Monte Carlo, Monaco
Royalty, Palaces, Le Grand Casino, The Grand Prix and Hollywood Royalty turning into a Princess-who can’t be thrilled to go to Monaco? Arriving in the Riviera with Monte Carlo as the main attraction is always exhilarating! Pick your passion!
Monte Carlo means “Mt. Charles” and was named in honor of the reigning prince Charles III in 1866. Historical records shows it’s existence since 51 BC with Julius Caesar concentrating his fleet here temporarily. Genoa, Italy ruled Monaco in the 12th Century. Casino’s and sea-bathing facilities were built and failed due to it’s challenging location. Once a railway was built in 1868 Monaco’s future changed.
The reigning history of the Grimaldi family dates back to the 12th Century. Hailing from the Republic of Genoa, Monaco and the Grimaldi’s history and lives are intertwined with successes and tragedy. Monaco is renowned for the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix car race, the elegant Le Grand Casino and luxury shopping which brings movie stars and the wealthy. An excitement vibrates throughout the area. My favorite story is about a Hollywood actress becoming a Princess though.
Once upon a time a beautiful actress, Grace Kelly went to the Cannes Film Festival and was invited to meet Prince Rainier III at the Palace in Monaco. A little known country then, America was awakened to the beauty of this country and this love affair starting in 1955. Upon their fairy tale wedding in 1956 Hollywood Royalty was merged with true Royalty. Prince Rainier III came from the long reigning Grimaldi line and the budding romance can now be intimately experienced in the Palace of the Prince. It is a lovely tribute to more innocent times. Viewing the pictures as well as the Palace rooms that had been photographed on this special, meeting day was touching. Currently Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier’s son, Prince Albert II is the sovereign of Monaco.
Another tribute can be made to Princess Grace by visiting her tomb in the Cathedral of Monaco. Charles III built this church in 1875. The royal family’s tombs are located here including Princess Grace’s. Flowers and tributes decorate her tomb always. Her beauty and elegance were admired by many and tragically ended in a car accident when she was only 52.
After touring the Palace and Cathedral, other notable buildings are Le Grand Casino and the Monte Carlo Opera House. The buildings are connected but that is where their similarities stop. Unlike the elegant, neoclassical Casino, the Opera House was renovated in 1988 with strikingly modern interiors. Keep in mind that restrictions apply to view the casino. One needs to be over 18, show a passport or photo ID, no photos are allowed and a dress code is required as well as an admission fee. It is still worth the visit.
For the outdoors person there is the exquisite Garden Exotique. We walked along the water near the cruise pier, climbed the hill and the entire time experienced a beautiful public garden. The views, flowers and sea breeze made for a serene morning. Many statues along these paths give you an enjoyable glimpse into the history of Monaco as well.
Another star of Monaco is the infamous Jacques Cousteau (1920-1997). Frenchman Cousteau introduced oceanography and scuba diving to the world through film, documentaries and his book The Silent World, cowritten with Frederic Dumas. The film version of this won many Oscars in 1957. Cousteau became the Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum’s Director for many years. Throughout this museum one can see his original equipment and other diving devices he invented. His contribution to our knowledge of the Ocean’s depths is unparalleled.
Being on the Riviera one of the novelties about Monaco is it’s nearness to France and the French Riviera. Beautiful cities such as Nice (11 miles), Cannes (31 miles) and the mountain top, medieval village of Eze (5.5 miles) are great day trips from Monaco. Another option is to tour the “perfume capital of the world” in Grasse which is only 41 miles from Monaco.
Taking in the Cote d’Azur is breath taking. We drove the Grand Corniche from Menton to Nice in November of 2014. The breathtaking views and the numerous, gorgeous towns on mountaintops, cities with Mediterranean views, delicious restaurants and promenades to walk made for a very enjoyable week. It is called one of the most romantic roads in Europe and takes you right through Monaco.
So if you are a scientist, a Hollywood fan, a romantic, a racing fanatic, a gambler, a yacht lover, a rich and famous follower or a historian, visiting Monaco is a worthwhile trip. Now it can easily be reached by train, car, yacht, flight or cruise ship. Leave a few days or more depending on your interests and your pocket book. One leaves Monaco with a flavor of elegant times gone by and a romantic dream in your heart. Enjoy.