Monte Carlo Harbour
Sailing into Monte Carlo Harbour, Monaco, under early sunny skies was magical. The deep blue colour of harbour waters are pristine and you understand why this coastline is named the Coté d ’Azure.
Bring it on for a day mingling with the rich and famous! (Well, maybe not mingling, just using a good imagination.)
Only three miles long Monaco conjures up images of the super rich and icons such as Grace Kelly and the James Bond movies. Nestled on the French Riviera it is definitely the jewel of the Mediterranean coastline.
The cruise ship nudged up to multi million dollar pleasure craft and yachts to find anchor space. This was a new experience as there didn’t seem to be enough room for our own royal ship (Queen Victoria). The anchor rope an adjacent boat almost had to be shared!
Going on an occasional cruise gives insight into many place you might otherwise not visit. The bonus is, if totally captured by a particular city, lifestyle, or culture of a country – you can add into a future holiday when under your own steam.
Monte Carlo – Clean and Green
Interesting Local Snippets:
- Monte Carlo isn’t the capital of Monaco, but is the richest of the four regions that make up the country. Probably best probably best known for it’s famous casino and the annual Formula 1 Race.
- The Grimaldis have ruled Monaco since 1297 and the current Prince, Albert, is the 32nd heir to the monarchy.
- A lot of land has been reclaimed with a further 95 acres planned in the mid 2000s. There were cranes everywhere on the mountainous skyline proving the wealth of the country.
- The roadway dividing France and Monaco (halfway up the hill) also divides some houses. There are residents that have their bedroom in one country and kitchen in another!
- Whichever side the driveway of a house is, that’s the country who takes your rates.
- There’s no income tax in Monaco, just VAT and service charges but some apartments are worth 100,000 Euros a month to rent!
- The crime rate is very low and Monaco is considered the safest country in the world. Probably having one policeman for every 60 residents helps!
Getting round Monte Carlo
Cross the Monte Carlo Harbour in ten minutes by solar electric boat bus! The bateau bus (bus boat) crosses the port from the cruise ship Terminal to Quai Kennedy and is the quickest way to the Casino for a cost of only two Euros.
The city, and country, is very steep and there are handy public elevators to help get up the hills without having a heart attack. There’s also moving walkways between the harbour and other avenues and beaches to save a few climbs.
Formula 1 Race
Now we know the Monaco Grand Prix is the one race that every driver dreams of winning. The population explodes from 37,000 to 200,000 and takes organisers three months to prepare. The race circuit is always being improved and we saw the mammoth task of creating new pits in time for the 2017 event (25-27 May)
The walk around the Grand Prix circuit is a must. When you see thick tyre marks on kerbs and corners you can imagine yourself behind the wheel! A bus around the circuit is easiest and takes about an hour – depending how many photo stops you have.
The Cathedral of Monte Carlo
The cathedral is only 100 years old, very peaceful and not overly ornate – making a pleasant change.
This is where Grace Kelly and prince Rainier tied the knot in 1956 and where they, and all the Grimaldi family tombs, are laid to rest.
The Old City
The Old medieval city is a maze of narrow alleys (terrific photo opportunities) and houses propped up on arches in case of earthquakes.
Lots of stepped streets, dark churches and antique shops to enjoy on your way back to the modern shops, bars, parks, restaurants and the beach.
As you walk back down to the coastline the modern town is the other side of an ancient Roman motorway – Via Aurella. This is now lined with hotels and public buildings and is so pretty with its Oleanders and palm trees.
Jardins Saint Martin
These steep-sided, statue-studded gardens are a must, particularly for the views. They are conveniently perched on the Fontvieille side of the cliff between the Cathedral and the Museum of Oceanography
Walking down the hill towards the sea, you come across the statue of Prince Albert I. He was the seafaring prince who founded the museum to house all the collectibles he brought home from his many travels.
Many modern statues are found throughout the gardens among masses of flowers. With Monte Carlo being so pristine there wasn’t even a leaf on the ground let alone a cigarette butt!
The gardens are a good vantage point to check out the remarkable architecture of the Oceanographic Museum building next door. The museum looks as though it was pre-built, lifted up intact by a giant and slammed into the cliffside!
Oceanographic Museum, once headed by Jacques Cousteau.
The Sharks Lagoon is scary, fascinating and full of Hammerheads and majestic rays swimming in front of a coral reef. Lots of colourful Nemos and other tropical fish dart around continually, as they do.
The Museum has two other floors filled with models of ships, photos and sea creatures that live so deep you would only see them in a museum. Worth a visit.
You can buy combination tickets on-line, or at the Palace.
Palace and Museum – 19 Euros (adults) or Palace and Royal Car Collection – 11.50 Euros (adults)
Monte Carlo – Casino Country
Get out the glad rags for your right of passage visit to the Monte Carlo Casino but…don’t forget your passport. Entry fee is 10 Euros.
I did forget my passport so haven’t actually held a casino chip in my hand as yet!! Though did manage to catch a glimpse of the impressive marble and onyx in the foyer.
More flutter opportunities are at The Café de Paris Casino (opposite the main casino) which is free to enter if you are dressed appropriately. You no longer need a tux to go into the Main Casino just smart casual.
Be sure to check out luxury cars in front of the Casino and Hotel de Paris on Casino Square.
The high end shops were a tad expensive, as in most European Cities but a walk through the Metropole Shopping Centre is a must.
The Centre has 80 boutiques and is just opposite the Casino Gardens. You’re welcomed into a luxury décor of beautiful marble under a magnificent period chandelier.
Brands such as Hermès, Céline, Christian Dior, Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, and Prada just roll off the tongue. NB – you can just buy a small item and keep the bag for a souvenir as proof that you’ve shopped at the Metropole in Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo Harbourside
Wandering back along the harbour front you find a couple welcoming wine bars. A great way to finish a visit to Monte Carlo with a chat with the locals and then have one last ogling session of the million $ yachts and cruisers in the harbour.
Leaving at night the ship cruised past the Amalfi Coast that was lit up like a fairyland.
Was it really 45 years since I stayed on this coastline at Finale Ligure? The youth hostel was a converted castle and the daily fee of 50 cents (Australian) included spaghetti Bolognese for dinner!
Monte Carlo – places to visit (that I missed);
- Prince’s Palace
- National Museum
- Wax Museum
- Exotic Garden
- Monte Carlo Story (multi-vision spectacle of earliest times to the present day)
- Larvotta public beach (showers and cafes)
Another Way to Visit Monaco and Surrounds:
My next visit will see me based at Nice, France for a week. Hire a car and make several day trips to:
- Monaco – 11 miles (17.7kms)
- Eze (Medieval town) – 8 miles (12.5kms )
- Grasse – 35 miles (56kms)
- Cannes – 40 miles (64kms)
- San Remo – 20 miles (32kms)
What to take to Monte Carlo, Monaco
- Your passport when going ashore – for entry to the Main Casino.
- Walking shoes for walking on the cobbles and steps of the Old Town.
- Several credit cards if serious shopping is on the horizon!
A day definitely isn’t enough to do this country justice, but if you are heading off on a Mediterranean Cruise make sure Monaco is on the itinerary 🙂