The Principality of Monaco is between Nice and Menton on the Côte d’Azur. It’s a city state completely surrounded by France on three sides with access to the Mediterranean on the fourth. It’s a tiny place – less than a square mile in surface area. It shares the curious distinction of being both the most densely populated and second smallest country in the world. The house of Grimaldi has ruled since the end of the 13th century. Today Prince Albert II presides as the head of a constitutional monarchy. He succeeded his father Ranier, who was married to the beautiful American actress Grace Kelly. The picture of the elaborate door is from Saint Nicholas Cathedral where Grace Kelly and Prince Ranier were married and are also buried.
The 19th century railroad connecting all the towns and cities of the Riviera and the casino in the Monte Carlo neighborhood brought prosperity to the little realm. (Curiously, Monagasque citizens are not allowed to gamble there.) There’s a 10 Euro charge just to walk through the casino. In addition to tourism, Monaco expanded its offerings to include banking and preferential tax arrangements for those who finagle an address here. It has no unemployment, the highest per capital income in the world, and the world’s highest life expectancy at 90 years. It has more millionaires and billionaires per square mile on the world’s most expensive real estate. Not being a gambler, I preferred the area high above the port where the Palace is located. The views from the Jardin Exotique are pretty sensational. You can also visit the Oceanographic Museum.
Today’s expression, tu veux parier? (tew vuh pair-ee-ay) means “you want to bet?” You use the expression in situations where you’re being a little sarcastic or sassy, like if someone said to me, “You don’t need another pair of shoes!” I’d say, “You wanna bet?” I’m much more likely to bet on a new pair of shoes than red or black at a casino and they always make me feel like a winner.