We are having dinner at a great house in Sainte-Maxime, talking to our host Eric about our travel plans. We tell him that in the next few days we are planning to go Monaco and we ask him for recommendations and tips about parking spots. We are shocked to hear that it will be difficult to drive there, as there was the most expected event of the year happening exactly the same weekend… Formula 1 Grand Prix! We looked at each other and laughed at how much we are prepared and informed about this part of our trip.
We took of from Sanremo and left our car at a French city closest to Monaco, Menton. After 20 minutes of a ride in a train, we arrived to Monte Carlo. Leaving the station through a tunnel, we suddenly heard a very loud noise of powerful engines. We could see excitement on people’s faces as everybody started walking faster, some even running towards the exit. The exit from the tunnel was really close to the circuit. Though there were some barriers, it was perfectly possible to see the cars going at incredible speed right before a sharp curve. The noise was so loud that it made it impossible to hear each other. Although it wasn’t the F1 race, but a lower category, GP2, we stayed mesmerized staring at the road thinking how lucky we were to get here that day.
After the intial shock, we started walking around and we noticed that the whole city was full of stands with souvenirs from F1, including T-shirts, toy cars and earplugs. At one point we entered a small square with couple of real F1 car displayed for public, and a stage where the main pilots were about to give a Q&A session.
We went up to the hill to Monaco Ville, also called La Rocher, the only part of the city that conserved an old touch. It’s also were the official residence of the royal family is. From the top we were able to see almost the whole circuit, and at the same time almost the whole country. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world (after Vatican), with the total area of 200ha. It’s been ruled by the Grimaldi family since 13 Century. It has an unusual status as it is not a member of European Union, but it participates in the EU customs territory and uses euro as its currency.
The old part on the hill had a big square in front of the palace (13th century fortress) where you can watch the changing of the guard of Carabiniers du Prince. From the square three narrow medieval streets spread out. They are full of souvenirs shops and small restaurants. The main square has two nice viewpoints, one overlooking the main bay where the casino and main port are situated, and the second with a view over a smaller luxurious marina with fancy hotels and apartments.
At 2 pm when the race was over, the streets of the circuit were opened and the visitors were able to walk around it. We went down to see the Casino located in a very posh area, with many of the most famous designer shops and expensive coffee shops surrounding it.
It was a great surprise to be able to experience the fever of racing and visit such a unique country.
Renato and Magda