Port Hercule, Monaco

Making our escape: Monaco

Monaco may be a playground for the rich and famous, but our day out there quickly became little more than a pit stop. We didn’t love it.

I had wanted to go for years. It has a reputation of glamour and sophistication, thanks to its Grand Prix, its status as a tax haven and its casino and its James Bond connection.


Well, all of that and its royal family, of course.

I loved Princess Stéphanie’s pop hits in the 1980s, when I was at university in Rennes. I’m still word perfect on Ouragan and Flash even now, 30 years or so later.

Monaco’s only-ever Eurovision winner, 1971’s Un Banc, Un Arbre, Une Rue by Séverine, remains one of my absolute favourite songs of all time too, but I digress.

I knew Monaco was small – at just over 2 sq km, you can walk round the principality in an hour. What I had failed to appreciate was just how close everything – and everybody – felt.

Apparently, Monaco is the most densely populated state in the world. Work is taking place to reclaim land from the sea – a large part of the coastline was hidden by construction hoardings during our visit on Sunday.

So, maybe it will lose this rather dubious title soon.

The people lived up to my preconceptions. Immaculate, slim, beautiful people strode the streets or drove by in their Maseratis, Porsches or Bentleys, doing their utmost to ignore visitors like us.

What surprised me most, though, is that Monaco has all the architectural charm of Benidorm. If you imagine it is all Belle Époque beauty, think on.

Skyscrapers, Monaco

Its heyday would appear to have been in the 1960s and 1970s, judging by the plethora of ugly skyscrapers within the city-state. Each appears to have built entirely without any consideration for what is behind it.

“We had seen the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer from the train window. Its pretty houses of ochre and soft reds nestle around an azure bay”

Although we had planned to spend the whole day there on Sunday before catching our evening flight back to Lille, we changed our minds after about an hour. Instead we got back on the train to Nice.

On our way, we had seen the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer from the train window. Its pretty houses of ochre and soft reds nestle around an azure bay. It looked thoroughly enticing.


So, we stopped there. The town wasn’t really ready for visitors – many restaurants and cafés hadn’t opened for the season. However, we found a restaurant with a table overlooking the bay, so we sat back and enjoyed a relaxed lunch.

Monaco may not have lived up to our expectations, but our day turned out more than alright in the end.

This entry was published on Sat, 3 Feb 2018 at 08:52. It’s filed under Places and people and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

15 thoughts on “Making our escape: Monaco

  1. I didn’t like Monaco either. It was like a large car park with road works when we tried & failed to find a space, so we left. Stopped and overlooked it to “admire” the skyscrapers, then got the hell out and returned to the tranquillity of the rural campsite where we were staying.

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  2. My college friends and I sailed into Monaco on a high and happy tide in August 1963, berthing the Wigeon of Fearn, our study British diesel yacht, just to the right of your photo. It may or may not have been Monaco’s heydey but it was certainly ours. We did the Casino for sure. Many decades later, early 2000s, I visited a couple times more and enjoyed the usual display of all the things money could buy…other people’s, not mine! But I agree about Villafranche. My daughter and I were doing the Cote d’Azur in 2006 and decided to spend one night at the famous hotel of the stars, the Hotel Welcome. She had just met the man she was to marry and had had only a few dates but invited him to join us. He actually bought a last minute ticket from San Francisco to Nice and joined us, sleeping on a roll-away bed in our room at the Hotel Welcome. What a brave man to meet his future mother-in-law in such a manner.

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  3. The “riviera” spots, from Italy to the South of Spain, only work within a circle which has amazing infra-structure. Seeing it as a tourist is awful as all the good stuff is happening behind terribly high walls 🙂

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  4. Agree. There’s little for us plebes in Monaco. And it’s ugly to boot!

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  5. methinks… I told you so! ha ha….. Nice time in Nice though?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m with Mel, and I don’t do any kind of circle.
    I remember my son going to Monaco with his father (one of my many exes) and his step mother and returning with a monstrous chunk of the Grand Prix route tarmac in his rucksack. Clearly customs were more casual in the 80’s

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  7. I spent a month in Monaco a few years ago …. I’m glad I did but I don’t crave a return. In fairness I did stay at l’Hermitage which was rather lovely but all in all I was glad to decamp to Juan les Pins for the rest of the year and spent my happiest times motoring round finding captivating places that were a little less glossy

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  8. Well I only been there on business trip so our threshold is higher to enjoy the life of Monaco. However, on my rental car I was stopped to show ID at the traffic circle going from France to Monaco at Cap d’Ail very strict passing by two friendly countries ::)

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