Saturday, 2 August 2014

Monte Carlo or Bust!

I recently visited a brand new country, my 31st in total. This was no ordinary country; it was The Principality of Monaco, the second smallest country in the world (behind Vatican City).

I’ve always wanted to visit Monaco.

Way back in the 1970’s I would watch James Bond films, and TV series like The Persuaders, where international jetsetters would drive around the French Riviera and pop into casinos winning vast quantities of money while watched by gorgeous women.

I woke up on the morning of our day out to Monaco having dreamt of driving along winding coastal roads high up on hills overlooking a beautiful, tranquil Mediterranean Sea, at the wheel of a flash red car with the wind blowing through my horrific hair.

Mrs PM helped to shatter that illusion: “Shall we go on the bus?”

The good news was that the bus from Nice to Monaco travelled along such a scenic road; it was regular (every fifteen minutes) and cheap (1.5 Euros). Sadly, it was packed and we had to stand up all the way there (an hour in total).

On the bus, I noticed a very strange man. He had dreadlocks that were completely matted and stretched almost all of the way down his back to his feet. What made it worse was that he was receding and had hardly any hair on the top of his head. Two young girls of about eleven actually panicked when they had to walk past him.

The first girl said “J’ai peur!” (“I’m afraid!”).

The second girl said “Ne t’inquiet pas!” (“Don’t worry!”) and they kind of sidled past him.

We left the bus at the iconic Monte Carlo Casino. It was a glorious day and the place was full of tourists all crowding around trying to get photographs. I would have liked to have stepped into the casino but wearing shorts and a T-shirt prohibited me. I saw a couple of people walking towards the place dressed up in full designer suits complete with crisp white shirt and tie. Parked outside the casino were several super cars including a bright yellow Lamborghini. People were just as interested in the cars as they were in the casino itself.

Apart from the casino, Monaco is also famous for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix, and boasts the only circuit that is made up of public roads. I’ve never really enjoyed the Monaco Grand Prix that much because of the nature of the track which makes it very difficult to overtake. That said, however, there have been one or two interesting races in the past and the scenery is arguably the best of all the circuits. The famous hairpin bend was very close to the casino and a lot of tourists were taking photographs of this dangerous curve. We walked down past the bend and through the famous tunnel that makes up the next part of the circuit. It was loud enough with normal everyday cars travelling through it and I can only imagine the noise when several Formula One racing cars are charging through at over 200mph.

After the tunnel, we found ourselves on the marina, where we enjoyed looking at the large expensive yachts, before stopping for a quite expensive lunch.

While Monaco is small, we were a bit limited in time, so we opted to take an open top bus tour around the remainder of the principality, so that we could stop off at places of interest and explore without walking everywhere in the increasing heat.

The bus tour provided us with a lot of useful information about Monaco. I thought I knew what to expect but some things surprised me. For example, Monaco has its own language, Monégasque, and street signs are shown in both French and Monégasque. An example of the language is:

Santa Maria, maire de Diu,
prega per nùi, pecatùi
aùra e à l'ura d'a nostra morte

which is an excerpt from the Hail Mary prayer.

Also, the total area of Monaco is a mere two square kilometres. The principality has a monarchy, the current ruler being Albert II.

Monaco is also a tax haven and as such attracts extremely wealthy people from all over Europe. Imagine being a billionaire and having to pay no income tax at all?

Eventually the bus took us to the old town, called Monaco-Ville, which is located high on a rocky promontory that offers fantastic views of the principality. The area was similar to the old town in Nice with narrow streets containing shops and restaurants.

We took the time to stroll around the streets, devour a wonderfully creamy ice cream and relax enjoying the fabulous views, before catching the bus back to the casino so that we could return to Nice.

Sadly, the journey back to Nice was irritating too because once again we had to stand up all the way back and, thanks to roadworks, had to endure a much longer journey. There was one minor piece of entertainment when the driver ignored a woman who had pressed the “Please Stop the Bus” sign. This small young French lady yelled from the back of the bus, her voice reaching almost ear-shattering pitches until eventually the driver, presumably as deaf as the rest of us, pulled over finally, to let her out. The words that came out of her mouth made the remaining French passengers snigger. I understood none of them. Mrs PM, who speaks French extremely well, also sniggered and told me in no uncertain terms that the woman had poured forth a lot of expletives questioning the driver’s parentage and sexual preferences.

I’ll leave you with a few photographs showing how the other half lives.

Monte Carlo Casino - James Bond won't let me in because I am wearing shorts.
My next car
Monte Carlo Casino - in a mirror
Not quite a Formula One Grand Prix
My next boat
Port Hercule - A place to park my boat when I win Euromillions

What shall I shoot?
Port de Fontvieille - an alternative place for my boat

When I win the Euromillions Lottery I will certainly consider moving to Monaco. Don’t worry, I will tell you all about driving around the Grand Prix circuit in my bright yellow Lamborghini – I owe you that much, dear reader.


River said...

An alternative place for your boat?
Why not just have a boat at each location?
"What shall I shoot?"
anyone in politics is fine, fire away. :D

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

A boat t each location sounds an excellent idea.




Jackie K said...

Monaco is really beautiful, and the wealth on display in the form of cars and boats is staggering.
I've been there twice, once with my parents in the distant past when they had some money, staying in a grand hotel and having drinks in the casino, and once backpacking in my twenties. Two very different experiences. I actually didn't know (or had possibly forgotten) they had their own language.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

I didn't know they had their own language until I discovered it on the bus.

Everybody I encountered spoke French, though.

Next time I go (when I win that elusive lottery) I too will have drinks in the casino.




Big D said...

Sounds like a really cool place.

I didn't know Monaco had its own language either. Looks like it can't quite make up its mind whether it's Italian or French.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Big D,

It's definitely more French - just.




Pandora Behr said...

Very envious of your travels - sounds like a cool place to go. Pand

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

I think you would really love the Cote d'Azur.