Monaco is a beautiful province on the French Riviera known for being the playground of the rich and famous. However, I think that Monaco is so much more than the home to the Grand Prix, beautiful people, expensive houses and luxurious yachts. It’s a province with an interesting history, beautiful architecture and monarchy which has stood the test of time.
Getting to Monaco
My first experience in Monaco was actually on the train from Italy. We crossed the Italian/French border from Ventimiglia to make our way to Nice, which is where we stayed when visiting the French Riviera. We had made a ticket booking error so had to take the regional train while lugging 2x30kg of luggage squashed up against the train seats built only for short commutes! Rick sat on the left aisle and I sat on the right aisle in a not very crowded train. That is, until we stopped at a station full of people. I looked at my watch and realised that it was 5.30pm – peak hour for commuters heading home for the day!
Suddenly the train was full and people were trying to squash into the carriage while looking at these two tourists (i.e. Rick and I) who were taking up half the carriage. I looked out the window in amazement. Monaco station looked so much fancier than the stations that we had passed earlier in our journey. The people were also well dressed, wearing the latest styles off the catwalk. But what I noticed most, was that they were polite and happy and did not yell at the silly tourists (i.e. Rick and I) who were trying to push their luggage closer to the side to give more room. Instead, two very polished women (talking animatedly in french), sat next to me with their legs uncomfortably squashed to the side in an effort to politely assure me that it was not such a big deal. I’m sure that I must have squashed their feet with my luggage at some point, but they were determined to make me feel less embarrassed! The french can be so polite!
The Prince’s Palace
When we saw Monaco for the first time, I immediately walked in the direction of the Prince’s Palace. The Prince’s Palace is the home of the Grimaldi family, a royal family who have ruled Monaco for over 700 years ever since Francois Grimaldi dressed up as a Monk and killed a guard in order to gain entry to the castle and take reign of Monaco . When I first walked through the palace gates, I saw the statue of the Monk which represents this important day in Monaco’s history.
Right next to the statue of Francoi Grimaldi are the cannon balls which lead you to the lookout. The views are just epic!
The Prince’s Palace is tiny compared to other palaces that I have seen, but I still think it’s beautiful. How could you not fall in love with a castle that overlooks one of the world’s beautiful places?
The guard keeps the prince and the royal family safe from harm. In Monaco, you feel so safe as there are cameras everywhere and there is 1 cop to every 60 people. I loved seeing the guard standing so serious on front of the castle gates and then completing a choreographed march during his “changing of the guards” routine.
Visiting the castle
The great thing about the castle is that it is open to the public, well parts of it anyway! For about 12 Euros, you can take an audio tour around the museum and parts of the castle that have been sectioned off for visitors. You can’t take photos in there but it’s well worth it as you learn to appreciate the history of Monaco. They say that the Royal family has had a curse placed against them since Francois Grimaldi killed that guard 700+ years ago. Since then, many historians have said that this rings true in some ways. One of the most famous tragedies is the death of Princess Grace Kelly, a Hollywood movie star who became a princess after marrying Prince Rainier III.
The rooms in the Prince’s Palace were filled with beautiful 17th century artworks, family portraits and furniture. My favourite piece was the portrait of Grace Kelly and her family, not long before she died. I love it because it shows a happy moment in their history, where she is standing on top of the stairs with her family around her and she is glowing, almost as if she has a beacon of light shining on her.
Old Town in Monaco
The people of Monaco loved Princess Grace so much that when you walk around Monaco, you see photos of her during momentous parts of history, such as the day that she took her daughter to school.
We also loved the architecture in Old Town because you kind of feel like you’ve taken a trip back in time. The winding roads take you to the Catholic church where past royals are buried. We didn’t get to go inside because we spent so much time admiring the view of Ocean but I’m glad that I had a chance to see such a magnificent structure.
Even the court house is designed in a way that exudes elegance…
But really, the best thing about Old Town is the view. The yachts appear to be orderly assembled in their “parking lot” and off into the distance are the ultra chic buildings and coastal areas that add to Monaco’s charm!
The Grand Prix and Ferrari’s
So we didn’t have a Ferrari or Porsche, but that didn’t stop us from driving on the Grand Prix circuit! We sat in a very comfortable, relatively quick… train… with a bunch of tourists and a little canine friend! Isn’t he cute?
The little red train takes you around Monaco if you get tired of walking and will only cost you 8 Euros. It even takes you across the Grand Prix Curcuit where you can spot a fast car or two…
I really enjoyed Monaco, and when I think about it, I always have fond memories. There’s plenty more that I’d like to see in Monaco and one day in this province is definitely not enough! I wanted to see Monte Carlo and it’s casino and spend some more time in Old Town. I’ll save that for my next adventure!
What’s your favourite place to travel?
Would love to hear from you so follow me on twitter or send me a note below and if you like this blog, please subscribe. Happy travels!!