Our little rented car, that we affectionately dubbed Benny, was quite a champ on our five thousand kilometer trek across Europe, but a Formula One car he was not. Still, we had an experience to remember driving him along the very same roads that those fantastic machines race in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Truth is, we happened upon the course by accident. Monaco, the second smallest country in the world, is tucked tightly on a hillside that drops right into the Mediterranean. All we did was follow the road down toward the water, and the next thing we knew we were in a tunnel under a building, which turned out to be the famous Monte Carlo Casino. That’s when things started to look familiar. We are a little embarrassed to admit it, but we actually recognized this spot from a Grand Prix video game, wait, that makes it even more cool to be driving it in real life. Anyway, there we were on one of the world’s most famous race tracks, which is actually laid out using the city streets. How could we possibly pass up a pit stop?
We couldn’t. So we followed the race course to the sea, which brought us to Port Hercule. The port got its name because, according to mythology, Hercules stopped by here and ran off all of the other gods. A temple was built to him and named Hercules Monoikos, meaning Herc’s single house. This lead to the name Monaco.
Through the centuries Monaco has been passed around as a part of Genoa, The Aragon Kingdom, The Kingdom of Sardinia and France before becoming an independent principality. Throughout most of that time it was well known as a gambling center. The Monte Carlo Casino could very well be the best known in the world.
Ian Fleming was probably most responsible for this when, in his first James Bond novel in 1953, he used The Monte Carlo as the basis for his Casino Royale. Later, several of the Bond movies were shot in Monaco.
Luckily – for our wallets – we hadn’t packed evening wear, so we would not be allowed to go in and have our money removed. A little boat trip across the harbor would suit us just fine. Just below the casino, the Bateau Bus Electrique Solaire de Monaco runs right through the thick of the bevy of bodacious yachts filling the harbor. Far and away the richest country on Earth, it’s no wonder these incredible private luxury liners are attracted to Monaco’s harbor.
For just one Euro, without a doubt the best deal in the whole country, the little electric boat took us smoothly past the giant status symbols to the dock by the Prince’s Palace on the other side of the port. After a quick gawk, we were on our way back. Also included in the single Euro fare. Unbelievable.
Back on our side of the bay, we were beginning to feel the urge to take a pit stop in the middle of our pit stop. The Restaurant Le Pattaya was right by the dock and, while not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, it included several factors high on our list of desires. A place to sit, something to drink, a quick bite, a great view of the harbor, wifi, and, perhaps most important, a bathroom.
From our Pattaya perch on the seawall we watched the megayachts being provisioned while we munched on a passable pizza pie. It must have been just the right time of the afternoon because a steady stream of trucks were pulling up and unloading box after box of supplies. Each floating mansion’s uniformed crew stood at the ready to stow the goods below deck.
Since this was only intended to be a quick pit stop for us, the time had come to work our way back up the hill to the main highway. The maze of tiny, one way streets didn’t make this an easy task. We couldn’t go back the way we came, but in Monaco, as in all of Europe, the trick is to look for signs pointing the way to the next town on the desired route. Well that’s Nice.
No, not nice like ‘have a nice day,’ Nice, like the city in France. Hmmm, maybe that should be their city slogan, Have a Nice Day.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com