|at Monaco-Ville, overlooking Monaco Bay|
Just after the Monument aux Morts, we were atop Castle Hill, looking at an excellent view of the Nice coastline. Minutes later, our driver pointed to a spot on the winding road where Grace Kelly met her untimely death in a motor accident. The Hollywood actress stole Prince Rainier III’s heart and became the Princess of the Principality of Monaco, thirty minutes away from Nice.
|St. Nicholas Cathedral at Monaco-Ville|
As soon as we reached Monaco, we wasted no time and walked to Monaco-Ville, the medieval old town located on a rocky headland that stretched to the Meditteranean. As soon as we left the parking complex, we saw the Oceanographic Museum. As we walked further, Princess Grace’s garden was by the hillside but we opted to explore the town more. Saint Nicholas Cathedral (where Princess Grace and other members of the ruling elite are buried) soon came into view.
|the Prince's Palace|
After a few more steps and some picture-taking, we finally reached the Prince’s Palace. The current constitutional monarch is Prince Albert II, son of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace. He is one of the wealthiest monarchs in the world with assets valued at over $1 B, not including the Prince’s Palace. The Palace Square offered sweeping views of Monaco's 0.781 square miles. With a population just above 36,000 and a GDP of almost $6 B, per capita income is just under $200,000, making it the wealthiest place in the world.
|from top left, clockwise: Opera, the Casino and Opera, the shops, and the Casino|
With only a little of the afternoon remaining, we proceeded quickly to Monte Carlo, a fifth of the size of Monaco but with almost half its population. At the western end of the quarter is the Place du Casino, where the Monte Carlo Casino is situated, “an international byword for the extravagant display and reckless dispersal of wealth.” Beside it is the Opera de Monte Carlo where only the wealthy is invited. Only about 8 miles to the east is the Italian border.
We could not stop taking photos of the luxurious Place, bounded by opulent shopping buildings and malls on three sides with elegantly manicured and exquisitely decorated gardens at the center. In front of the Opera, there was a display of luxurious cars, including a yellow Radical Model SR3 SL, powered by Ford Ecoboost worth $100,000. And it was colored yellow! Bill chose a Lamborghini tuned by Hamann Motorsports valued at about $150,000. In any case, he earns the bigger bucks!
Monaco Grand Prix
|the bleachers at the Gran Prix|
When we had finished playing, we met our driver who took us down the hill to the place where the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix is held every year in May (again, we were a month early!). We traced part of the race circuit, including the tunnel section. Since I am writing this post five months after the trip, I can’t remember exactly the extraordinary thing our driver said of the tunnel. It may be something like it is the only tunnel with a roundabout! But we had already passed the roundabout before I could take a picture! Sorry.
But soon the day was over, the longest day of our stay in France. Our driver had certainly saved the best for last. I loved Monaco and Monte Carlo and our short peek at the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Our van was so comfy and we had a good driver; he knew his way around the French Riviera. It was the highlight of our unintended nth honeymoon!