...and what better way to start than with some pictures of monaco! after all, it hasn't been all work and no play for the past 6 months for mr specs!
so this is what mr specs saw and liked...
monaco is not wildly big (so don't plan being here for more than a weekend) but it is wildly expensive and lavish so take plenty of plastic and bravado.
the style is as you'd expect - a mix of riviera and 1960s high-rises - but anish kapoor's ubiquitous sky mirror outside the casino provides a distraction.
the roads are a maze of twists and turns with diana-style underground tunnels which include the world famous hair-pin bend. this was my specs' view from the fairmount.
the views of the sea are amazing but if you venture out along the seafront you might stumble upon these geometric multi-coloured roof tiles. a treat for colourists.
the palace isn't quite versailles but the walk up to the gates has great views of the marina and the hillside. check out the oddly dressed guards and the bronze statue of the duke of garibaldi, who seized monaco over 700 years ago dressed as a monk (this is not a lie).
and here is the view - all you could hope for. a dense mix of boats, opulence and apartments overlooking the water.
mr specs had high hopes for the casino and even donned a blazer and bow tie for his visit but disappointingly it was full of crass grannies in tracksuits spending their children's inheritance. even the private rooms had old chinese ladies in last year's primark hunkered around the roulette tables. not the casino royale experience mr specs was hoping for but he did manage to content himself with a vesper at the bar.
fortunately mr specs had cleverly booked a table at joel robuchon which was fabulous. the discovery menu was an adventure and the dessert trolley was worthy of a standing ovation. if mr specs could give one one tip for your trip it would be a visit to joel.
breakfast at the fairmont is served on the roof terrace in the sunshine overlooking the sea. the best way to start the day.
and here is the roof top pool with views of the casino (which was designed by the same man who designed the opera house in paris). great by day but at night they turn the pool-side into a club called billionaires - with gold cushions. no further commentary required.
jazz brunch on sunday was a highlight. as you can tell, mr specs went a bit crazy on the desserts but, for the record, he ate them all. his favourite was the white chocolate dome filled with strawberries.
the azure is stunning. it really is that wonderful. the only downside to monaco is that you can't get in the sea unless you're prepared to go round the bay to the man-made beach (which according to guides is made of coarse imported sand). so if you want to frolic in the sea you may have to go down the coast to nice.
finally, it wouldn't be right not to include a picture of the cars. this is a car park like no other.