A Cruise Stop in Monaco

Updated on May 4, 2017
Anne Harrison profile image

I fell in love with Florence at the age of 10 and have travelled widely since, but there are always more places to discover!

There is more to Monaco than glamour and glitz (c) A. Harrison
There is more to Monaco than glamour and glitz (c) A. Harrison

Arriving in Monaco

Monaco is a strange place to visit. Firstly, it is a place of money. Serious money. I could feel this even when still at sea. The harbour is filled with yachts—the type which take a crew of twenty to run. Everything is sparkling and clean, with crewmen washing down the decks as we sailed past, while smaller boats docked alongside delivering supplies. As I caught the tender to shore, fish skimmed across the surface of the water and dolphins came to play beside us.

Monaco is also a beautiful place, especially up around the old area of Monaco-Ville. Wandering around the alleyways is a bit like wandering through a make-believe playground, with quaint streets and toy soldiers with their pristine white uniforms. The only other people I saw were tourists. Somewhere behind these buildings exists the real world where every day Monégasques live, but like a parallel universe it lay totally hidden from my view.

Changing of the guard (c) A. Harrison
Changing of the guard (c) A. Harrison
Click thumbnail to view full-size
A stunning police station (c) A. Harrisoninside the cathedral (c) A. Harrison
A stunning police station (c) A. Harrison
A stunning police station (c) A. Harrison
inside the cathedral (c) A. Harrison
inside the cathedral (c) A. Harrison

Monaco and the Grimaldis

Monaco has been under the Grimaldi rule since 1297 (aside from a few periods of annexation by France). Monte Carlo especially has long been associated with glamour. It has a casino complete with its Suicide Terrace, is packed with monied tourists, is playground to holidaying royalty and the seriously wealthy and even even wealthier locals—with the country thriving off gambling and tourism, Monégasques do not pay tax.

We sailed in just after dawn. Buildings the same colour as the hillside stretched along the coastline, one town blending into the next. Monaco is a principality of hills. These were largely barren rocks the colour of sand, with a covering of scrub. From the water I could see the coastal road and, as we neared Monte Carlo, the three corniches, with small cars speeding along them.

Despite the barren hillsides, Monte Carlo is filled with greenery. Along with a few small parks, trees are squeezed into any spare spot, and many of the buildings are covered with vertical gardens. No space is wasted in town—the real estate is far too expensive.

Laneways of Monaco-Ville (c) A. Harrison
Laneways of Monaco-Ville (c) A. Harrison

Exploring Monaco-Ville

Yet one can visit Monte Carlo and spend very little. From the port, I caught the bus to the palace. It is possible to walk up a flight of (very steep) stairs form the port to Monaco Ville, but with the bus winding through the town I managed to have a tour of Monte Carlo as well. As an added bonus, the driver had no concept of breaking, and so we were treated to a grand-prix style tour.

Cafes stretched along gracious boulevards, and the squares were lined with expensive shops. I could barely afford to look in the windows. I forewent the lure of the casino and continued to the Palace. It is in the heart of Monaco-Ville, perched on a promontory high above the port. The area here is simply picture-perfect; cobbled alleyways wind every which way, lined with quaint buildings, complete with flags fluttering. It is full of little tourist-type shops, cafes, and artisan shops, all perfect for window shopping.

Ready to defend the nation (c) A. Harrison
Ready to defend the nation (c) A. Harrison
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pieta by Francois Brea c 1535 (c) A. HarrisonMonaco Cathedral (c) A. HarrisonRetable by Louis Brea c 1500 (c) A. Harrison
Pieta by Francois Brea c 1535 (c) A. Harrison
Pieta by Francois Brea c 1535 (c) A. Harrison
Monaco Cathedral (c) A. Harrison
Monaco Cathedral (c) A. Harrison
Retable by Louis Brea c 1500 (c) A. Harrison
Retable by Louis Brea c 1500 (c) A. Harrison

Monaco Cathedral

From near the Palace a flight of stairs leads down from the Place du Palais to the cathedral and the Palaise du Justice—the most beautiful police station I have ever seen. The cathedral is stunning, and filled with so much artwork I felt I was in an art gallery. It includes a Pieta by the master artist Louis Brea from Nice, as well as some 16th C works, 12th C stained glass and a gilded wooden altar from the Spanish Renaissance. Soft light tumbles from the windows, blending elegantly with the white Carrara marble and the pillars of granite and porphyry. Dedicated to Saint Nicolas and the Immaculate Conception, the cathedral marks the first parish of Monaco, established in 1252.

The past rulers of Monaco are buried here, with Grace Kelly buried alongside her husband. Her tombstone is distinguished by the abundance of flowers.

Changing of the guard is a daily event outside the palace, and always attracts an abundance of tourists. It is impossible to miss; should you be anywhere in the vicinity there is a strong chance you'll be caught out by the barricades blocking the streets. For a 10 minute ceremony La Place du Palais was impressively crowded. The guards are ridiculously cute, decked completely in white with gold tassels and pointed helmets. They marched from a building on the far side of the square to the palace, where are change took place and then they marched back across the square and out of sight.

The beautiful houses of Monaco-Ville (c) A. Harrison
The beautiful houses of Monaco-Ville (c) A. Harrison

A Cup of Coffee in Monaco

A bus will take you into town, but for the more energetic a flight of stairs leads down a shaded walk back to sea level. Dining is never a cheap option here, especially the closer you get to the centre of Monte Carlo. For the price of a cup of coffee, however, I had a quiet place to sit on the balcony at Gloria Jeans and enjoy the stunning view.

Then, unfortunately, it was time to leave. Adieu, Monaco, until next time.

View over Monaco (c) A. Harrison
View over Monaco (c) A. Harrison

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Anne Harrison

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      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        14 months ago from Australia

        Thank you so much Spanish Food! Taking photos gives me a lot of pleasure.

      • Spanish Food profile image

        Lena Durante 

        14 months ago from San Francisco Bay Area

        I especially enjoyed your gorgeous photographs. They truly capture the ambiance in a special way. You clearly have a real talent!

      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        14 months ago from Australia

        Thank you all for your kind comments!

      • Travel-Wise profile image

        Travel-Wise 

        14 months ago

        Monaco sounds like a luxurious adventure! Beautiful photos and excellent information :)

      • CYong74 profile image

        Kuan Leong Yong 

        14 months ago from Singapore

        A small but lovely gem of Southern Europe.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        14 months ago from Northeast Ohio

        Anne, this is a great travelogue article. I love the photos and your descriptions of the trip was wonderful. It sounds like you had a great time for this magical cruise trip.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        14 months ago from SW England

        Great hub full of wonderful places and photos. I drove through Monaco a few years ago on a tour around the south of France and over into Italy.

        Monaco certainly oozes wealth, style and opulence. The yachts and 'gin palaces' are bigger than the houses! I also applied for a teaching job there once; didn't get it though and in some ways I'm glad I didn't as I ended up with my best job ever, teaching dyslexics.

        Thanks for a great read.

        Ann

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