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Cliff-clinging cactus garden in Monaco.

Clinging to rocky cliffs 300 feet above Monaco's Mediterranean cost, more than 6,000 plan species--most of them cactus--rise in spiky profusion. They make up the Jardin Exotique (Exotic Garden), which has been delighting cactus lovers for 50 years.

The garden was begun in 1912 by Prince Albert I, great-grandfather of the present Prince of Monaco. Its location was selected because the cliffs could provide needed wind protection and create a single microclimate in which cactus species from all over the world could thrive. Development of the site took 20 years: the cliff's face, dropping at a 45[deg.] angle toward the sea, had to be terraced with planting pockets and retaining walls; then paths, bridges, and stairways were constructed.

The results are a paradise for cactus enthusiasts. Tall-branching cereus contrast with pointy-leafed agaves; brilliantly flowering aloes and delicate euphorbias artfully bank the paths and bridges that meander across the rock. Some part of the garden is always in bloom. Between the plantings, you'll enjoy beautifully framed view of the sea and harbor below.

While excavation for the garden was in progress, an underground grotto was discovered at the base of the cliff; this cavern and a small museum containing 200,000-year-old bones and artifacts found at the site are also open to visitors.

The garden is just west of Monte Carlo on the Boulevard du Jardin Exotique near Route Nationale 564. It's about a 20-minute walk from the famous casino (the #2 "Jardin Exotique" bus also stops at the casino). Hours are 9 to 7 daily from May through September, 9 to noon and 2 to 6 from October through April. Admission, which includes the grotto and the anthropology museum, is 19 francs (about $2.50) for adults.
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Date:Jan 1, 1984
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