National Geographic : 1967 Jun
Soon I saw high on a cliff the towers of Eze, perched like an eagle's nest (preceding pages). They reminded me that this section of the Ri viera had long been a battleground in the guerrilla warfare between Africa and Europe. Hit-and-run maritime raids by Moslem pi rates had finally forced men from the shore to more easily defended villages high above. The miles sped astern, and suddenly I came under the fortress-castle of the Principality of Monaco, ancient seat of the Grimaldis. Though the Grimaldi dynasty is popularly identified with Monaco through Prince Rai nier and his glamorous Princess Grace, its name is also associated with other parts of the Riviera, including the castle that defends Antibes and the village of Roquebrune. Some say the Grimaldi line descended from a nephew of Charles Martel, who defeated the Arab invaders of France at Tours in 732; others claim the family had its beginnings in Genoa. In any case, a Grimaldi wrested the domain of Monaco from the Genoese in 1297, and as I came abeam I found myself recalling lines attributed to a French poet: Crouching over the sea, like a weary monster, The Grimaldi's ancient rock dreams of the past. If so, it is almost the only thing in the prin cipality not living in the present and looking toward the future. Passing the Oceanographic Museum, a leader in discovering new worlds below the surface (pages 830-31), Pied-a-Terre joined the marine parade into the busy harbor of Monte Carlo. Buildings in all stages of construction played leapfrog up the hillside, and dredges were creating new plots of land from the sea by pumping ocean bottom into retaining walls. As I tied up in front of an Italian boatyard to fill my tanks with French gasoline pro duced in the Sahara, the international and independent flavor of this tiny segment of the Riviera struck me forcibly. Through the cen turies the Monegasques have refused to be crushed or absorbed by the mighty forces on both sides. Neither French nor Italian, Monte Carlo adds a dash of sauce piquante to the whole coast.* Doubling back around Cap Ferrat, I moored in Villefranche harbor to plunge again into the past. A few steps behind the waterfront I found a street named Rue Ob scure, the Dark Street, and there I stepped out *See "Miniature Monaco," by Gilbert M. and Donna Kerkam Grosvenor, GEOGRAPHIC, April, 1963. 828 of brilliant sunshine into the gloom of a tun nel, artificially lighted even at noon. Heavy beams supported houses that had bridged the street in medieval times, for Rue Obscure dates from the 14th century (pages 832-3). Rue Obscure comes out into the light where it joins Rue du Poilu. Nearby is a tiny open space, cobbled, with a lion's-head fountain spilling into a basin. On the fountain's edge sat an old man in a sailor's knit jersey and visored cap. We talked, and I found he was indeed a matelot, having been a fisherman, a sailor on the cruiser EdgarQuinet in "the war of 1914," and later port captain of Villefranche. In a candy-striped guardhouse, one mem ber of Monaco's 80-man palace guard stands watch outside the royal residence. Since 1297 the Grimaldi family has ruled this vest-pocket principality, only half the size of New York's Central Park. Cobbled streets and venerable houses in the clifftop town of Monaco contrast with the traffic jams and luxury towers of the newer Monte Carlo. Roulette wheels spin day and night in the floodlit casino (opposite).