I had never before seen two Rolls Royce cars in my life, and I’ve just walked past two Rolls Royce’s parked next to each other. Naturally this shouldn’t come as any surprise because I’m walking up to the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. But my jaw dropped nevertheless.The streets of Monaco are filled with only the finest automobiles, with a BMW or Audi holding up the lower end of the spectrum.
Here in Monaco, wealth is the standard, and it is flaunted. If Dubai is the world’s center of new wealth, Monaco is the counterpart for old money. Since the Casino de Monte-Carlo opened its doors in 1863, it has been attracting the world’s wealthiest to come and play.
Even for the budget-conscience visitor taking a day trip from Nice or some other town along the French Riviera, Monaco is an enchanting place to visit. The second smallest country in the world (after Vatican City) and the most densely populated, Monaco is clean, well-kept, aesthetically-pleasing, and beautiful. With sweeping views over the Mediterranean, whether experienced from land or a atop a 150-ft yacht with helipad, the entire country exudes Grace Kelly-like elegance.
As I continue my walk through this small and walkable country, I venture from Monte Carlo over to Monaco-Ville. Here I join groups of tourists admiring the Place du Palais and Cathedrale de Monaco, followed by daydreaming about the rows of white, pristine yachts resting in the Port de Fontvieille. The owners have perhaps driven their boats here from Morrocco or Spain or the Caribbean, seeking a vacation in the Riviera’s finest city. Then again, perhaps their crews drove the yachts here and the owners flew in on their private jets to meet them. Sigh, what a life that must be.
I continue to wrap around the cliff’s edge of Monaco-Ville, taking in the salty, moist air of the Mediterranean. As I make my way to the Oceanographic Museum, I decide to stop in for a visit, for a reprieve from the sun, although the surrounding gardens call for me. The museum is lovely, I enjoy learning about Prince Albert’s work here to help understand anaphylaxis, and about the creatures living within the Mediterranean Sea that reflects light into the museum from every window. After an educational hour, I continue on, through the gardens and past the event set-up for the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. When this most prestigious Formula One race rolls into town, all eyes are drawn to the Route de la Piscine and the Boulevard Albert 1er, watching the cars whiz by as they have done each year since 1929.
But today the races haven’t started yet, perhaps for the better since the crowds are said to be quite sizeable. So I wrap around past the Port Hercule, past the Casino, past Rolls Royce dealerships, and make my way over to the Monte Carlo Country Club. The Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis tournament is in town! I’ve got tickets to see Djokovic take on Nadal, and the energy surrounding this event is buzzing. The matchup is compelling, and though I couldn’t enjoy the earlier days of the Monte-Carlo Masters, dating back to 1897, I feel the prestige and tradition have been well-honored and maintained still today.
The match is a thrilling, high-speed contest, and ultimately Nadal defends his impressive winning streak, clinching the title once again. The crowd may be split in its support of the players, but I think we all feel it’s been an honor to witness this historic match in this world famous venue. I finish off a long and satisfying day with a cone of gelato, then board the train back to Nice. Monaco may be small, but it is packed with beautiful sights, fun things to do, great people-watching, and many of the world’s wealthiest.