While on a recent Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise on the Mariner of The Seas, we spent a day in Monte Carlo, the elegant cliff-top city that covers the majority of the country, Monaco.
Mix Beverly Hills, Malibu and Las Vegas. Give it a French accent and you’ll have Monaco. It’s a one-mile-square principality on the French Riviera, totally surrounded by France.
Being from Philadelphia, we’ve always had a fascination with this tiny country since the country’s Prince Rainier (the current Prince Albert’s father) married actress Grace Kelly in 1956, who was also the daughter of one of Philadelphia’s most prominent families. Her father John B. “Jack” Kelly Jr. was also a US Olympic hero for rowing and an enormous sports star. It was huge news at the time in Philadelphia and across America, especially the fairy tale aspect of her new life as a real Princess.
We wanted to pay our respects at the tomb of Princess Grace. We were directed to the Cathedral of Monaco. Inside were statues and tombs of members of the Monaco royal family dating back to the 14th Century.
Our next destination had to be the 150-year-old Monte Carlo Casino. We wanted to see the gambling tables to soak up some of the glamor. We envisioned mixing with international royalty, European billionaires and a few James Bond types. The place was practically empty, and the few dealers were just standing around. It was mid-afternoon, so we didn’t expect much excitement, but thought there would be a bit more action. We didn’t try any table gambling, but invested some dollars in the slot machines, which we found much tighter than the ones we play in Las Vegas.
The famous auto race, the Grand Prix of Monaco, runs every year in late May, so we couldn’t see it live. However, for a small investment, a cabbie took us over the winding route at speeds almost as dangerous as the real thing. He then took us for a breathtaking ride along the cliffside roads overlooking the deep blue sea.
We had lunch at the Hotel de Paris, hoping to get some James Bond atmosphere there, but the tables were full of tourists who looked just like us. The lunch, at the marvelous Le Grill Restaurant overlooking the ocean, though very expensive, was excellent, consisting of broiled fresh-caught fish and vegetable salad, with very tasty creme brulee for dessert. The local white wine went well with the food. With the exchange rate, the lunch for two was over $300. the fixed price lunch is 68 euro per person and worth every penny. The view over the harbor is just beautiful. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience we will always remember.
Would we go back to Monaco? If we happened to be in the neighborhood, we’d like to spend more than just a couple of hours there. We really found the city unique and exciting, but very expensive. The political history of this tiny nation is also quite fascinating, especially the introduction of gambling in the late 1800’s.