Poor 1%

Seven Euros fifty gets you to and from Monte Carlo and Nice. Very nice. While there I learned some interesting things.  I did not know the difference between Monte Carlo and Monaco so in my bad French, I asked someone I took to be a local. After some thought he replied, Monte Carlo is Italian and Monaco is French. Get the hook. Later I discovered that Monte Carlo is the city and Monaco is the country. Another question I had — how is it that this incredibly beautiful but tiny country is independent? Surrounded by France on three sides and the Mediterranean Sea on the other Monaco has been ruled by essentially the same family for about 715 years, the Grimaldi family.  Yes Grace Kelly married one. Except for a brief stint of French occupation during the French revolution, Monaco has remained independent. Nice its near neighbor changed hands multiple times during the 715 year period.  The answer to the question is complicated but mostly it seems to be a combination of inaccessibility, not worth the trouble to take and some luck. The “rock” of Monaco rises 141 meters (459 feet) out of the Mediterranean Sea and upon which sits a fortress. By contrast Gibraltar is 426 meters. Still 459 feet seems impregnable to me. Cannon balls fired nearly straight up return to their owners more rapidly than wished. The Roman poet Virgil called it “that castled cliff, Monoecus by the sea” (Aeneid, VI.830).

I am informed that Monaco has about 15,000 citizens. An observant accountant will notice that there are 14,867 yachts in Monte Carlo harbor of varying sizes. Any of which, if sold and the proceeds donated to Alex Inc. would be enough to retire on. Bountiful Bentley, amazing amounts of Aston-Martins,  Rolls Royce and Ferrari.  I saw a number of cars that were to me unrecognizable but they looked more than just expensive. There was even a baby Bentley a two-seater. So cute. Who is your daddy baby?  The taxis were recently minted Mercedes Benz.  I did some apartment window shopping. A studio apartment (300 sf) runs about 300,000 euros or 467,00 dollars. So that is about 10,000 euros per square foot. We just thought Austin real estate was expensive. Wonder where the poor live? Taxis. In front of the casino were about 25 private parking spaces. No car parked was under 250,000 euros new. I wondered how much one had to lose to earn one. It wasn’t always this way. The grand casino was built in in the 1850’s but Monaco was an unlikely place for a resort to succeed. The lack of roads needed to connect Monaco to Nice and the rest of Europe, the absence of comfortable accommodations for visitors, as well as the concessionaires’ failure to publicize the new resort, resulted in far fewer customers than was originally anticipated. In fact it wasn’t until the railroad came to Monte Carlo that the casino became popular and profitable. Until recently the Monte Carlo Casino has been the primary source of income for the House of Grimaldi and the Monaco economy. The dinner bell rang but I noticed that prices were not Nice. I grabbed the the next train out. As I watched the city light flash by, an old refrain from Janis Joplin wouldn’t leave my brain.  “Oh lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz…”

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