Day 36

We woke to the sound of banging. It wasn’t until we were about to leave did I realise that there was a mobile chicken rotisserie that was set up next door to us – if I’d have realised earlier, it might have been a nice change from the usual cereal for breakfast!

It was only a 15km drive from our car park campsite to Monaco, but there was a considerable mountain range in between us. Once we crested the range, the views were incredible. The sun was out, and the skies were vivid and perfectly clear. Today was going to be a good day.

Monaco

We felt a little uncomfortable entering this wealthy kingdom with our old dirty van, but it didn’t get too much negative attention. In fact, driving through the streets of town, it was much like any other nice seaside town, just with the occasional Italian supercar.

We parked in a special underground park underneath the Oceanographic Museum – it large enough for tour buses, and cost €18.30 for roughly 5hrs. There was a tiny, tiny spec of a beach just beyond the walls, so we climbed down between waves, and set the drone off. The views were spectacular from the ground, but amazing from above. As the drone was returning, we noticed that it was getting a LOT of attention from seagulls, with them circling the drone much to close for our comfort. It’s quite slow to descend, which was causing some tense nerves on our part.

We realised that from where we were standing, we were able to see three different countries – Monaco, France, and in the distance, Italy! We wondered how many other places it was possible to have such a view. Today, like our visit to Andorra, we had meals in three different countries – Breakfast in France, lunch here in Monaco, and then dinner later in Italy. Amazing how small Europe can be sometimes.

We had a quick stop in the Monaco Cathedral, which looked a lot more modern than I was expecting. It was also a lot simpler than I had expected, with very simple lines inside, and no ostentatious decorations. Princess Grace Kelly is entombed here, as is her husband, Prince Ranier.

We missed the changing of the guards by about 10 minutes – it’s at 11:55AM, for future reference. We both thought their uniforms were rather dapper.

The views from outside the palace were fantastic, and even though it’s a cityscape, dominated by high rise apartments, I couldn’t help thinking how beautiful this city was. If the weather hadn’t been so perfect, I’m sure I wouldn’t have felt the same way. We could also see that the F1 circuit was being prepared – it’s in two weeks time. It would have been amazing to see it, however, it would have been impossible to enter the town that weekend – plus, we’d not be able to afford tickets.

The supercars driving around were impressive, however, they’re pretty common around London – especially when I was commuting by bike through Chelsea and Knightsbridge in summer. But, what really caught my attention were the super yachts! I don’t know if they can even be called yachts at this point, as they resembled something more like sleek mini-cruise ships. I guess this is the kind of toys you can have when you’re in the ‘three comma club’.

We slowly made our way towards the Monte Carlo casino, following the F1 course for a while, with countless supercars (and retro supercars) doing very timid laps (there were no shortage of police about). We joked about how funny it would be to see an old camper like ours driving around.

The casino didn’t open until 2PM. We arrived a little early, but it was easy to kill time in the area surrounding. We, literally, had time to stop and smell the roses.

There were large groups crowded around a pair of parked Lamborghinis, posing next to them for photos (incredibly, many people were leaning on and touching these cars).

There was a strict dress policy, and fortunately, we were prepared and I was allowed in. I was wearing a pair of Nike hightops, which they didn’t consider to be trainers – much to the disgust of many other men that were turned away.

We thought that you had to pay to enter, but it turns out, you only have to pay to enter the actual gambling section – where you’re not allowed to photograph anyway. The foyers were open to public, and photography was possible – as long as you don’t point your camera towards the open door that leads into the gambling region. We’re not gamblers, so it was a fairly easy decision not to pay the (rather large) entrance fee.

We were pretty satisfied with our time in Monaco, we’d had perfect weather and seen all that we had wanted to see. It was a beautiful city, even if it was manicured to appear this way. I’m fine with fake sometimes.

There was just one thing left – also doing a lap (or a large part of it) in Gunter! I have vague memories of the circuit from playing an F1 game on the PlayStation back in the mid-90s, so it was really, really cool to drive in our own car – albeit at pedestrian pace, and not the entire lap.