In May I was driving a rental car through Italy heading to Monaco. It was the final stop in a long road trip that had taken us through Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Italy. Up until now I’d been pinching pennies finding cheap accommodations but I had decided that my night in Monaco would be as extravagant as the city state itself. I wanted to experience it properly.
The drive to Monaco was an adventure in itself. The coastal roads of Italy were windy all the way; perfect for a sports car. The Nissan hatchback I was driving in did the trick though. The towns we drove by were gorgeous, I wish I could have stopped at each one, but our schedule didn’t allow for it. Tunnels on the road were frequent because of the hilly terrain. We stopped in to see the leaning tower of Pisa and eat lunch at a cafe under its shadow. I was honestly worried it would topple over! Amazing to see it in person.
I booked a room in the Fairmont Monte Carlo which was situated right by the route of the Grand Prix. There’s a sign out front saying it’s the “world’s most famous bend” and it’s easy to see why. The road to the hotel is part of the track which runs through the streets of the city. I wasn’t there during the world famous event but this video was taken from the balcony of a room there. When I pulled up to the front of the hotel right I was behind a bright red Ferrari and handed my keys to the valet instructing him not to scratch it. I don’t think he was used to a person with my humor because he seemed to be offended at the accusation.
The Monte Carlo casino
Of course the first place visited was the famous Monte Carlo casino. I put on my custom tailored suit for the occasion. Inside it was extravagant. I was sorely disappointed that there was only one table open though! Luckily there are many casinos in the area including the lobby of the hotel we were staying at. I stopped in at a few and at one point was up several hundred euros. Unluckily gambling very rarely works out in the gamblers favor and this was no exception. At the end of the night I found the tables had turned. The drinks were free though and I got to rub elbows with some pretty well off people judging by the size of their bets. Definitely a worthwhile experience. Some of them had amazing stories to tell and I wish I had been able to record them to share here.
Walking through Monaco
Walking through the city was thrilling. Fancy sports cars drove by regularly and high end stores were not in short supply. We walked passed the yachts in the bay and enjoyed some wine in a café. It’s easy to see the allure of the small city state. There’s a vibrant nightlife with celebrities often seen clubbing. With the celebrities come high prices so I would recommend bringing some wine and alcohol from Italy. That’s what we did you save some money. If you’re lucky you might be able to make your way onto a yacht for an after party. Just remember to bring some nice clothes. In Monaco the clubs can be outrageous in size and design. The weather was perfect while we were there. Sunny with the odd cloud floating by. The smell of the sea was pleasant and people were generally friendly.
Driving in Monaco
One thing I would recommend you never do is try driving through Monaco! The streets are narrow and seem to be random making it hard for the GPS to know where you are. It’s also built on the side of a steep hill and the car I rented was a manual transmission like most vehicles in Europe. I got many stares when I was stopped on a particularly steep hill. I’m sure they were all wondering what I was doing driving. The clutch took a beating on the drive out.
Monaco has such a reputation that I felt I had to stop in and see it since we were driving by. Spending a night gambling and having drinks with men and women that made more in a week than I did in a year is a unique experience. We had breakfast the next morning on the roof of the Fairmont and watched the yachts sail by. Afterwards I had a dip in the pool and we were off. I think Spending a night in Monaco is something a person should do given the opportunity. I don’t know if I would spend two though.