Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Monte San Salvatore rises on one side of the crescent bay where the town of Lugano, Switzerland graces the shores of Lake Lugano

Click on title to view photo in large format. The iconic Monte San Salvatore, rising abruptly from the shore of Lake Lugano, is the most famous sight in the city of Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano has long been a favorite destination with the rich and famous. Not so well-heeled tourists, however, will also find much to do. In addition to cruises on Lake Lugano, the surrounding foothills of the Swiss Alps offer a cornucopia of hiking opportunities. For the more sedentary, a funicular whisks passengers to the top of Monte San Salvatore for Read More

Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) in Milan, Italy

Click on title to view photo in large format. Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano in Italian) is the landmark for which the city of Milan, Italy is best known. The enormous Gothic cathedral was built of brick and faced with marble from the Candoglia quarry. Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo ordered construction to begin in 1386, but before long work stalled due to lack of funds. In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte Read More

It’s official. I’ve visited the two smallest countries in the world: Vatican City, and now the Principality of Monaco. The difference between the two, aside from the fact that the first is a City-State and the latter a Principality, is that I was excited to go to Vatican City. Monaco? Well, it was more that I was in Nice, France, just a 25-minute train ride away, and it didn’t make sense NOT to go. Plus, it was an easy add to my list of visited countries, bringing my total to 71.

Since Monaco is less than one square mile in size (.78 square mile, to be precise), I had planned to see it on foot. Unfortunately, I stepped off the train at 2 p.m., into a brutal 95 degree temperature and instantly dissolved into a puddle of sweat. Rather than walking, I caught the Hop-on/Hop-off bus and stayed aboard for the entire one-hour circuit. By the time the route started repeating, the temperatures had dropped a bit, so I hopped off at the only place that had seemed interesting, the Old Town area in the capital of Monte Carlo.

The palace of the Prince of Monaco - slightly underwhelming

The palace of the Prince of Monaco – slightly underwhelming

I checked out the view down to the harbor and snapped a few shots of Prince Albert II’s uninteresting palace. A short stroll led me to the Palace of Justice and into Notre-Dame-Immaculée Cathedral, where I filed past the grave of Princess Grace, better known to Americans as the famous actress Grace Kelly. Then I wondered what to do. I have no interest in gambling, so the casinos were not an option. Shopping, another popular reason people visit Monaco, also held no attraction. As a full-time traveler, I have only a 22″ carry-on size suitcase and it’s full. The harbor was attractive but couldn’t compare with the ports of Nice or Marseilles. Even the architecture was, in general, uninspiring. Frankly, I was bored out of my mind. Three hours into my visit, I was ready to jump back on a train to Nice. Read More

Port Hercule in Monte Carlo, Monaco is a deep-water port that has been in use since ancient times

Click on title to view photo in large format. Port Hercule (Port Hercules) is a deep-water port in Monaco. It occupies a natural bay at the foot of the ancestral rock of the princes of Monaco. This stunnng vista was photographed from the plaza in front of the Prince’s Palace, which sits atop the rock. The port has been in use since ancient times, as both Greek and Roman sources refer to it. However, prevailing easterly winds made it a poor shelter. Read More

The grave of Princess Grace of Monaco sits side by side with that of her husband, Prince Rainier, in Saint Nicholas Cathedral

Click on title to view photo in large format. The grave of Princess Grace of Monaco sits side by side with that of her husband, Prince Rainier, in Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Most Americans better remember her as the popular actress, Grace Kelly. During the 1950’s Kelly appeared in numerous New York City theatrical productions, more than 40 episodes of live drama productions, and in Hollywood movies that earned her an Oscar and Golden Globe awards.

She met Prince Rainier III in 1955 while heading up the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival. He proposed in December of that same year. Kelly accepted and subsequently left her acting career to become the Princess of Monaco. The Princess died in 1982, when her car plummeted Read More

Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco is open to all but citizens of the tiny country

Click on title to view photo in large format. Most guests visit Monte Carlo Casino for the non-stop action on its 100,000 square foot gaming floor. Players can choose from Blackjack, Baccarat, Craps, slots, poker, Roulette, Big Six Wheel, Caribbean Stud, Three-Card Poker, Pai Gow Poker, and Let It Ride. High-flyers can take bigger risks in the high-limit gaming areas. However, the facility is also fully equipped resort that offers restaurants, a spa, lounges, pools, shops, and 2,992 hotel rooms.

Gambling was seized upon as a revenue source when the districts of Menton and Roquebrune declared independence from Monaco in 1848, leaving Monaco with a tiny patch of land and few sources Read More