OMD Travel: Monaco

monaco-2There are basically two types of visitors to Monaco – those who are very wealthy, and those who wish they were.

For the wealthy, influential, jet-setter, Monaco is a popular destination to enjoy yachting, racing, gambling, fine foods, and enjoying tax haven status (Monaco has no income tax).

For those who wish they were wealthy, Monaco is a great place to see gigantic yachts at the marina, rent a Lamborghini for 30 minutes, watch the grand-prix, gamble in posh casinos, and basically enjoy the French Riviera and lifestyles of the “rich and famous”.

Monaco: Sometimes Ya Gotta Drive:

I first visited Monaco after driving through Italy (Monaco is very close to the Italian-french border). The first thing I did was to drive along a few of the roads where the grand prix is run.  Of course the traffic didn’t allow me to go over 50k, but in my mind I was doing over 200k.

My next stop was the Marina where I took a walk to admire the beautiful yachts.  To be honest it was probably the only time I wish I was born a beautiful supermodel, because I figured my chances of getting out that day on a five-story yacht would increase dramatically.

Is Monaco and Monte Carlo the same thing?


Now some of you may be wondering, “where in the world is Monaco, I have never heard of it.”  The reason is that Monaco is what we call a city-state, which means the country is basically a city.  Many think that Monte Carlo is the capital or another name for Monaco. However it is not.

The country of Monaco is divided into four areas: Monaco-Ville (the old city), the Condamine (port quarter), Monte-Carlo (business and recreation), and Fontvieille (recreation and light industry). Monaco is the second smallest country, and monarchy, in the world, and is the most densely populated country in the world.  It sits on the French Riviera and has warm dry summers and mild rainy winters.

 Monaco a little History:


The historical references refer to this area after the Greeks built a temple to Hercules sometime around 6th century BC. The Grecian people then began to call the area “Monoikos” meaning “single house”. Many years later, in the thirteenth century, the area was annexed off as part of Genoa of Italy, and ruled by the “Grimaldi” or princes of Monaco.

Today you can visit the Monaco’s Royal Palace with its 13th century architecture, although the architecture additions are noticeable as you wander through the palace. Early in the seventeenth century one of the princes asked the French to protect them from the Spanish.

The French kings did give protection, although Monaco basically became a vassal of the French until the French revolution.  Over the following years Monaco was basically pushed around by various political changes in Europe, until 1911. During this time they were finally able to set up a constitution, where it has morphed into the current constitutional monarchy of today.  A funny note is the French military still provides protection to this very day.

 Sometimes Ya Gotta Walk:

monaco4Walking is the best way to get around Monaco.  If you try to drive it is very slow going and parking is difficult to find. There are five basic bus routes that will pretty much take you wherever you want to go in a half hour or so.

Taxis generally will not stop for you.  If you need a taxi go by any larger hotel, or to the train station.or Avenue Monte Carlo. One of the great things about visiting the tiered areas is the public escalators and elevators that can help people negotiate the steep slopes of the city.

If you like gambling, or just want to visit the glamorous gaming rooms, you have to visit the Grand Casino. The building is spectacular and the gaming rooms are opulent with stained glass, paintings, sculptures and great ambiance. Just remember your passport, and do not try to get in with casual clothes.  So bring your dresses, coats, ties, and money for admission fees. Maybe you will even have the chance to win alongside Donald Trump.

If you check the calendar for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, you might want to set aside the date.  It is one of the premier European social events, and one of the most exiting races in the world.  This is because you can sit within a few meters of the cars as they speed around the 263-kilometers of Monaco’s narrowest and twisted streets. Residents rent out their terrace for visitors and there are about 3,000 seats available for sale along the circuit.

monaco3Other interesting things were the Muse Ocanographique, which presents the life and work of Jacques Cousteau. The “auquavision” boats are 120 seat catamaran-type boats equipped with hull windows which allow you to watch what goes by under the ocean even while you enjoy the beautiful coastline. There are also various palaces around the Monte Carlo section of town, as well as the City Hall in the Old Town area. In the summer time there are dazzling concerts that light up the night at the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club.

I would have loved to stay longer, but this trip Monaco was used as my launching pad to see France.  So after dropping off my car, having fun sight-seeing, touring hot spots, and getting a good night’s sleep, it was time to leave Monaco and board the train to  the French Alps.