Sunday, May 27, 2012

Monaco and Garden Space

We were only in Monaco for 4 days and 3 nights (so really only for 2 full days), but we saw so much that you all are going to have to put up with a few more posts on it :)

So, you would think that being the most densely populated country in the world as well as being built on rocky cliffs would mean few trees and little greenery, right?  WRONG!

First off, having a fantastically mild Mediterranean climate means that all sorts of plants will grow, given space.  One just needs to find that space - and the people of Monaco seem to be fantastic at it! 

If you look closely at the picture above, you will see that many of the buildings have rooftop gardens.  I was blown away at some of the roof gardens I saw - some of them were garden courtyards complete with good sized trees!

Yep, this is a roof garden!
Can you spot the trees on top of the high rise on the left?
 And it wasn't just roofs of buildings that had garden areas on them...

They didn't even stop at rooftops in Monaco.  Many apartment balconies had planters, and some windowless places even had living, green walls.

Even the rocky cliffs were pretty green, with plants growing in nooks and crannies.

It was rather funny to see the familiar Dusty Miller growing like weeds in cliff crevices.  (No wonder that plant grows so well for me - it's really a weed in disguise!)

Dusty miller and a pretty yellow wildflower growing on the side of a cliff
With the climate and terrain, all sorts of plants grow in Monaco.  It was strange to see tropical palm trees as well as desert agaves and prickly pears often growing right next to more familiar leafy plants.

Monaco also dedicates several areas to gardens and public green areas.  Many of the paths along the edge of the cliff are surrounded by public park areas.

No, this picture is not crooked - in this sloped area all of the trees are leaning... Some trees are leaning so much they need support.

I love how this country really takes care of its gardens and strives to add greenery in such a populated area.  There must be many devoted gardeners in Monaco - plants seem to be squeezed in wherever possible.

 And the next post will focus on some of the exquisite public gardens in Monaco!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monaco - the Non-Gardening Edition

I am back from the beautiful country of Monaco!  A whirlwind four day-three night trip sandwiched between dropping the kids off in Georgia (the state, not the country) to stay with the grandparents has made for a nice long, travel-filled vacation.

Monaco was gorgeous.  Located on the French Riviera, I can definitely see why the area is called "the Azure Coast."  Blue skies, blue water, and perfect weather were in abundance on our trip.

This is a section of the nearby coast of France, right outside Monaco. 
According to our tour guide (who was a living issue of People magazine), Bono and Elton John both have houses here.
Monaco is the world's second smallest country (behind Vatican City) with an area of less than one square mile!  It has a population of around 36,000 people in this area, making it the most densely populated country in the world.  There isn't room for an airport (we flew into Nice, France), but it does have an International Heliport!

A view of the Monte Carlo casino
Our hotel was in Monte Carlo, the most famous section of Monaco and well known for its beautiful casino.  We didn't visit the casino, having so many other things to see in our short trip and not feeling a great urge to lose some money!

Surprisingly, citizens of Monaco are not allowed to gamble or even go into the casino.
We only saw the casino from a distance.  In the picture above you can see scaffolding in front of it - this is for seating for the big event coming up this week - the Monaco Grand Prix!  Everywhere we saw preparations going on for the race - there were gates and walls of tires to shield buildings (just in case!) and stands of seats with giant screens nearby.

Here you can view the race from the stands or from your yacht!
Monaco, which has no income tax, is home to the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world.  I have never seen so many Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Rolls-Royces in my life, not to mention a Bugatti (a car I had never heard of, but my excited husband assured me it goes really, really fast).  My husband got the thrill of his life when we went out for a fancy dinner and he was asked by the hostess if he owned the red Ferrari parked outside (one that we had been standing next to ogling).

Mais oui, Madame, but we seem to have misplaced our valet stub... Perhaps you could just give us the keys?
Of course there was also some beautiful architecture...

Saint Nicholas Cathedral, where many members of the royal family are buried, including Grace Kelly
the courthouse in Monaco
However, I think the most stunning attraction of Monaco is the beautiful rocky cliffs against which the country is nestled. 

With a dearth of available land, houses and other buildings are built right up against the cliffs.

I'm not even quite sure how you get up to some of the houses that were perched up there!  I'm sure it offered an amazing view, though.

An exterior wall of the Musée Océanographique de Monaco
With its mild Mediterranean climate, there is an abundance of plant life in Monaco, even on the cliff faces, and several exquisite gardens are located there.  But I think all those pictures will need to spill into another post!

a cliff-side pathway overlooking the Mediterranean Sea

Friday, May 11, 2012

Leavin' on a jet plane..

A few weeks ago, Mr. Red House called me from work.  "Hi, honey," he said.  "Guess what I won today - an all-expense paid vacation for two for 4 days and 3 nights to Monte Carlo!"  "Yeah, right," I replied.  "No, I'm serious," said Mr. Red House.  "We're going to Monte Carlo!"

My mind raced.  Mr. Red House is pretty tenderhearted, but I would have thought him to be too smart to fall for such an obvious scam!  Did he give them bank account information? What in the world did we actually pay for this 'vacation'?  Could we get out of it?  Did we need to start calling our credit card company?

But my fears were unfounded.  Mr. Red House had actually won a vacation as an award through his work for his last project.  We are going to Monte Carlo!!

picture from Wikipedia
We are leaving this weekend, so that means that I will be on a blogging vacation all next week.  Time for some rest and relaxation! 

Not that I plan to rest too much - I'm going to be that badly dressed tourist happily snapping pictures of everything.  See you in a few days with lots of pictures, I'm sure.  Until then, happy gardening!

Do you think four pairs of shoes are too many to pack?..

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