Since the 12th Century, Monaco has been an independent country. Today it is a constitutional principality. It is a constitutional monarchy and a city-state with four quarters.
The oldest quarter is called Monaco-Ville and is the high area or as the locals call it, “the rock”. This is where the first Grimaldi built his fortress and palace, easy ground to protect.
Monte Carlo is another quarter and sits on a prominent escarpment at the base of the Maritime Alps and along the French Riviera. It is in the center of Monaco and is where the famous casino is located. The other two areas are Fontvielle, the newly constructed quarter with the only beach and La Condamine which is the port area.
One time a Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk but took up his sword. That is why their crest is a monk and a sword. And Monaco in French means monk.
Prince Albert II is the current prince of Monaco and is the son of Prince Rainer and Princess Grace. His full name is Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi.
There’s also his sister Princess Caroline who lives in a villa near the Musee Oceanographique de Monaco. Another sister is Princess Stephanie.
Monaco has 0% unemployment. Its major problem is space and room to grow with 38,000 inhabitants. Only 19,000 are native. To be a resident you must live here six months plus one day of the year.
Every day more than 40,000 people come to Monaco to work. It is very expensive to live here at least $10,000 per square meter, which is ten square feet.
Monaco is a tax haven with no direct taxes. They get most of their tax dollars from vat tax, but the casino pays for everything else needed by its residents.
We sailed to Monaco our last port and are now on a post-cruise adventure. We will stay two nights in Nice, but today we tour Monte Carlo.
We headed first to the rock which is where the Royals built their fortress. The old town is immediately below the rock. The photos appear smoky because it was. They are experiencing a drought here, and there were forest fires in Italy, which is only five miles away.
Prince Charles, an earlier Grimaldi was the first to build the casino. The casino was built in 1863. The natives were forbidden to gamble. Before the casino, Monaco was a poor country, but after the casino, it became very rich. The area of the city-state called Monte Carlo is where the casino is now. Monte Carlo literally means Mount Charles.
His son Albert I built the Institute Oceanographique upon the rock. We started our walking tour there.
Then we walked through a beautiful garden/Park with wonderful views on one side and a cathedral on the other. One of the best was looking straight down on a marina.
We noticed that a lot of the plants are the same as in Florida. I even saw a camellia bush. there was beautiful statuary throughout the garden.
Saint Nicholas Cathedral is where Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956. Built in the late 1800s it is Romanesque in design. This has significance to me, as I’ll explain later.
Many of the Grimaldi’s are buried here including Princess Grace and Prince Rainier.
The inside was beautiful. This was extra special for me. In my Grandmother Roe’s house was a “Life” magazine that told the story about Grace Kelly marrying her prince. There were pictures of the church they married in and the gowns she wore.
I thought she was beautiful and loved to look at the photos. It was like a real live fairy tale. Both Mama and Ranny were fascinated by it all, too. So here I am standing in this same church more than 50 years later.
Across the street from the cathedral is a 14th-century building that was also a church at one time.
We visited the palace where Albert II lives (just the outside). The old part was built in the 14th century. He was also married here.
In the view from the wall near the palace you can see France just past the city up above
and to the right of the city, there’s a peninsula far in the distance. That is Italy, about five miles away. Monaco is indeed a tiny country.
The Monte Carlo Grand Prix is their main event. Over 20 million people come here to see the race. The Formula One event began in 1929.
In the streets of Monte Carlo, the cars reach speeds of 200 mph. They follow the Circuit de Monaco and even use the city’s tunnels. You can read about it here.
There are lots of tunnels in the city, 42 miles in all. Because of them, you can drive quickly through it. They disappear under buildings and under other roads above. In fact, we even changed countries in one of the tunnels going from Monaco to France.
This is a fascinating city. I’m glad I saw it. Here’s a few more scenes.