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Dr John Hawkins

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Posted on 2009/07/05 16:55:39 (July 2009).

[Sunday 28th June]
I'd very much wanted to stay a night in Monaco, and for various reasons we'd decided it would work out best to make that the second night of our holiday. So, after checking out of our hotel in Nice, we headed straight to the station, and after quite a long wait for a train, headed in the direction of Monte Carlo.

We arrived in Monaco just after 1 o' clock and after a bit of confusion about how to even get out of the station, we took a taxi from there to our hotel.

We'd chosen the hotel we were staying at - the Monte Carlo Bay - because a former colleague of Chie's former boss worked there. It was a sort of a resort hotel, owned by the same company that also owned the famous Hotel de Paris next to the casino. The room was great - we had a balcony overlooking the hotel's large outdoor pool, and from there out to sea. Quite spectacular.

Tempting as it was to just hang around the hotel for the rest of the day, we thought we should probably go out for a walk and maybe find somewhere to have a late lunch. We'd just missed the shuttle that would take us towards the centre (our hotel was at the Eastern edge of Monaco), and so we rather naively thought we should just walk instead. Having recently read that the whole of Monaco is just 0.75 square miles, I'd assumed it would be a very walkable sort of place. However in practice it is an intricate maze of windy streets on lots of different levels, the bulk of them are entirely residential, and they don't always link up very well. There seems to be no real obvious centre to the place, most of the shops etc we did find were closed with it being a Sunday. So with a combination of all that plus the heat, and the fact I still wasn't feeling 100%, it made for a somewhat less-than-pleasant afternoon stroll. There were a couple of highlights - the Japanese gardens were nice - and I suppose in hindsight some of the little passages and stairways were quite interesting - but at the time it all seemed a bit oppressive and I was glad when we finally made it back to the hotel.

Things definitely picked up from there. Towards the end of the afternoon we went for a very nice swim in the hotel's pool, and afterwards sat for a while on sun loungers, ordered a couple of reassuringly overpriced drinks, and had a generally very relaxing time of it.

In the evening we were both very keen to visit the famous Monte Carlo Casino. We'd read that they take the dress code quite seriously, so I'd brought a suit and Chie had brought an evening dress with her. We took a taxi from the hotel to the casino (no more walking in Monaco for me!). Having effectively missed lunch altogether we thought it wise to eat before any gambling ensued so went to a modest little Italian restaurant called "Tip Top", recommended to us by the taxi driver, which was pleasant enough.

Our hotel was apparently owned by the same company that owned the casino (The Société des Bains de Mer - which is effectibvely owned by the state of Monaco) and several of the other big hotels in Monaco. When you stay at one of these hotels they give you a "Carte d'Or" which gives you free entry to the casino, including the slightly more exclusive "Salons Privés" which usually cost even more to get into, and are only used by really serious gamblers.

No photography is allowed in the casino - probably just as well really - so you'll just have to take my word for it that the interior is really rather splendid - all chandliers and ornate painted ceilings. It was a bit quieter than I expected - maybe because it was a Sunday night - but that worked perfectly for me, I think I might have been too embarassed to actually gamble anything if the place was thronging.

After a thorough stroll around the place (including taking in the Salons Privés, where I felt like a total imposter) we sat down close to one of the roulette tables in the Salons Européens for quite a while, to try and figure out the system, so as not to look like a complete idiot. Eventually I plucked up the courage to go and turn some cash into chips (I'd decided 50 Euros was an appropriate sum for a beginner like myself) and then went and took up a seat at the table we'd been watching. The minimum bet was 5 Euros, and my 50 Euros cash had been turned into 10 5 Euro chips. I went through five or six rounds, each time just putting down the minimum bet, and each time losing it. Eventually I was down to about 3 chips, thinking I was probably just going to lose the lot, when to my pleasant surprise a chip I had put on the corner of four numbers won me back 8 chips, meaning I was now 5 Euros in profit overall!

I decided to call it a night at that point, changed my 55 Euros of chips back into cash, and left the casino feeling really rather smug with my 5 Euro profit.

After leaving we went for a bit of a night time stroll in the area around the casino - it's in a sort of square on a hill with gardens in the middle, and there's a series of fountains going up the hill, which makes for some really nice night time views down to the casino.

Still keen to avoid walking through the perilously complex streets of Monaco, we decided to get the night bus back to the hotel. It seemingly went on a tour of the entire country before finally ending up somewhere near our hotel.

Comment 1

Ah, winning money at the Casino.. :D I am really a bad player because I care too much about the money that I bet and that is not the right attitude... Still I managed to win quite a lot (compared to the initial amount) during the years.. But then again I rarely go to casinos...

Posted by Lox at 2009/07/05 17:36:43.

Comment 2

Yes I can't really imagine you going on a wild gambling spree Lox. :)

I think it's one of those things you should only do if you actually enjoy the gambling itself - with a game like roulette there's no possible way to have any strategy or skill, it's just pure luck, and obviously the odds are always stacked in the casino's favour. You'd have to be crazy to go into it as a means of trying to make money!

I found surprisingly though I did really enjoy it - I think even if I'd lost the money I had to gamble I would still have enjoyed it - the atmosphere of the whole thing, particularly in Monte Carlo, and the strange sense of release that comes from being so irresponsible with money, given that most of us spend most of our lives enslaved to it!

Posted by John at 2009/07/05 18:25:01.

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