Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 7 - Monte Carlo

Wow, wow, wow! Monte Carlo, Monaco is easily the most wealthy place I have ever seen.

You enter Monte Carlo by one steep road that leads down from the autoroute. As you follow the steep road down, you pass gorgeous old buildings and narrow streets intermixed with newer construction. Beneath you lies the Mediterranean and the gem of Monte Carlo – high rise hotels mixed with the amazing casino, the ancient Paris hotel, luxury boutiques, and the port filled with unbelievable yachts.

Luckily, Alex grabbed the camera and took some photos of our drive into Monte Carlo.

We stayed at Le Meridien, which is a Sheraton hotel. We have a vacation secret – Sheraton Club Points. They enabled us to stay at Le Meridien – free! Thank you, Sheraton Club! The pool was easily the kids’ favorite part of Monaco.

Here are some pictures Alex took of the hotel.

And here are some pictures of the view from the terrace!

Besides the photos of the hotel and the view from our terrace, here’s an idea of the level of service you can expect in Monaco. When we arrived, I was still driving Julie’s rental car. The plan was to return the car to the “nearby” car rental office. Ha! The drive into the hotel was so fraught with traffic and bad directions from the GPS that Mike was dreading returning the car. As we were discussing how long it would take (potentially hours!), the concierge overheard us and said, “Oh, we can return your car for you. The rental agency is quite far away, and we can call them and take care of that for you.” Voila! He called them, and that was it! No more rental car. Sweet!

We had our last meal with Grom, Julie, and Alex in Monte Carlo. It was bittersweet because everyone was trying hard not to be sad.

The funny twist to their departure was Joe. Let me explain. When we arrived at the hotel, there was a Rolls Royce parked in the driveway with the vanity plate “Joes”. We laughed and said, “I wonder who Joe is!” Well – we met him! When we were all standing outside the hotel, kissing and hugging goodbye (and leaking tears!), a swarthy gentleman came through the doors. He was speaking English, so he noticed us right away. He asked where we were from, and when we said, “California.”, he said, “We were just singing Hotel California!” We all started singing together as Grom, Alex, and Julie climbed into their taxi. Next thing we knew, the man climbed into the back of the Rolls while his driver climbed into the front. Mike quickly knocked on the window of the taxi and said, “Hey! That was Joe! Look!” and he pointed at the Rolls.

That night and the next day we spent distracting the kids from being sad that Grom, Alex, and Julie were gone. Luckily, the weather in Monte Carlo was phenomenal! It was almost 80 degrees while we sat eating in a swank cafĂ© on the promenade. Oh la la! So, we wandered around the town and the beach – and had a few more swims in the pool!

It was a great visit with everyone, but far, far too short! Alex, you were absolutely wonderful. Julie, you were very entertaining. Grom, the kids are still talking about all the great stories you told them in the car. It was such a delight to see you all and watch you discover France. Come back very, very soon!

Next stop – Genoa, Italy!

Love to all!!

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