We took the train from Nice to Monaco to see if we could get a glimpse of the Grand Prix de Monaco (Monaco Formula 1). We didn't do any research about getting tickets, but we did know that today they would be racing the classic cars. We had no idea what to expect in Monaco and we were pleasantly surprised.
When we arrived in the train station, we went directly to the Monaco tourist office. I asked the woman for a map and how to get tickets. "To what?" she asked. "Pour le Grand Prix de Monaco," I responded. What else could possibly be going on in the town? On the map, the entire track was colored grey, so we couldn't go down to the port at all. The whole town was geared to the race. There were stands selling shirts, keychains, hats, and posters. Even in the shop windows, it was all about the annual car race.
They closed off many streets, so we had to walk through tunnels that are normally used only for cars as there wasn't even a sidewalk. We arrived at the rue Grimaldi where we were told to go to see about tickets. Once we saw that tickets for Sunday's races began at about 300 Euros, we decided we would pass.
I walked up to a group of policemen and guys who check tickets to see how we could get to the other side of town to eat along the beach. The young guy told me that it's not easy because we'd have to go all the way back up to the train station and through a few other streets to get all the way around the race track.
I told him that all we wanted to do was eat somewhere nice. He told me that we could go through a special area to eat at a restaurant near the tracks, if we wanted. We paid 35 Euros each for a buffet lunch, which was not that tasty and only had about four different cold dishes. To top it off, we also had to pay for our drinks.
Once we got our plastic plates of food, we sat down at a table that was about twenty feet from the track. There were small stands in front of the track that obstructed our view to the race track. It was a private area where people were escorted to it without tickets.
We heard a sound that signaled the start of the race and many classic cars began to drive by. It was certainly no mystery that the race was on. I had to plug my ears each time they drove close to us. The sound was deafening. We saw people with ear muffs to lessen the noise sitting in the stands and other people with ear plugs in their ears. Dave and I were certainly not prepared.
After lunch, we stood up against a fence where the stands were. In the ten foot area between us and the actual track, one fireman was standing with fire extinguishers all around him and another man who waved different colored flags. I tried to get at least one picture of a car going by us. I have lots of pictures with red blurs going by. And half the time, I had to just take the picture without seeing anything at all.
One race lasted about a half an hour and in that short amount of time, we had had our fill of the race. We decided to walk around Monaco where we were allowed and up toward the Prince's Palace on the hill.
The picture I have here, I took from the terrace where the Prince's Palace is located. We weren't the only ones who had the great idea. When we got to the top, it was fairly quiet, but once we heard the cars going around the track, people were pushing toward the front to take a few pictures.
I snapped a few pictures and got out of the crowds almost immediately. We walked around the area near the Prince's Palace. The streets were fairly narrow and amazingly immaculate. I especially loved all the tall buildings built up the hillside so that almost everyone has a view of the Mediterranean. The city felt like a good mix between France and Italy.
We left Monaco with headaches from all the noise and sun and went to Villefranche-sur-Mer to walk around the small port and beach. I was surprised that they have sand at the beach since it's only a few minutes from Nice where they have small rocks instead.
For dinner, we went to the top of Le Meridien hotel, overlooking the Mediterranean. It was too windy and cold to eat dinner on the beach as we had planned, so it was the only solution to keep warm and have a wonderful view.
As we walked back to our apartment, we said good-bye to the Mediterranean sea that we've been enjoying throughout our stay. We can't wait to get home to Florence, but we sure love seeing, smelling, and being so close to the Mediterranean!
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