The second-smallest state in Europe (Vatican City is the tiniest), Monaco comprises five main parts. The Old Town, Monaco-Ville, on a promontory, "the Rock," 60m (200 ft.) high, is the seat of the royal palace and government building, as well as the Oceanographic Museum. To the west, La Condamine is at the foot of the Old Town, forming its harbor and port sector. Up from the port (walking is steep in Monaco) is Monte Carlo, once the playground of European royalty and still the center for the wintering wealthy, the setting for the casino, gardens, and deluxe hotels. The fourth part, Fontvieille, is a neat industrial suburb. To the east of Monte-Carlo is Larvotto, the beachside suburb towards the French border that attracts a chic crowd, including movie stars in scanty bikinis and thongs.
No one used to go to Monaco in summer, but now that has totally changed -- in fact, July and August tend to be so crowded that it's hard to get a room. Although Monaco is developing a broader base of tourism (you can stay here moderately -- but it's misleading to suggest that you can stay cheaply), the Monégasques very frankly court the affluent visitor. And at the casinos here, you can also lose your shirt. "Suicide Terrace" at the casino, though not used as frequently as in the old days, is still a real temptation to many who have foolishly gambled away family fortunes.
Life still focuses on the Casino de Monte-Carlo, which has been the subject of countless legends and the setting for many films (remember poor Lucy Ricardo and the chip she found lying on the casino floor?). Depending on the era, you might have seen Mata Hari shooting a tsarist colonel with a jewel-encrusted revolver when he tried to slip his hand inside her bra to discover her secrets -- military, not mammary. The late King Farouk, known as "the Swine," used to devour as many as eight roast guinea hens and 50 oysters before losing thousands at the table. Richard Burton presented Elizabeth Taylor with the obscenely huge Kohinoor diamond here. Surrounded by cultivated gardens, the casino stands on a panoramic terrace, offering one of the grandest views along the entire Riviera.
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