Five reasons to visit Monaco next year

Surrounded by France, except for a stretch along the Mediterranean, Monaco is a destination for the wealthy, as well as those with a penchant for auto racing or roulette. The only other ostensible reason to visit this tiny principality is curiosity — especially for Americans, it’s hard to believe that a plot of land that small could actually be its own country! Well, good things tend to come in small packages, and Monaco is no different. Monaco stands on its own, warranting a visit that’s more than an add-on to a vacation in France.

Need a reason? I have five for you, all at least a tad off-beat.

1. You can walk the entire country end-to-end
So, it’s not a journey worthy of a Jules Verne story, or for that matter, Michael Palin. But, it’s still pretty cool to brag that you’ve walked an entire country … in only one day. Monaco is only 0.76 square miles, so you’ll even be able to stop for lunch and a spin of the wheel at Casino de Monte-Carlo.

2. The Prince is everywhere
Every business establishment has a portrait of the country’s ruler, Prince Albert II, displayed prominently. It’s like experiencing a touch of North Korea in Europe: creepy but not scary.

3. The changing of the guard is … ummmm … unique
I had visions of Arlington National Cemetery while waiting for the changing of the guard in Monaco: proud, disciplined, military personnel flawlessly executing tightly scripted movements. Nope. Some were a tad tubby to bee soldiers. A few had trouble staying in step. Rifles were propped at varying angles, though fortunately all on right shoulders. It was comical. I offered to help, but Prince A. still hasn’t responded to my open letter.

4. You could be set for life
There’s always a shot that you could find fortune at the casinos. Win big, and you won’t have to worry about working again (hey, stretch out that vacation a bit!). Since the house always wins in the end, you’ll probably want to have a backup plan. I suggest love. Try to score a future as a mistress or boy-toy: Monaco is committed to equal opportunity. The hours are great, as is the compensation. But, the work can suck from time to time.

5. Nerds are welcomed desired
Actuaries and risk geeks should hit Monaco during the annual Rendez-Vous conference for the reinsurance industry. Even if you aren’t part of the official festivities, this event is one of the country’s biggest draws, beat only by the Grand Prix in terms of cash brought in. Everyone loves the risk crowd, so drop your slide rule, and get busy!

Oh, and you can do all the usual stuff, too. Tour the palace, hit the beach and try to sneak onto a rich guy’s yacht — it’s all in good fun. Just make sure you can outrun the local army if you try this last one. It’s not hard, though, and you’re never more than a few miles from the border.

[Photo by Salvatore.Freni via Flickr]

You might be safer in a hotel than in your own home

Here’s a quote I came across in a Los Angeles Times article on hotels and fires that might make up for the less than healthy bedspreads and water glasses. According to David Stipanuk, an associate professor at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, “I suspect the average person is much safer in a hotel room than in their home.”

The glasses might be cleaner at home, at least you know they haven’t been cleaned with a Windex-like formula, but you’re more likely to have a house fire get out of control than one that happens in a hotel.

Think of these points: Do you have an automatic sprinkler system in your house? Where are your fire extinguishers? How about your smoke detector? Do the batteries in it work? A hotel has those things. They are required to by law.

Even though hotel fires do happen (see Justin’s post on the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino fire in Las Vegas in January), since 1980, when 80 people were killed in the MGM Grand fire in Las Vegas, many improvements have been made due to changes in regulation and practices. One result is there are 2/3 less fires caused by problems with a building’s structure. Puttting the fire out is also faster and people evacuate more quickly.

When the Monte Carlo fire occurred, people knew there was a problem because heat sensors in the rooms were triggered. Within 30 minutes, the thousands of people in the building had gotten out. Also, the fire was extinguished in 90 minutes. It’s a comfort to know that the hotel fire situation is worked out, more or less. Perhaps the day of being able to drink out of a hotel glass without fear is coming. In the meantime, wash the hotel glasses yourself, and get that smoke detector and fire extinguisher for home.