Monaco - 16 Days Before the Grand Prix


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Europe » Monaco
May 8th 2015
Published: May 9th 2015
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The Nice Garden Hotel has a separate charge for le petit dejeuner (breakfast) of €8.00 per person. That seemed reasonable so we decided that we would have breakfast at the hotel rather than go out looking for something for breakfast. There was plenty of food to choose from - orange juice, coffee, cereal, yoghurt, salami, cheese, butter, jam and a basketful of bread and croissants - but, there was no fruit. We have been struggling to keep our vegetable intake up to scratch, but at least we have been consistently having two to three pieces of fruit at the start of each day!! We might buy some fruit to supplement tomorrow's breakfast?

Today's sightseeing involved a day trip to Monaco on the bus. Bernie had done all the research and checked it again last night and we needed to catch Bus 100 near the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain. We took the scenic route via the market on Cours Selaya and enjoyed all the colour and activity of the fruit, veg and flower market. It is amazing how this area transforms from day time to night time - produce market by day, al fresco dining by night.

From the market we wandered back to the Promenade du Paillon and then found our way to the Art Museum where we found the bus stop as expected. The only problem was that, as of Monday the 4th of May 2015 - yes, the beginning of the week - Bus 100 no longer stops at this bus stop. Bugger! A lovely French lady at the bus stop managed to point us in the right direction, telling us that we now need to go down to the Port de Nice to catch the bus to Monaco.

So, we got to explore a bit more of the old city and walk through the area where they are constructing the new East-West tram line as we made our way down to Quai Lunel. Finally, after short wait, we climbed aboard Bus 100 for the journey to Monaco. The bus fare is extremely cheap at just €1.50 each and excellent value as you are treated to some lovely views of the Mediterranean as the bus winds its way along the coast through picturesque seaside towns. Although tempted to disembark at a number of towns with beautiful views we stayed on board until we reached Monaco.

Aware that the Grand Prix is due to be held in Monaco on the 24th of May we thought that there might already be some evidence of Grand Prix infrastructure being put in place. How wrong could we be? Virtually ALL of the infrastructure is in place already because the ePrix is being raced in Monaco tomorrow!!! ePrix? WTF is that?

Much to Bernie's excitement, pit lane was accessible to the public today and we were able to photograph racing cars and official vehicles AND we thought we overheard someone say that the ePrix is for electrically powered cars. The ePrix was later Googled when we had access to the Internet and we learnt that tomorrow's race is Round 7 of the inaugural season of the ePrix which is indeed motor racing for electrically powered cars. Motor racing aficionados may have been aware of the advent of the ePrix, but it was not something on Bernie's radar.

The down side of all of this was that just over two weeks out from the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the streets of Monaco have already been converted to racetrack and the streetscape has been completely overtaken with kilometres of cyclone fencing and multi-storied scaffolding supporting the temporary stands. Not only was it ugly, it made it very difficult to negotiate our way around Monaco!

We persevered though and after a brief visit to the Sainte Dévote Church (currently at the end of a Grand Prix run-off area!) we walked around the side of the harbour to the Monte Carlo Casino. Talk about lifestyles of the rich and the famous! The harbour was filled with enormous motor launches worth billions of Euros and the car park at the front of the casino was filled with prestige motor cars worth millions of Euros. Ferraris, Maseratis, Mercedes ... and a Roller all the way from Dubai. Just down the hill from the main entrance to the Casino there were more prestige cars parked out the front of Nobu. Bernie drooled over more prestige cars in half an hour than he would see in half a year around Melbourne!

While on the subject of motor cars it's worth mentioning that in the country that is (or used to be?) the home of the Renault motor car, we are also seeing lots of Clios. Out and about in Melbourne I'm lucky to see one or two per week when I m driving around in mine; here in France we see one every couple of minutes!!

We walked all the way to the Japanese Garden, a municipal park on the Avenue Princess Grace, in the Larvotto ward of Monaco. The garden was a peaceful oasis unaffected by the Grand Prix preparations. Seven hectares in size it featured a stylised mountain, hill, waterfall, beach and brook and a Zen garden for meditation.

From the Japanese Garden we re-traced our steps to the area near where we disembarked this morning. We weren't game to attempt an alternative route not knowing what obstacles we might encounter due to Grand Prix infrastructure! This brought us to the base of the Prince's Palace of Monaco, the official residence of the Prince of Monaco. We made the climb up to the Genoese fortress built in 1191 to take in the view over Monaco. During its long and often dramatic history the fortress has been bombarded and besieged by many foreign powers. Since the end of the 13th century it has been the stronghold and home of the Grimaldi family. The first Grimaldi captured the fortress by stealth (he snuck in dressed as a monk!) in 1297 and the Grimaldi family has ruled the area ever since, first as feudal lords and, from the 17th century, as sovereign princes.

Because the family's power was often derived from fragile agreements with their larger and stronger neighbours, politics and common sense demanded that the palace of the Monegasque rulers be fortified. This unique requirement, that continued until late in the 18th century, has made the palace at Monaco one of the most unusual in Europe. The Prince's Palace reflects the history not only of Monaco, but of the Grimaldi family which in 1997 celebrated 700 years of rule from the same palace.

Having spent rather longer in Monaco than we thought we might we descended from the palace and went to the bus stop on the opposite side of the street from where we disembarked this morning. Oh, no there was a sign up about disruption to the bus services between the 7th and the 9th of May due to the ePrix! Of course the sign was only in French so it was a challenge trying to work out if it applied to the stop we were at. Somehow we thought that having the stop's name in bold and in parentheses > was a reasonable hint that the bus wouldn't be coming by!!

Alright then, perhaps we could walk to the next stop in the direction of Nice?? Ha, a simple enough idea, but just up the hill the road entered a tunnel with no pedestrian access. So we crossed the road and went up an escalator and walked over the top of the road below and encountered a lovely pedestrian area leading to absolutely nothing in the way of a footpath that we could walk on to the next stop.

Perhaps we should catch the train back? There was a sign to the station (Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo) practically in front of our noses so we went to Plan B. We found the station easily enough and then our extensive subterranean exploration of Monaco began. We walked and walked and walked into the cliff that Monaco is perched on and eventually found a ticket machine. We were buying train tickets in Italy like we were regular commuters, but here in Monaco the ticket machine was incomprehensible.

OK, so let's see if we can find an actual ticket office to buy our train tickets at. We turned onto the longest platform in the history of railway stations and started walking along it looking for a ticket office. A train to Nice pulled in, but we didn't have a ticket and we weren't game to board it without one. For sure there would be a ticket inspector on the train if we were on it without a ticket!!

With no ticket office on the platform we headed down - even further into the heart of the mountain - where we found another bank of ticket machines. We had another go at trying to work out how to buy a ticket, but gave up again! OMG, these machines have a dial on them like an old Dymo labeller and somehow you use that to make your selections, but it defeated us.

So we kept on heading down into the bowels of the earth hoping that there was a mountain troll somewhere manning a ticket office. Hmmmn, we found our way right to the other end of the Monaco underground without finding any way to purchase tickets for the train ride to Nice. So we popped out into the daylight, just to get our bearings, and found that we were back at Sainte Dévote ... which is another bus stop that is not being used between the 7th and the 9th of May. Aaaaaarrrggghhh, how are we going to get back to Nice?!

By this stage we had been walking around UNDERNEATH Monaco for about 45 minutes! If we had taken a chance on riding the train without a ticket we would have been back at the hotel having pre-dinner drinks. So, back into the mountain we went and resorted to asking a very helpful French lady if she would buy our tickets for us. Watching over her shoulder we learnt that you have to turn the dial until you have dialled up the selection that you want AND THEN you press the button at the centre of the dial to make that selection and move to the next step and so on and so on and so on through about half a dozen selections.

Finally, we made it back to Nice ... and it was still daylight. We stocked up on a few supplies at the supermarket and then we had those long-awaited pre-dinner drinks in our room before going to the local Lebanese restaurant where we had a really delicious lamb chawarma meal.

Steps for the day 24,397 (16.61 km)


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10th May 2015

Isn't the Cannes Film Festival...
happening about now? Are you planning to see the stars?
11th May 2015

Bad timing?
Hi Bob, You may have seen our Cannes post now? It suited us to be Europe in May and it is just coincidence that we were on the Côte d'Azur at the same time as the lead up to the Monaco Grand Prix and just a couple of days before the Cannes Film Festival. Not being star watchers we would have preferred to see both places in their natural state rather than all pimped up for these events! But that's travel for you - you just have to go with the flow. We didn't even have an accidental star sighting. Cheers, Tracey,
11th May 2015

I just read your Cannes post...
I agree that it's best to try to avoid Cannes and Monaco in May. We always stayed in Antibes. I hope you visit there too.

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