numerous scandals and sordid affairs linked to them. I obviously knew about the Casino (hey, I watched Casino Royale) and that they host the annual Grand Prix race there. But that's about where my knowledge ends.

The weather wasn't too great for our adventure, although I'll take a little drizzle and grey clouds over actual "rain" so I'm not really going to complain. It just would have been nice to have had some sunshine.

It took us about 2 hours to drive from St Tropez to Monaco. I suspect if Avis had sported us in a beautiful Bentley, Aston Martin or other high-performance vehicle, we could have cut that time by at least 45 minutes. Let's just say that the Ford Fiesta doesn't understand "high-performance".

Although Monaco is tiny (just under two square kilometers), it's very hilly, so us old people decided to take a tour on one of those open-top buses that let you jump on/off at various stops around the town. It's also a good way to learn more about the city than you would have otherwise on your own since they have those handy recordings you listen to as the bus drives around.

Here's some interesting facts about Monaco:
  • It's the second smallest independent State in the world (the Vatican is the smallest)
  • There is no income tax
  • Their number one export is pharmaceuticals (I certainly did not see any factories in the 2 square kilometers that I visited, so you have to wonder WHAT they're cooking up there) . . . just sayin'
  • They have zero unemployment
  • Monaco boasts the world's highest GDP nominal per capita at $151,630 and is the most densely populated country in the world (31,000+ live there)
  • They have one of the world's longest life expectancy rates at just under 90 years
  • They are reclaiming land from the sea to expand the city limits
  • The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco since 1297
  • Citizens of Monaco are not allowed to gamble in its Casinos

So after sightseeing for a few hours, I have to say that Monaco is one of those places that I'll tick off on my long list of "places I'd like to see before I die" and will most likely never visit again. The town held very little charm for me, which was kind of a surprise. I was even a little disappointed by the palace -- it didn't seem very "palace-like" in its appearance and it's a fairly understated building with not a lot of architectural detail, except for the medieval part of the structure.

While eating lunch at one of the local restaurants, we were quite entertained by a group of 6 young ladies that were also visiting for the day. They all were participating in a "study abroad" program for a semester in Florence, Italy (jealous!) and had come from various places in the United States (not sure what college they were attending). They all seemed to enjoy some of the finer things in life (can you say spoiled rich girls?), most particularly a substantial "allowance" for travel while they were abroad. I'm not sure how much studying will be involved as all they could talk about were all the places in Europe that they couldn't wait to visit (and boys).

These girls were absolutely clueless about anything French and it was funny watching them try to navigate a French menu. Pretty much every thing on the list of "Don't do while traveling to call attention to yourself as an American Tourist" they did/said. I wish I had recorded some of their conversations to to share with you because it was pretty hilarious. You could tell that they were afraid of the dishes on the menu and pretty much the only thing they all ordered were French fries, yet they didn't know how to ask for some in French; P-O-M-M-E   F-R-I-T-E-S was way too difficult for them to say; and I about doubled over laughing when I overhead one of them in her best Texas drawl ask her server about what "Foooey grass" was (Foie gras).

I sure hope their Daddies don't expect that their expensive education is going to yield much more than a rich husband.

C'est la vie, right?

You can view our pictures from Monaco here.

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