November            2008
VOL. 12                 NO. 4
  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter

  As Luck Would Have It:

As Luck Would Have It: 
  Tales of Monaco's Casino
  by Arthur Gillette

Paris Enigmas

Ici et Là

Var Black Gold
   ~ The Truffle
  by Anita Rieu-Sicart

Monaco Casino Salle Europe - copyright Société des Bains de Mer, Monaco

        Monaco Casino, Salle Europe

France's Nantucket 
  ~ L'Île d'Yeu
  by Arthur Gillette

Money-Saving Travel Tips

FEATURING the Béarn and
     Pays Basque

French Wine Report: 
  ~ Discovering the Jura Wine Route
  by Wink Lorch 

         Tales of Monaco's Casino 
                                                                              by Arthur Gillette 
'Monaco's Casino' - do those words evoke for you visions of fabulous bets made by the 
crème-de-la-crème of the world's wealthy, huge winnings, and  perhaps a suicide or two after equally vast  losses? Well they might, for the Casino is a centerpiece of the glittering history of that ferociously independent Principality. Arthur Gillette recently visited it  for France On Your Own
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 Monaco's Bell Epoque Casino copyright C. Clarkterritory 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.

Thereafter, 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 Grimaldi.
                                                                                                     21st century sculpture tips its hat to the Belle Epoque Casino
                                                                                                                                       Photo courtesy of C. Clark

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. 

In a quarter of the Principality renamed for the Prince, Monte Carlo (Mount Charles*), the 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'.]
                                                                                                                         continued on page 2

Look inside

  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.


  PARIS 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?

Contact Arthur Gillette,  and take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
 by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages StrollsEmail:

[See the answer to this edition's question
revealed in our February 2009 issue.]


Wine Travel Guides - photo © Nigel Blythe/Cephas

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