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25 Things You Should Know About Monaco

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There's more to Monaco than race cars and a luxe casino. Read on for more about this tiny independent nation.

1. Since gaining its independence from the Republic of Genoa in 1297, Monaco has been ruled by the Grimaldi family, making that line the oldest ruling family in Europe. In 2002, the constitutional monarchy signed a treaty with France allowing it to remain an independent nation, even if the family should stop producing heirs.

2. At just 0.75 square miles, Monaco is the second smallest country in the world. (The smallest, of course, is Vatican City.) Monaco's total land area is about the size of New York City’s Central Park. It takes just under an hour (about 56 minutes, actually) to walk the width of Monaco.

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3.
Although you'll see both Monacan and Monegasque listed as acceptable demonyms for residents of Monaco, they prefer the latter.

4. However you refer to them, those who live in Monaco have a life expectancy of almost 90 years—one of the longest in the world. Meanwhile, the literacy rate hovers around 100 percent.

5. Despite its small size, there are several higher education institutions within the country, including the Rainier III Academy of Music and the Nursing School at the Princess Grace Hospital Complex.

6. Monaco’s red-and-white flag looks exactly like Indoensia’s except there’s one slight difference: Indonesia’s is wider. Yes, that’s it.

7. The city’s biggest attraction is the Casino de Monte Carlo. Citizens, however, are not allowed to gamble—or even enter!—the establishment. Its most notable, and perhaps most frequent, visitor: James Bond. The international spy hits the casino in Never Say Never Again, Golden Eye, and Casino Royale.

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8.
Hollywood has long had a love affair with the tiny principality. In fact, more than 50 films have taken place in Monaco, including Iron Man 2 and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

9. Grace Kelly first met Prince Rainier III at a photoshoot during the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. He proposed (with a 10.47 carat ring!) during a diplomatic trip to the States later that year.

10. …In keeping with tradition, however, Kelly's Philadelphia-based family had to pay the royal family a whopping $2 million dowry.

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11.
Kelly's 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier—watched by an estimated 30 million on television—was outdone by the birth of their first son, Albert II, who currently rules Monaco. The occasion was marked with a 21-gun salute and the day after was declared a national holiday. Gambling at the casino was put on hold, and everyone was treated to free champagne.

12. Prince Albert II attended Amherst College in the U.S. where he studied a number of subjects, including political science and economics. He has also played on Monaco's national soccer team and competed in three Olympic games as part of Monaco's bobsled team.

13. In 2011, Albert married Charlene Wittstock, an Olympic swimmer from South Africa. Three years later, the couple welcomed twins: daughter Gabriella and son Jacques. Although Gabriella was technically born first, Prince Jacques was declared next in line for the throne because priority is still given to male children. (Had both twins been girls, the eldest would have been declared the heir.)

14. Monaco's National Museum is the perfect stop for anyone with an appreciation of creepy dolls: the institution houses thousands of 19th century toys, as well as a number of automatons. Wind some of the dolls up, and they'll play the piano and even sigh.

15. Another must-see: The country's Musée Oceanographique, one of the largest oceanographic museums in the world. Its aquarium contains approximately 6000 specimens, and its collection underwent a recent renovation by artist Mark Dion, who modeled the new display after 19th century curio cabinets.

16. Last summer, visitors to Monaco's Grimaldi Forum were treated to a dining experience as gorgeous as delicious. Every item at the pop-up Pantone Cafe, from the napkins to the coffee, was labeled with its corresponding Pantone color code.

17. Monaco stopped collecting income tax back in 1869 because the country's casino raked in more than enough cash to sustain government operations.

18. Monaco has the largest police force in the world per capita. Not surprisingly, it also has the most millionaires and billionaires per capita.

19. The writer Somerset Maugham once described Monaco as a "sunny place for shady people," but its reputation may be undeserved. Contrary to popular belief, Monaco is not much of a tax haven for the wealthy; despite the lack of income tax, residents are charged a 19.6 percent value-added tax on goods and services, and corporations must pony up a third of their total profits.

20. Every September the city hosts the Monaco Yacht Show, where more than 500 companies exhibit the newest yachts on the market, including so-called super yachts. The super yachts on display have only gotten more, well, super over the years; the average length of the massive craft exhibited last year was 154 feet.

21. In the spring, there’s the Monaco Grand Prix, a Formula One race held every year since 1929. Drivers tackle the narrow course filled with elevation changes, tight corners and tunnels. If you're looking to catch the event, be forewarned that there are no cheap seats; Tickets can go for as much as $2750.

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22.
When the Grand Prix is in full swing, the Hotel de Paris sells close to 2000 bottles of champagne.

23. That bubbly is housed in the hotel's wine cellar, one of the most legendary in the world. The collection, which dates back to 1874, boasts 450,000 bottles, including 55 different kinds of champagne.

24. At night, tourists clamber into Jimmy’z nightclub. Known as the Temple of Clubbing, the spot draws in American, Italian, and Parisian jet-setters and international celebrities, including Bono and George Clooney.

25. The city’s beloved football team, AS Monaco, have won seven titles in the top French league. The players wear red and white uniforms and are often referred to as Les Rouge et Blanc (the red and whites).

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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Why Your Traditional Thanksgiving Should Include Oysters
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If you want to throw a really traditional Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll need oysters. The mollusks would have been featured prominently on the holiday tables of the earliest American settlers—even if that beloved Thanksgiving turkey probably wasn’t. At the time, oysters were supremely popular additions to the table for coastal colonial settlements, though in some cases, they were seen as a hardship food more than a delicacy.

For one thing, oysters were an easy food source. In the Chesapeake Bay, they were so plentiful in the 17th and 18th centuries that ships had to be careful not to run aground on oyster beds, and one visitor in 1702 wrote that they could be pulled up with only a pair of tongs. Native Americans, too, ate plenty of oysters, occasionally harvesting them and feasting for days.

Early colonists ate so many oysters that the population of the mollusks dwindled to dangerously low levels by the 19th century, according to curriculum prepared by a Gettysburg University history professor. In these years, scarcity turned oysters into a luxury item for the wealthy, a situation that prevailed until the 1880s, when oyster production skyrocketed and prices dropped again [PDF]. If you lived on the coast, though, you were probably still downing the bivalves.

Beginning in the 1840s, canning and railroads brought the mollusks to inland regions. According to 1985's The Celebrated Oysterhouse Cookbook, the middle of the 19th century found America in a “great oyster craze,” where “no evening of pleasure was complete without oysters; no host worthy of the name failed to serve 'the luscious bivalves,' as they were actually called, to his guests.”

At the turn of the century, oysters were still a Thanksgiving standard. They were on Thanksgiving menus everywhere from New York City's Plaza Hotel to train dining cars, in the form of soup, cocktails, and stuffing.

In 1954, the Fish and Wildlife Service tried to promote Thanksgiving oysters to widespread use once again. They sent out a press release [PDF], entitled “Oysters—a Thanksgiving Tradition,” which included the agency’s own recipes for cocktail sauce, oyster bisque, and oyster stuffing.

In the modern era, Thanksgiving oysters have remained most popular in the South. Oyster stuffing is a classic dish in New Orleans, and chefs like Emeril Lagasse have their own signature recipes. If you’re not looking for a celebrity chef’s recipe, perhaps you want to try the Fish and Wildlife Service’s? Check it out below.

Oyster Stuffing

INGREDIENTS

1 pint oysters
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
4 cups day-old bread cubes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Dash poultry seasoning
Dash pepper

Drain oysters, saving liquor, and chop. Cook celery and onion in butter until tender. Combine oysters, cooked vegetables, bread cubes, and seasonings, and mix thoroughly. If stuffing seems dry, moisten with oyster liquor. Makes enough for a four-pound chicken.

If you’re using a turkey, the FWS advises that the recipe above provides enough for about every five pounds of bird, so multiply accordingly.

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