VOL. 12 NO. 4
|The Independent Traveler's Newsletter|
|As Luck Would Have It:|
Would Have It:
Ici et Là
Monaco Casino, Salle Europe
Money-Saving Travel Tips
the Béarn and
Tales of Monaco's Casino
by Arthur Gillette
According to a tenacious family legend (myth?), my parents happened to be at Monaco's Casino one evening ca. 1932 when somebody broke the bank: pandemonium (from ancient Greek meaning 'Devil's uproar')! I first heard the story as an impressionable six- or seven-year-old; that singular event, and its palatial context, have intrigued some tiny corner of my mind ever since. Not that I'm a gambler – never have been and probably never shall be.
The up-and-down history of that particular Casino might, however, tempt one in that direction. In fact, it all began under a singularly inauspicious star. For centuries the Principality of Monaco reached almost as far as the Italian border. In 1861, however, it had to sell off two-thirds of its territory to France. The ruling Grimaldi family picked up four million Francs on the deal, but Monaco lost its chief resources: mainly agricultural ~ olives, citrus fruit. At that time, ruler Prince Charles III had already allowed a local casino to take up gambling (then forbidden in France, Italy and England), but the venture failed.
needing a new source of (preferably huge) income, Charles turned to a businessman/adventurer
named François Blanc, who had become rich by starting a casino at
Bad Homburg, Germany, and who was nicknamed 'The Homburg Sorcerer'. And
the wheel of Monaco's fortunes turned! In exchange for $200,000 and a 50-year
monopoly, Blanc launched in 1863 what was to become one of the most successful
gambling operations in history, half the profits being shared with Charles
Helping the wheel turn (no pun intended) was the arrival of railways, making Monaco almost a suburb of affluent Nice and putting it little more than overnight by the luxurious Blue Train from Paris ~ at whose Gare de Lyon the Belle Epoque Train Bleu Restaurant still flourishes ~ as does an eatery by the same name at the Casino itself.
quarter of the Principality renamed for the Prince, Monte Carlo (Mount
Casino and attendant hotels, not to forget a lavish opera, were soon under
construction. A primary architect was Charles Garnier whose Paris
Opera was already becoming a gem of France's Second Empire. [*
'Monaco' itself may stem from ancient worship, there or nearby and under
Greek influence, of Herakles Monoïkos, roughly 'Hercules the Loner'.]
> as this edition of our newsletter takes you from Monaco to the Atlantic Coast and to some places in between . . . offering you a variety of locales in France from which to choose for your next visit.
> to take a tour of L'Île d'Yeu to discover some of its attractions and its secrets.
> and enjoy the adventure of uncovering the elusive truffle in Var Black Gold, an article by Anita Rieu-Sicart from the Var Village Voice.
> to read our Feature on the Béarn and Pays Basque of southwestern France ~ a region filled with delights and great travel experiences.
> and take part in a visit to France's Jura wine region with Wink Lorch of Wine Travel Guides in our French Wine Report.
ENIGMAS . . . A Quiz on Your
Knowledge of Historic Paris
by Arthur Gillette
Question from the last issue: Who asked "Is Paris burning?", and why?
Answer: In 1944, after D Day, and about the time the Resistance uprising started in the French capital, Hitler ordered that all the city's bridges and main monuments (e.g. the Eiffel Tower) be mined. As the Allies approached and the Resistance began really to take hold, the order came to blow the place up. Although known as ein Ganz Harter (a 'real toughie'), German commander of Gross Paris, Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, could not bring himself to reduce the City of Light's major monuments to ruins. On August 25th, a furious Führer sent von Choltitz a simple message: "Brennt Paris?!" The General didn't have the time (or wish) to answer since he was just about to surrender.
Our new question: What and where is the oldest living tree in Paris, and where did it come from?
Gillette, and take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
[See the answer
to this edition's question
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