My last trip to Monaco was more than 40 years ago!
I was teaching English as a second language in Grenoble and jumped on a train at the beginning of November to take advantage of the school break called “la Toussaint”| All Saints.
The weather was glorious even at that time of year.
For me back then, Monaco was the stuff of Hollywood movies and fairy tales.
It was Grace Kelly and the princesses, especially her impossibly beautiful daughter Princess Caroline who was around the same age as me.
I remember thinking they live here, and I am here!
Of course, I did not see them on that visit but it didn’t matter.
Because I knew they were there, somewhere.
Principality of Monaco
Monaco was then as it is today a canvas of extravagance, home to the Monégasques, the original inhabitants, living alongside the transplanted ultra-rich. While the trappings of wealth are
everywhere, the residents themselves seem to be hidden in their magnificent houses and apartments that climb the cliffs, providing the perfect view of their superyachts and the deep blue of the
In this respect, it has not changed, except that there is more of everything, more yachts, traffic, tourists, and towering condo buildings where real estate prices run more than $5000 USD a
This tiny sovereign city-state is one of the world’s wealthiest and most expensive places to live packed into only 2.1 square kilometres (less than 1 square mile) positioned west of Nice with Italy to the east.
Things To Do In Monaco
Right out of the train station, start walking as I did taking the sidewalk to the left along the Grand Prix route but then veering off to the right to hug the shoreline high above the harbour. The views are simply breathtaking.
2. Take a Photo in Front of the Monte Carlo Casino
I made my way to Monte Carlo which is the area of Monaco around the famous casino.
This is the ideal setting for people-watching and sneaking a photo of oneself next to one of the many luxury cars out front, as I did.
(Thanks to my BF Shardie who took the picture in front of the Rolls!)
The square was teeming with visitors and there was a lovely open-air café that seemed inviting. However, with such a big lineup we decided to pass and walk around the commercial part of the town
where all the high-end boutiques were located. Warning: You will need a credit card with a very high limit!
3. Monaco’s Old Town
Buses are plentiful in Monaco so then we hopped on one that took us to the other side of the harbour into the old town.
This is where the palace is located, and the Place du Palais, the grand square where at 11:55 am every day you can watch the changing of the guard.
Monaco is under the constitutional monarchy of the House of Grimaldi, and Prince Albert I, Princess Caroline’s brother.
Like on my former trip, I imagined the prince might be only several hundred feet away from me, somewhere in there!
4. Enjoy Lunch Al Fresco
Behind the square is a labyrinth of cobbled streets with small shops and restaurants.
It was busy but at L’Express, they were only happy to find us a table where we enjoyed a pizza (Italy is right next door remember) and a delicious salad with goat cheese toast.
5. Get off The Beaten Track
Take some time to wander away from the tourists. This was the best part of the day for me.
To the left below the palace square, is the Cathédrale de Monaco built in the late 19 century where Princess Grace is buried.
Nearby are gorgeous gardens, such as Le Jardins St. Martins with various lookout points out to the Mediterranean.
But the biggest surprise of the day was the architecture and landscaping around the government building Le Ministère d’État building on Rue Rocher.
It was a holiday and there was absolutely no one around so we were unhampered from admiring the sculptures, the terraces, the fountains and the beautiful gardens.
It was one of those days that when you get back on the train, you feel like you have really lived that day, and filled up your soul.
Note: If I had more time I would have paid a visit to the Musée océanographique de Monaco. It is a gorgeous-looking structure built right into the rock on the side of the cliff!
(On my list for the next trip)
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Diana Bishop the founder of The Success Story Program and A Woman of a Certain Age in Paris as well as a well-known correspondent with over 25 years working for CTV, CBC News, and NBC News. She loves travel, writing, and all things Parisienne.