Originally published 30 December 2017
Today was another adventure, to another place I learned much about when I was much younger. I’m still amazed that I’m so lucky and able to see these distant places that I learned about long ago. These are places that I never dreamed I would see in person. By actually visiting these places, and standing where the things I read, watched, and studied actually happened……makes it much more real. It forms a connection that watching and reading cannot.
Laurie spurred this interest and is the one I have to thank for this. Today was another fantastic day. After reading about, studying, and watching sports car racing (as well as driving a formula car for 15 years), today………..I stood on the circuit at Monaco.
Monaco isn't part of France. Technically, it's another country, and they call it the Principality of Monaco. From what I understand it was established as a haven for wealth, with lots of tax loopholes and such. It seems to have worked as there is an incredible amount of wealth here.
Monaco train station
We arrived by train, to a cavernous rail station. As we exit, we find the station was carved into the rock of the mountains that Monaco sits on. When you’re outside, you find yourself looking straight up, to buildings perched on cliffs surrounding the narrow passage through the rocks from the train station. The things I read about and saw on TV are starting to make sense now.
As parts of Nice are on terraced hillsides, everything in Monaco is on a terraced hillside. The place goes straight up the face of a cliff. You stand in this narrow crevice looking towards the sky, up at buildings, roads, sidewalks, it’s really a bizarre place. We walk past a small church tucked into the crevice that is actually in one of the turns of the race circuit. You walk our right onto the circuit.
I stood there looking around, trying to put it all together. It looks different being used in it’s day to day fashion, so you start looking for things that look familiar from the F1 races you watched on TV. With a little study you start to see where the track and pits were, where the famous turns are, the landmarks start to jump out at you and you put the pieces together. It starts to look like what you know from TV.
A Christmas market is going full bore in what is one of the racing lines around the yacht basin. We walk through and have coffee and a snack. We watch as they roast whole pigs in one booth, and there’s a line of folks from Europe at the booth who want BBQ, just like in the states.
We wander along the yacht club, looking at the incredible boats tied up. These are the boats that people hang out on and watch the race. The boats are right by the race track (which is now active city streets). They have to move a huge amount of things, not to mention bring in an equally huge amount of thing to make the race circuit. They transform these regular Monaco streets into one of the most famous race tracks on earth.
A Ferrari, a Lamorghini, and a Bentley. Just normal cars here.
And here I am. It keeps coming back to me, over and over, where I’m at and what I’m seeing. It constantly humbles me, and I remember how lucky I am to get to see these places in person. I am reminded how far I’ve come. I am truly a lucky man to get to go and see these places. I tell Laurie that I doubt I would have ever done this if she had not spurred this interest in travel. I am blessed to be married to her.
We wander up the hill towards the casino. I have no interest in going in as they have no poker room. You also have to check any packs, hats, coats, no cameras are allowed, and they actually charge to get in. The parking lot is entertainment enough.
While walking through the parking lot, I told Laurie that the cars I look around and see probably cost over 100 million dollars. I see every unusual and rare sports car known to man. Ferraris are like a Ford Focus here. They’re everywhere and quite common. I saw multiple McLarens, a bunch of Lamborghinis, Rolls Royce, you name a rare and very expensive high end sports or luxury car and I’ll show you 9 of them in this parking lot. Porsche Panamericas are like Chevy pickups. Everybody’s got one.
After the incredible excess by the casino, we take an elevator down to the yacht basin. The entire town is honeycombed with public tunnels, stairs, and elevators, all carved into the mountain. They are everywhere and open to anyone that wants to use them. At the bottom of this elevator ride, we step out to the famous tunnel that the F1 cars run through. Wow. Again.
A piece of Formula One history, the tunnel at Monaco. The faithful have come on a pilgrimage.
To those without my racing history and study, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. But to me, this is the equivalent to Laurie’s visit to the Chagall Museum. She was incredibly influenced by what she saw, where she was, viewing these amazing works of art in the place many were created. Monaco was my Chagall museum. This place is part of one of my masterpieces.
We take our photos and head back. We had planned on stopping in Eze, a hillside village, to see the view and visit the town. I seem to have burned a bit too much time in Monaco, and we were running out of daylight. I didn’t expect Monaco to draw me that much. But it was awesome. We’ll do Eze another trip…..maybe with another trip to Monaco. I expected I would be bored after a few hours. We spent the better part of the day and I didn't get to see everything I wanted to see. So much history to touch.
We arrive at the Nice train station, once again round tripping on the train and never seeing a conductor or a single SNCF (French Rail) employee. I think their business model is to run a bunch of trains in different directions and just see what happens. We head back to old town for another wonderful dinner.
Old town Nice reminds us both a lot of Venice. The streets are very narrow, mostly just foot paths between the buildings. It is full of great restaurants, bistros, bars, stores, and art galleries. It’s a fun part of town to hang out in.
Laurie on one of the many staircases in Monaco. The city is literally covered with staircases and elevators as the entire place is carved out of a cliff.
They’re serious about their happy hour here, running it from 4 to 8 pm. We stop and have a drink on a small outdoors table at a café, watching the people come and go, friends meeting for what is obviously a common ritual to them. They hang out, have drinks with friends, and maybe a cigarette. The cafes here still allow outdoor smoking and it is very common.
We move again tomorrow, getting up not terribly early to go to the airport for our flight to Barcelona. Tonight was spent packing. Next time you hear from me, we’ll be in Spain! More adventures in places I never thought I’d see.
Monaco slide show