Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo, the most famous part of Monaco and home to the renowned casino, is an easy train ride from Nice in France. It's a relatively new municipality, established in 1911 and named after Prince Charles III of Monaco. Monte Carlo has become a byword, as a playground for the rich and famous. It's home to the Café de Paris and Hotel de Paris and countless high end establishments, as well as the casino. The casino, of course, has featured in numerous movies, not to mention songs - The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. Though the iconic Tony Curtis rally film, Monte Carlo or Bust! was sadly known as Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies, in the USA.

The film was based on the Monte Carlo Rally, an annual car event which takes place along the Riviera in Monaco and south east France. It was inaugurated by Prince Albert of Monaco in 1911, to promote both motoring and Monte Carlo. It wasn't really a race originally. Competitors would set off from various starting points all around Europe and 'rally' in Monaco.

Facts and Factoids

  • Monaco,(officially the Principality of Monaco) is a microstate, a tax haven, widely recognised as one of the most expensive and wealthiest places in the world. Squashed between France and Italy, with an area of 2.1 km2, it is the second-smallest sovereign state in the world, after Vatican City. The principality is home to nearly 40,000 residents, of whom only a quarter are Monégasque nationals. The other residents are known as Monacoians. That may not sound like many people overall, but its small size makes this the most densely-populated sovereign state in the world.
  • What’s more, it’s thought that over 30% of the residents are millionaires. Monaco has a land border of 3.40 miles and the world's shortest coastline - approximately 2.38 miles.
  • The official language of the principality is French, but Monégasque, (a dialect of Ligurian), Italian and English is spoken and understood by many residents.
  • Monaco is not formally in the EU, but uses the euro as currency and there is considerable cooperation with France. The Prime Minister is appointed by the monarch, in conjunction with the French, and can be either a Monégasque or a French citizen.

How to Get to Monaco?

  • Well, the transport of choice is private helicopter (no airport- the nearest is at Nice, in France), or mega-yacht.
  • I drove here once, on the way back from Italy and the second time I got the coastal train from Nice - very easy.

A Brief History of Monaco

  • The principality has been, governed by the Grimaldi family, on and off, since 1297. It’s said to be a constitutional monarchy, but the family have a very strong influence on affairs. And remember the romantic relationship between Prince Rainier and film star Grace Kelly?
  • Monaco's name derives from the nearby sixth-century BC Phoenician Greek colony. This was known as Monoikos, from the Greek "single house". There was just one temple there - dedicated to Hercules. The area ended up in the hands of the Holy Roman Empire, which gave it to the Genoese. The Republic of Genoa lasted until the 19th century and they delegated control to the Grimaldi family (outcast from Genoa). The country manged to stay unmolested, for the most part, though France annexed it during the French Revolution, but after the defeat of Napoleon it was given to the Kingdom of Sardinia.
  • In the 19th century, when Sardinia became a part of Italy, France allowed it to remain independent.
  • Monaco City is the southcentral ward in the Principality of Monaco. Located on a headland that extends into the Mediterranean Sea, it is nicknamed The Rock.

What To Do in Monte Carlo

  • Wander in to the casino. This gilded, mirrored and suitably ornate building is home to the gambling business begun by the Grimaldi family in the late 1800s, in order to solve their financial problems. It worked so well that none of the residents of Monaco have to pay taxes. There are many tales, most of them untrue, about folk who made or lost their fortunes here, in what is probably the most famous casino in the world. Residents are not allowed to enter the gaming rooms.
  • Admire the hundreds of super yachts in the huge marina
  • Inspect the Grand Prix stands - the race is run on the the main streets. Or even watch the annual race - if you can afford a ticket. This is the elite F1 race that everyone wants to win. Many of the Grand Prix drivers have homes here and Charles Leclerc is a Monegasque (as they call themselves.)
  • Drink champagne with the mega millionaires
  • Soak up the sun on Larvotto Beach
  • Take in the mountain scenery (you're at the foot of the maritime Alps)
  • Take in world class opera or ballet at the Opera House (in the casino building).
  • Visit the museums - like the world famous Oceanographic Museum with its research centre and aquarium
  • Envy the cars (if they're your thing - they are big in Monte Carlo) in H.S.H. Prince Rainier III's private collection

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