The Musée Océanographique in Monaco-Ville first opened its doors to the public in 1910. This impressive museum was built by Monaco's Prince Albert the 1st but it is often associated with famed French explorer and naval officer Jacques Cousteau, who served as the museum's director from 1957 - 1988. Cousteau's little yellow submarine still sits on display in front of this massive stone building, which is dramatically perched on the cliff side overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The lower-level aquarium area is home to 4,000 different species of fish (starfish, seahorses, turtles, jellyfish, crabs, lobsters, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eels, etc.) including a massive shark tank which can be viewed from all sides. On the upper floors of the museum one can view a variety of interesting displays from Prince Albert and Cousteau's collections including model ships, animal skeletons, tools, and weapons. It's easy to spend a few hours here and still not see everything.
The tiny principality of Monaco never ceases to amaze me with all it has to offer. On my fourth visit to this lavish area of the world, I finally manage to find my way to what has eluded me all these visits, Le Jardin Exotique du Monaco. Le jardin exotique was first opened to the public in 1933 and boasts over 1,000 species of plants from tropical locations around the world (Mexico, South Africa, and the Middle East). The collection of plants in these gardens actually began earlier in 1895. Perched high-up on a cliffside, the exotic gardens provides soothing breezes and amazing glimpses of the sparkling turquoise ocean (Baie des Anges) and Monaco-Ville (The Rock). Winding down the cliff on a series of winding pathways, I take in the details of hundreds of giant cacti and succulents on this hot sunny afternoon. There is no right or wrong way to navigate through the gardens, as all paths lead you down to an observation deck and a huge cavern in the cliffside. I await the tour guide who brings me down a staircase and deep into the grotto. Inside, stalactites and stalagmites hang from the cavernous ceiling. Approximately 100 steps back up to the surface proves to be a challenging hike but well worth the visit.