Monday, November 19, 2012

Red, White and Fun all Over!

Today is November 19th and a very important day for les Monégasques, the citizens of Monaco. 

It's Monaco's National Day and everywhere you look, red and white flags are fluttering from balconies and windows, children are eating big cookies covered in red and white sprinkles and the Prince and Princess along with the entire royal family make a brief appearance at the palace windows for their annual wave at their loyal subjects.

While all of that traditional hubbub is fun for the first eight or nine times, the real action is just a stone's throw away in Port Hercule, the exact same place where multi million dollar race cars zoom around competing in Monaco's annual Grand Prix in May.  

So, what could be more exciting than all the commotion at the palace?  Monaco's Annual Fun Fair of course!  Monaco's National Day always marks the last day of the three week Fun Fair  and since it was the last day, Auntie and Uncle Jim high tailed it to the Port to try our hands at winning a stuffed animal or two and enjoy an afternoon snack.  Even though Uncle Jim was happy to go to the Fair with Auntie, I think Uncle Jim would take the Grand Prix over a ride on the bumper cars any day!
The Fun Fair is a bit like a North American County Fair, filled with wild rides, games, junk food and lots of people but without the traditional agricultural component, baking competitions and smelly barns.

Sharpshooting Auntie won a nice Princess mug
Auntie loves to play the games. 

Remember the Derby Race where Auntie won a gnome for all of her friends last year ?  Well Auntie lost at the Derby Game this year so there are no nice new gnomes for anyone this year.   

But all was not lost.  Due to dedicated target practice at the shooting range, this year Auntie shot out the centre of 3 targets with a 22-calibre rifle and won a pretty Princess mug.  Easy peasy!

Playing all those games can work up your appetite.  If you have a sweet tooth, you'll find clouds of Cotton candy bigger than your head in 10 different flavours, feather light doughnuts, crêpes with Nutella or Grand Marnier sprinkled on top, crunchy churros, and then wash it all down with some wine or beer.  On Thursday my friend Diana bought 6 candy apples and they were all gone by Saturday! 

I'll confess that Uncle Jim and I love sharing a big plate of delicious Socca and for dessert,  some sugar coated yeast doughnuts that are as light as air and made while you watch. 
The rules of Hop Hop
While Auntie is good at the shooting games, Uncle Jim's an expert at the "Hop Hop" game.  Many years ago, we met the guy who owns the Hop Hop game and he told us that his grandparents started the Hop Hop game and now he and his wife, and their deaf and blind dog continue the tradition and travel all over France bringing the Hop Hop game to Fun Fairs all around France.  

To play the Hop Hop game, you pay 5 and the nice Hop Hop guy hands you about 15 plastic rings, each ring is about the diameter of a cantaloupe.  You stand at the edge of the Hop Hop booth and throw the rings at different do-dads that are each perched on top of little stands.  There are about 100 different things to chose from, from an iPod to a long sausage!

It may sound easy but to win, the ring needs to go all the way around the stand, not just rest on the top of do-dad.

Of all the things there were to win, Auntie liked a cute little light up dog and Uncle Jim went to work trying to win it for Auntie.

Uncle Jim threw one ring after another.  "Paff," "ping," "zoop" went the rings, bouncing here and there.  Auntie was starting to worry that she'd never have that little dog.

Sweat popped up in little drops on Uncle Jim's  brow.  He'd already  thrown almost all of his rings and hadn't won yet.  Uncle Jim had good aim.  but the darned rings kept landing on the dog and got stuck there and didn't fall to the bottom of the stand.  

Auntie's nerves were frayed.  When Uncle Jim only had one ring left, he paused and took a deep breath.  Auntie kissed him for good luck.  Maybe she shouldn't have.  A nice kiss could be distracting for Uncle Jim. The Hop Hop guy stopped what he was doing to watch too. Uncle Jim furrowed his brow and squinted.  You could tell that he was concentrating with all his might.  Uncle Jim lifted his arm, threw his last ring and ... Yeah!  It landed on the dog and dropped all the way to the bottom! Uncle Jim won the light up dog for Auntie with his last ring!  

I've become quite fond of the little dog.  It changes colours every few seconds and it has become one of Auntie's favourite things and a nice memory of this year's Fun Fair.  In fact, Auntie has kept it lit so much that the dog is almost all worn out and the colours are starting to look a bit pale. Time to change the battery.

Last year we won gnomes at the Fair.  This year it's a charming light up dog.  Who knows what we'll win next year?  Maybe a giant stuffed tiger or a goldfish in a bowl.

I'd better ask Uncle Jim to start training now.

Eenie meenie miney moe!

Chestnuts roasted on an open fire


Yeah!  The next fair is in Menton!