Saturday, 4 September 2010

Monaco, the Multi Millionaires playground ….. August 2010

MonteCarlo Casino and Hotel de Paris by night
30 August – 02 September 2010

We motored upon glassy seas the 17 miles from San Remo in Italy, past the French boarder and along to the tiny principality of Monaco. Friends had been into the marina a couple of weeks previously and said there was plenty of room so we hadn’t booked. However that was then, all the boats must have returned from their summer jaunts and the large marina was now jam packed full, after talking on the VHF Radio and then by telephoning we managed to secure the last space in the smaller marina (where Prince Albert keeps his yacht), tucked under the cliff with the palace perched high above, wow what a setting. Here we were, on our own yacht, having sailed all the way from New Zealand, sitting in a marina in Monaco – sometimes we just have to pinch ourselves.

After visiting the marina office and stretching our stay from the original two nights we had requested to three, we put on our walking shoes and hit the streets. Well actually we hit the Grand Prix circuit, taking in the straits and pit lanes behind the harbour, up the hill, around casino square, down the other side, through the s bend – not nearly as tight by foot - through the tunnel, a quick shimmy right and left round the swimming pool and down to the famous hairpin at Rascasse Corner.
Mark taking the bend at Rascasse Corner
Phew !! it was definitely time for a pit stop and refuel!!! What a great stop too, big beers and wines just 3Euro each from 5pm to 11pm, here we were in Monte Carlo having the cheapest drinks we had had in months. We sat back and watched some of the cars going by, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW commonplace – not too many Toyota’s or Ford’s round these parts. Mini Coopers were the acceptable small car of choice, preferably convertibles of course.

We walked down to the yacht club, all very grand inside as we expected. I was worried that we may not be allowed inside but skipper said just look as though we own the place and we'll be fine.. yeah right. We counted over 30 mega motor yachts in the harbour, all tied up in a row, competing for showings of glamour and wealth. We just took it all in, absolutely no austerity measures happening here!! Tired out we headed home to our own super yacht, not quite in the same league but we love her just the same.
Flash Cars and MonteCarlo Casino

Next morning we were awoken to rather loud birdsong, there is a bird park just above the marina and the residents were happy to let everyone know a new sunny day had dawned in Monaco, better than awakening to traffic noise. We had a busy day of sightseeing planned so headed up to the old town and Palace. There were 3 cruise ships in port so it was somewhat busy. We nudged in for places to view the changing of the guards at the Palais du Prince at 11.55am, all done very well with the band playing, but not quite as much novelty appeal as the guards with the entertaining walk in Athens; or the colourful Beefeaters in London; the Monaco guards are dressed only in white and it all seemed just a little plain.

We stopped for coffee (eek, 3.50E each), then moved on to the Aquarium/Oceanographique Museum. Aquariums are not somewhere we normally visit, we have seen so many wonderful sights underwater in their natural environment in some very remote parts of the world, but we had heard this was one of the better ones in the world so decided to visit. Commissioned in 1910 by the Royal family, it has been restored and added to over the decades and houses an excellent collection of tropical and cold water fish and was a worthwhile excursion. Walking back through the small old town we stopped for filled baguettes, eating them overlooking Balvenie far below in the marina. It was time for a siesta, we had a big night planned.
mmm, now which one was ours again???

After an early dinner onboard we put our glad rags on (I had purchased a new pair of shoes in San Remo especially!!) and headed up to Casino Square. We rounded the final bend into the square and just stopped in absolute amazement. Parked before us, outside the Hotel du Paris and Monte Carlo Casino were a Bugatti, a McLaren Mercedes, several convertible Bentley turbos, 2 Rolls Royces, 2 Ferrari's, a Lamborghini, a Maseratti, and as Mark tried to photograph some he nearly got run over by an incoming Aston Martin. There were plenty of Jaguars, Mercedes and Range Rovers passing by, but quite frankly they just didn't cut it in this kind of company!

We got a front table at the Cafe Casino Square and just sat back and watched all the activity. Once darkness descends all the luxury car owners tour around Casino Square, waiting for their slot to glide to a halt outside the casino, tossing the car keys to the valet parking staff and wafting up the steps to try their luck once again.
Fountain, Casino Square and Casino
We tried celebrity spotting but didn't see anyone we recognized, quite possibly because we are so out of touch these days! We sat for ages, soaking it all in, the whole scene is just like nowhere else, the buildings are absolutely glorious with the night lights glistening, the square just oozes wealth. We made our 2 small bottles of Monaco beer and 1 glass of Kir (23.50E) last a very long time, then did a final lap of the square and had a leisurely walk home - back to normality.

Still more sightseeing to be done. We went back up to the Palais and old town for morning cafe au lait, then visited the Cathedral where both Prince Rainier and Princess Grace are buried. Next it was on to the small museum housing Prince Alberts' private car collection. Well it was advertised as small but there probably would have been close on 100 cars in there, dating from the very early 1900's through to a latest model McLaren Mercedes, some Formula One cars, old Fire Engines and even an old Fiat 600 with wicker seats. It was excellent and we spent a couple of hours there.

We had seen all of what there is to see, well it is only little, so spent the afternoon walking west a little way along the coast and into France, then back into Monaco. We looked in the window of a couple of Estate Agents, you can pick up a 37sq metre Studio apartment for just 1.7million Euro, guess we won't be retiring here!!!
Overlooking Hercules Marina, Monte Carlo
There was an enormous Carrefour Hypermarket right by our marina so I took the opportunity to top up on French goodies and just wheeled the trolley right back to the boat - my sort of provisioning. For our last night it was back to Rascasse Corner for Happy Hour, next up to Casino Square just to check there were no cars we had missed, then we had a lovely meal out in an Italian Restaurant. Our 3 night Monaco stopover had been fabulous, we enjoyed every minute.

Cruising Info for Monaco:-
Fontvielle Marina -  Our berth was at 43 43.885N   07 25.266E  in 3.5m   It cost 198Euro for the 3 nights.  We phoned Hercules Marina who were full, they connected us through to Fontvielle Marina ph +377 97 77 30 00.  We called on VHF 16 and moved to VHF 9 but could not understand them on VHF, but had no problem by phone.  Power and water included.  Top spot under the Palace.
Communications - Both Gymsim and Malta Vodafone on Roaming picked up signals ok.  No WIFI in marina but several people were sitting across road outside Sushi/Noodle Bar (at end of shopping centre where Carrefour is) picking up signal.  Discreet during day, very busy at night!
Ashore - Large shopping centre across main road at back of marina (head for bird park noises!) It has green canopies on it - as does McDonalds further to the right.  Huge Carrefour (bring trolley to marina), ATM's, English newspapers - all there.  Go up the stairs behind it to upper road level, turn right, cross road just before tunnel and keep going right.  Go up hill to Palace/Old town, downhill to Montecarlo.
Sightseeing -  The Aquarium was 13Euro each.  Car Museum 6Euro each.  Dinner out 2 excellent pasta meals, 1/2 litre wine and service 40Euro.

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