Monaco

Arguably The Most Glamorous, Most Star-Studded & Richest Place On Earth


Pleasure craft in Port de Monaco. March 14, 2014

The Principality of Monaco is a tiny sovereign city-state, a limpet of land on France’s underbelly best known as a tax haven & seaside playground paradise for the affluent. The absurdly affluent. Completely surrounded by France, only some 8 kilometres (5 miles) from the western border with Italy, & hemmed in by the Mediterranean Sea, the place is about the same size as London’s Hide Park, making it the second smallest country in the world (after Vatican City) & the smallest country in the world with a coastline, which measures just over 4 kilometres (2.5 miles). It may be minuscule but thanks to the Grand Prix, Grace Kelly & the superstars who flock here, it has a big reputation. The most glamorous, most star-studded & richest place on earth , it’s no surprise that this is a land here money is king. In fact, it’s a religion.So what is there to do here if, & like most of us, you’re not stupidly rich? Well you could, & just as I did, look at people who are stupidly rich & at things you can’t possibly afford. Just be prepared to feel inadequate when doing so.

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Nautical But Nice || Hang Out By Port de Monaco

Yachts & pleasure craft in Port de Monaco, Monaco. March 14th, 2014.

Impossibly glamorous Monaco reaches its zenith down by Port de Monaco, its small port which is home to some of the most hideously expensive yachts & pleasure craft in the world. And here in Monaco yacht size matters – bigger is obviously better. Port de Monaco, Monaco (map-pointer-icon). March 14, 2014.

Slumming It, Monaco Style
With a population of some 36,000 packed into such a small area, Monaco is the most densely populated country in the world. But you won’t find many palatial mansions here & certainly no lavish, sprawling country homes. There’s simply no room. Most live in relatively small apartment high-rises riding the hills overlooking the Mediterranean (as seen in the above picture). No, people here aren’t exactly slumming it in a sea view shoe box but still, spare a thought for them. It’s the address you see & the tax haven it provides. It means the rich get richer & it also means that there are no shortage of them – the uber-rich – looking to live here; at present Monaco boasts the most millionaires (approximately 2000 of them, with over 50 billionaires) per square metre than anywhere else on earth. Needless to say Monaco property prices weren’t exactly rocked by the recent credit crunch – average prices of almost €50,000 per metre square means this is the most expensive country in the world in which to live. Not that that should surprise many.

Pleasure craft in Port de Fontvieille as seen from Monaco Ville, Monaco. March 14th, 2014.

Pleasure craft in Port de Fontvieille as seen from Monaco Ville, Monaco. March 14, 2014.

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Watch the Changing of The Guard at Palais de Prince

A guard prancing around in front of the Palais de Prince, Monaco Ville, Monaco. March 14th, 2014.

A guard prancing around in front of the Palais de Prince, Monaco Ville, Monaco. March 14, 2014.

Perched on a 60 metre-high outcrop of rock overlooking Port de Monaco is Palais de Prince, the home of the sovereign state’s greatest asset, its royal family, the Grimaldis. They have ruled Monaco, with only brief interruptions, since seizing a fortress here in 1297, 717 years ago. The vast majority of those years were spent in relative anonymity. All that changed in 1956 when the then ruler Prince Rainer III married Hollywood movie star Grace Kelly in a fairy-tale wedding that was watched by some 30 million viewers around the world. The wedding, intentionally or not, was the PR coup of the century and it catapulted Monaco from obscurity into a brand synonymous with glamour & elegance – a mild climate & splendid scenery didn’t hurt its cause either. Princess Grace died in a car crash in 1982 but her legacy lives on through her children Princesses Caroline & Stephanie & the current ruler, Prince Albert, who has ruled since 2005. Despite Monaco’s independence and separate foreign policy, its defense is the responsibility of France. However, Monaco does maintain two small military units. The guards seen outside the palace mainly serve a tourism purpose with the highlight of their day being the changing of the guard ceremony, held daily at 5 minutes to midday.

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Visit Cathedrale de Monaco

Inside the opulent 1875 Romanesque-Byzantine Cathedrale de Monaco, Monaco Ville, Monaco. March 14th, 2014.

Inside the opulent 1875 Romanesque-Byzantine Cathedrale de Monaco. The graves of the aforementioned Prince Rainier & Princess Grace are to be found on the western, left side of the altar seen here. Monaco Ville, Monaco. March 14, 2014.

Inside the opulent 1875 Romanesque-Byzantine Cathedrale de Monaco, Monaco Ville, Monaco. March 14th, 2014.

Inside the opulent 1875 Romanesque-Byzantine Cathedrale de Monaco, Monaco Ville, Monaco. March 14, 2014.

A Few Monaco Observations

Everyone is rich here. Absurdly so. When having a look around you’ll feel like a pauper. It’s unavoidable.
It’s remarkably clean. Seemingly the streets are scrubbed daily.
The unofficial language may be money but the official language is French. However, Monégasque (a dialect of the modern Ligurian language), Italian, and English are widely spoken and understood.
It uses the Euro, mainly because of its relationship with France.
It’s the smallest member of the UN.
Monaco is not an EU member – & it seems to be doing OK without them by looks of things.
Security is insane. CCTV cameras are everywhere and every car entering the Principality is scanned.
Multi-million dollar yachts, million dollar watches, Ferraris & Lamborghinis are all ten a penn… em, ten a million.
You’re requested to dress appropriately, in 4 different languages. Or else.

Tourists: Dress Appropriately. Monaco. March 14th, 2014 (iPod)

Tourists: Dress Appropriately. I was surprised to see graffiti on this sign, the sort of thing you don’t expect to see here in utopia. Monaco. March 14, 2014 (iPod)

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Feel Wholly Inadequate By Hanging Out in Monte-Carlo

Slap-bang in the centre of Monaco is the most famous & most populous of its 10 administrative regions, or wards, Monte-Carlo (Mount Charles), the main residential & resort area of the principality. When people think Monaco they invariable think Monte-Carlo; I know I did. Monte-Carlo is nothing more than a traffic island, Place du Casino, around which you’ll find the iconic Café de Paris, the plush Hotel de Paris, Salle Garnier, home of the Opera de Monte-Carlo, & the legendary Monto-Carlo Casino. It’s the place to see & be seen.

The Monte-Carlo Casino, Monaco. March 14th, 2014.

It’s the famous Monte-Carlo Casino that is largely credited with transforming Monaco into what it is today. I was surprised to read that in the mid-19th century Monaco was one of the poorest countries in Europe. However, within a few years of the Monte-Carlo Casino opening in 1863 it was generating so much money that Monaco was in the position to be able to abolish income tax, the start of Monaco’s tax-free status. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Monte-Carlo, Monaco. March 14, 2014.

The Monte-Carlo Casino, Monaco. March 14th, 2014.

The Monte-Carlo Casino, Monte-Carlo, Monaco. March 14, 2014.

Monto-Carlo: An international byword for the extravagant display and reckless dispersal of wealth.

– Monaco in The New Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition (Chicago, 1991), vol. 8, p. 243.

A Bentley parked outside the Hotel de Paris in Monte-Carlo, Monaco, March 14th, 2014.

A Bentley parked outside the Hotel de Paris. The 1863, 187-room, 5-star (what else) Hotel de Paris seems like a comfortable enough place. According to its website A simple flight of steps leads from Place du Casino to the majestic lobby… low relief sculptures, marble colonnades and crystal chandeliers combine to create a sense of awe-inspiring solemnity which makes this such a memorable destination.’ But they would say that. You can get a room here for a low as €360 but the highest rates, for the exclusive 2 bedroom suite, will set you back a tidy €5,000 a night. And no, breakfast is not included in the rate, although they do throw in free admission to the Monto-Carlo Casino & access to the private beach Beach Club with free sun-lounger & towel. Monte-Carlo, Monaco, March 14, 2014.

I couldn't help playing with the reflections. Everything was so clean and shiny. Monte-Carlo, Monaco, March 14th, 2014.

I couldn’t help playing with the reflections. Everything was so clean and shiny. Monte-Carlo, Monaco, March 14, 2014.

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Leave

Alcatraz for the rich.

– Jack Nicholson commenting on Monaco

On the platform of the subterranean train station platform in Monaco. March 14th, 2014.

On the platform of the subterranean train station platform in Monaco. March 14, 2014.

As nice as Monaco is – and it is – you’ll feel much better when you leave, much more content with your lot in life. Honest. And hey, if you do have the money to hang around and enjoy Monaco as it’s meant to be enjoyed then more power to you.

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