Last Updated: 21st Jan 2014
Language: French, Italian and English are widely understood.
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Monaco is synonymous with glitz, glamor, Monte Carlo Casinos, Formula One race cars and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. The tiny Principality on the Mediterranean coast of France is simply spectacular and just oozes the atmosphere that only opulent wealth can bring. It is a country in it’s own right and is ruled by the often bemusing Grimaldi Family, most recently by their current Prince, Albert II. Surprisingly not that expensive to visit, it is imposable not to be impressed and awed by this glittering jewel of the Mediterranean.
Most Contiki Tours staying in the French Riviera will include an evening tour of the tiny but luxurious principality including a visit to see the Royal Palace onto of the ‘Rock’ where Monaco was founded and Monte Carlo.
Manners and Culture
- While Monaco is very much the home and playground of the rich and famous, even so there is a distinct lack of pretentiousness and people are very friendly, accommodating and helpful
- Although people are more likely to communicate in French and Italian, English is still quite acceptable
- French etiquette is quite strong while Italian influence is also apparent
- Cameras and recoding devices are not allowed inside casinos however taking photos with the many high end cars that seemingly litter the city is perfectly acceptable
- The legal gambling age is 18
The Royal Family
The Grimaldi family, throughout history, have lived, and continue to live, lives that put even the most imaginative soap opera writers to shame. The tabloid headlines in Europe and the rest of the world are forever filled with the lives, loves and scandals surrounding Prince Albert II, and more commonly, his two sisters, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie. The future of the Principality is still in limbo with Prince Albert yet to marry and provide a legitimate heir to the throne. The previous Prince and father of Monaco’s troubled Trio, Prince Rainer III, is responsible for the image and success of modern day Monaco yet he too was never immune from the ‘Curse of the Grimaldi’s’ nor was his wife Princess Grace (formerly Grace Kelly).
The Palace and the ‘Rock’
At the heart of the Principality and home to the Royal Palace is ‘the Rock’ around which Monaco is based. Situated above the west side of the harbor it is also home to Monaco’s impressive Oceanographic Museum and the Royal Cathedral.
Monaco Harbor is filled with the yachts and boats of the super wealthy, and a stroll along the edge of the harbor provides a jaw-dropping glimpse at what life must be like for the rich and famous. During the summer there is a pool open on the edge of the Harbor while in the winter it is often transformed into an ice skating rink.
Monte Carlo & The Casinos
A ‘suburb’ of Monaco, Monte Carlo is most famous for being home to the Grand Casino. This area of the country is also home to two other major casinos (the Paris and Sun Casinos), some beautiful gardens. This part of the city is usually littered with cars like Ferrari’s, BMW’s, Lamborghini’s, the occasional Zonda, Porches, Bentleys, Rolls Royce’s and many other dream cars.
The Grand Casino
An ornate and beautiful building from the outside, it is also known as the ‘Casino Garnier’ as it was designed by Frenchman Charles Garnier, the same architect who designed the Paris Opera House. Although it costs to get inside, may believe it is worthwhile as the interior is small but beautiful and has featured in movies such as ‘Oceans 12’. Also the opportunity to say you’ve gambled alongside the ludicrously rich in arguably the most famous and exclusive casino in the world is an opportunity some cannot pass up.
Monaco is an events country and Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix is perhaps the most high profile of all the events that help keep ‘Monaco’ on people’s lips. Other events like World Rally Championship and ATP Tennis Masters Series also help raise the profile of this image-dependent nation.