New life plan; become a millionaire, move to Monte Carlo and drive a sports car.
On Friday afternoon I left La Spezia and arrived for my weekend in Monte Carlo just before dusk. My first glimpse was from the train tracks and I can’t totally describe how I felt. I’ve wanted to come here for so long and couldn’t wait to see it all; it was almost like waiting to meet a person, a pen pal, rather than a place. My hotel, as Monaco doesn’t do hostels, was right in the centre on a street that looked like it was part of a miniature film set to be used for context shots.
There was a certain look about the whole of Monte Carlo. There was no rubbish, there were no homeless, no derelict or old fashioned buildings, no cracks, and the winding roads had shining sports cars humming along them, with the occasional rubber mark on the tarmac. The pavements were also well-designed and efficient to get around, as if everything was thought out. It actually brought to mind the film ‘The Truman Show’. I absolutely loved it instantly.
After walking around the harbour in the evening, the next morning after breakfast I decided to walk the length of Monaco, it being a country smaller than Central Park in New York City. To the east it ends with a small beach, and to the west, an exotic garden with panoramic views. Along the way between the two, I walked Avenue Princesse Grace (her image and name is everywhere in Monte Carlo), Boulevard Louis II, visited the Grimaldi Forum, the Jardin Japonaise de Monaco, the Opera House, Lavotto Beach, Ranier Auditorium, Hotel de Paris and Hermitage Hotel. Take a breath.
On foot for around four hours, I also spent time taking photos from the Pointe Fontaine in the harbour but the biggest draw was watching the sports cars, rather than the yachts. I have never been interested in custom cars, low to the ground in confident colours, whose engines hum and rev with easy power, but now I see the appeal!
Sat on the winding Formula One road leading to the casino, I paused on the wall to check out the cars, along with a growing crowd, before walking back up it to go inside the casino foyer (no photos allowed). Obviously very grand, you could tell it was for the elite and Hotel de Paris just to the right would be the perfect place to stay to gamble if money were no object. As if to prove this fact, the roundabout was lined with expensive cars.
After a break at the harbour for food and stopping back at the hotel, I went to the west of Monte Carlo and scaled up the perfect steps cutting through the apartments to the exotic garden and also a brief stopover at the National Museum. Here, a storm was clearing brewing as it sped into view over the mountains, and as I scaled back down to the old town, it began to rain and I briefly took cover in one of the public elevators. There are also public escalators.
In the old town, the streets are narrower and it’s home to the royal family. The Princes Palace is beautiful, but like many others, apart from the spectacular view. After walking to the park, the Oceanographic Museum and church up here, I returned to watch the sunset. Perhaps it was the wind in my eyes, but I could feel myself welling up; this moment was perfect. What a view! Monte Carlo was also the last of my big destinations, so another milestone was being crossed.
Once night had fallen, I quickly popped back the hotel before heading west again to see the casino at night, lit up. I grabbed a couple of pizza slices on the way and sat in a garden overlooking the harbour, listening to the singing of the entertainment from the exclusive restaurant below. At the casino, it was magical and the atmosphere was electric. The streets walking here weren’t particularly busy with people, although they were with cars, probably because everyone was up here.
A crowd had gathered again to watch the cars and the rich and famous enter the casino. Blacked out cars took guests in and the valets expertly parked £500,000 cars in tight spots. I’m surprised cars don’t get damaged here, put perhaps they do on occasion. After spending over an hour in this square soaking up the atmosphere by the fountain, the wealth actually got a bit surreal.
On Sunday morning, I got breakfast and left to catch my train to Nice; it was raining in Monte Carlo but would be sunny along the French Riveria for my arrival. Monte Carlo without a doubt achieved my favourite day of the trip, which is a blessing so late in my journey. It’s a fun, crazy place that is aesthetically the peak of all the Italian and indeed French coastal villages, towns and cities. In fact, and I swear this happened, on my second evening here I saw a shooting star from my vantage point looking over the harbour.
Assuming this wasn’t all a dream, I’m in love with this place. It’s just something else, however I imagine it’s very different living here than going on a weekend jaunt embracing it was a certain self-aware naivety.