Monte Carlo

March 23rd, 2010

Monte Carlo Casino

The Monte Carlo Casino

Monaco is a name bringing thoughts of wealth and splendor.

A remnant of the historical past of Europe, it is an independent State, even though it is a tiny city-state inside metropolitan France with no army to defend itself and a population of only 33,000 people. Monte Carlo is the most famous neighborhood in Monaco, and this is where the famous casino is located.

The Casino de Monte-Carlo is a treasure of the Belle Epoque, but also the reference with respect to gambling for all players in Europe. Its building was built in 1863 by Charles Garnier to whom we also owe many monuments in France, including the opera that bears his name in Paris.

Overlooking the Mediterranean, the casino has seen the high society of yesterday and today in a magnificent setting made of sculptures and bas-reliefs, frescoes, marble and gold. It is in the same building that is housed the Opera de Monte-Carlo with its exceptional cultural events.

The Casino de Monte-Carlo has become a reference for games with all sorts of variations: Thirty and forty, Roulette, European Roulette, Chemin de fer, Bank at two tables, Punto Banco, Craps, Poker, American Roulette, Blackjack, and the expression that everyone knows seems to always resonate when thinking of Monte Carlo “Les jeux sont faits”.

It is in such an emblematic place as the casino at Monte Carlo that appeared the first automatic machines and where the jackpot was invented, as well as slot machines flowing stream of their currencies in the laughter of the ladies beautifully dressed and coiffed.

Over the years, the Monte-Carlo Casino has hosted new and exclusive games while creating other fairs and festivals places like Cafe de Paris, the Sun Casino or Casino summer. Obviously, in this mythical place open to persons of at least 18 years, you should be well dressed without shorts but with a jacket and cocktail dress for ladies.

Who knows you may see James Bond there if you are in luck.

Panama: green and blue paradise

September 27th, 2009
Pearl Islands

Pearl Islands

Panama is not the most traveled destination. But for the ones who like to pick unusual spots, this is a fantastic choice.

Here I am not talking about taking a cruise ship that navigates along the Panama canal, where the stop at Panama City is just one port along the way. Yes this can be a nice way to discover Central America, no doubt about it, but the country of Panama deserves a vacation only in Panama.

In a nutshell, Panama is great because you will find great weather, great food, a mixed culture with a unique historical background, a very high density of plants and animals, in particular birds,  a friendly population, many beaches &  islands, and more.

Let’s start with the main attraction, the canal. This is unique human construction which almost failed and took the lives of thousands of workers to be completed. The French started it but could not finish, due to a series of disasters including an epidemic of malaria. The Americans took over where the French left it and managed to join the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Note that it is necessary for the ships to cross three sets of  locks, as the Canal ascends to the artificial Gatun Lake before descending to the other side. This  is a marvel of civil engineering. Following the Canal either in a ship or by helicopter is a great experience.

Panama is mostly covered with equatorial rain forest, and it is the habitat of the largest variety of birds on earth. It also has the largest variety of trees on earth. So this is such a rich environment for nature lovers, wherever you are in the country.

Even in Panama City, if you have  a chance to walk by the Presidential Palace, it is the home of a number of bird cranes, both local and foreign. In Panama you will see all kinds of birds, in all shapes and color. Even if you are not a “bird watcher”, these birds are so beautiful when you find them.

Another attraction is Panama City itself. This is the place in Central America where you will get the best food, so do not miss it. They have a mix of European cuisines with the local touch resulting in some delicious recipes and amazing chefs.

Finally there are islands and beaches and many are fantastic. But I am going to reveal you one of the more extraordinary island resort in Panama and in the World: Hacienda del Mar.

This is a truly amazing island. Square miles aftere square miles of rain forest. Not inhabited, except for the staff and guests of the only resort of the island. As this island belongs to a billionaire, this is not likely to change.

The resort is in the Pearl Islands a few dozen miles from the entrance of the Panama Canal. It used to be an American military base and this is why this private island has miles of roads in perfect condition. But nothing else is left of the American military presence, except for a few abandoned bunkers overseeing the gorgeous panorama with smaller islands in the distance.

Try this exclusive resort. When we were there, we were the only guests, and this was the vacation of a lifetime.

Hong Kong, dear Hong Kong

July 30th, 2009
Hong KongHong Kong

If you want to travel somewhere and if you want to visit a City, Hong Kong is one of the best choices you could ever make.

Hong Kong is unlike most Cities. Very few other cities come to mind when seeking an extraordinary place with a wide variety within it, and Rio de Janeiros could be compared to Hong Kong in this respect, but there are very few other candidates.

On Hong Kong Island, there are sand beaches, hicking trails among the luxuriant tropical forest around the “Peak”, skyscapers coming out along the cliffs, large preserved unbuilt areas, breathtaking views from the highest points, unlimited supply of the richest Chinese food in the World, the highest proportion of Roll Royces per inhabitants on earth, etc.

Unlike most big metropolis like Tokyo for instance, the land is not 100% invaded by concrete, and the natural beauty of this tropical paradise is preserved on about half of the entire surface of the Island.  So it is possible to start walking from “Central”, which is one of the business districts, and to find yourself alone in the forest in less than 15 minutes.

If you like the city aspect itself, there are choices for all tastes: luxurious shops Asian and Western, immense shopping malls on ten floors offering every known brand, local tiny shops where you can find Chinese medicine, various potteries and art pieces.

Hong Kong itself is made of Hong Kong Island which is the second largest island (after the wild Lantau Island), plus numerous smaller islands, and Kowloon & the New Territories. The most beautiful side is all these islands. You can take various boats and ferries and visit them, eat local sea food and enjoy a moment of peace in a slower paced environment. It does not feel like a big town at all over there.

Another advantage of going to Hong Kong is that it is probably the best hub to visit South-East Asia. Neighboring countries such as Thailand, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia,…, are all only a few hours away by plane, and will welcome you with open arms.

Hello world!

June 1st, 2009

Welcome to my blog.

This blog will be about two of my passions, traveling and gambling. So come back and enjoy the reading.