After watching the recent Monte Carlo Masters tennis event this past weekend, I realized I have never written anything on Monte Carlo or Monaco. Monaco lies on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and is completely enclosed by France. Monaco is often regarded as a tax haven, and many of its inhabitants are wealthy and from foreign countries. Monaco is a Constitutional Monarchy and Principality with Prince Albert II as head of state. Despite being independent, Monaco’s defense is still the responsibility of France. Monaco is the world’s second most densely populated country, surpassed only by the Macau Special Administrative Region in southeast China. Monaco is also the smallest French-speaking country.
Monte Carlo is the wealthiest of Monaco’s various administrative areas, sometimes erroneously believed to be the country’s capital, even though there formally is none. Monte Carlo is known for its casinos, gambling, glamor, and for sightings of famous people. The permanent population is about 3000 although again, many people simply say they live there for tax purposes including many star athletes like tennis players and race car drivers.
Monte Carlo is host to many world class events including; the Circuit de Monaco, on which the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix takes place; it also hosts world championship boxing bouts, the Monte Carlo Masters, European Poker Tour Grand Final, fashion shows and other events.
My biggest travel goof that I have ever made was when I was studying abroad in London with my friend Mike and we had bought tickets to fly to Nice, in the South of France-mainly because we wanted to go to the casinos in Monte Carlo. However, we then heard that they checked ID’s and you had to be 21 to enter to famous casinos there. So being the novice travelers we were at the time we cancelled our trip instead of just heading down there to see the rest of Monaco and the South of France and we went elsewhere instead-which ended up being Paris-so it wasn’t that bad although I did get massive food poisoning the first night there. However, Mike and I always joke about how stupid we were for not going to Monaco at that time because we thought we couldn’t get into the casinos. Of course to my dismay, when I finally did make it there when I was 21-they didn’t even check my passport and I just strolled right in. The casinos are as nice as you’d think with that old European flare-not like the crap they have in Vegas.
For me, the other best thing about Monaco in general was the cliffside drives. I thought it was awesome to race around the curves at stupidly high speeds along the mountainside. It obviously made me think of Princess Grace who famously drove her Rover off the serpentine down a mountainside and died the next day from her injuries sustained. I wouldn’t exactly recommend speeding around the corners in Monaco but you do a lot of things at 21 that you don’t necessarily recommend to others!
Anyway, Monaco is a little country with a lot to see, many more things than I’ve listed here and there are world class events, hotels, people, etc. However, it ain’t cheap so bring Euros galore, credit cards and just forget the exchange rates because in order to really enjoy Monaco and Monte Carlo-you’re gonna have to spend some money.