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MONACO
(Monte Carlo)

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Luxury yachts, Monte Carlo Harbor, Monaco
Monte Carlo Harbor, © Can Stock Photo / LesM

The Principality of Monaco is a small monarchy with a population of about 15,000 permanent residents.  It is completely surrounded by France and the Mediterranean.  The city of Monte Carlo occupies about a quarter of the land area and is home to about 4,000 permanent residents.  In French the name is hyphenated.  Today the city is a haven for the wealthy due to its lack of income taxes.  The Grimaldi family has controlled Monaco for centuries.  Probably the most famous recent Grimaldi was Prince Rainier III who married the American actress Grace Kelly in a fairy tale wedding.  Princess Grace died in an auto accident in 1982.  Prince Rainier passed away in 2005 and Prince Albert II took the throne.  French is the preferred language in Monte Carlo and tourists will find a noticeable reluctance to accommodate other languages.

Visas:

Monaco is not a member of the Schengen Zone, but it relies on the rules of France for visa requirements.  If you can get in to France, there are no restrictions preventing you from entering Monaco.

Currency:

Monaco participates in the use of the Euro even though it is not a member of the European Union.

Weather:

Summer extends from June to September in Monte Carlo.  Average highs in July and August are 80 F (27 C) and lows are about 70 F (20 C).  Winter extends from December to February with average highs of 55 F (14 C) and lows of 43 F (6 C).  Rainfall is heaviest from October through December.  July and August are the driest months and combined with the warm weather, make these the two most popular months for tourism.

Transportation:

Prices for accommodation in Monte Carlo are extremely high and most tourists stay in Nice or other nearby towns.  There is no international airport in Monaco, so flights are booked through Nice, France.  The wealthy arrive by private yacht.  For the regular tourist, it is easy to catch the frequent rail service from Nice for day trips to Monte Carlo.  The train takes about 20 minutes and arrives at Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo.  From there it's not more than a 20 minute walk to any destination in Monte Carlo.  A great option from the train station is the Monaco Hop-on Hop-off Tour which has stops at the Casino, Port Hercule, the Palace, the Cathedral and the aquarium.  Another option is the city's Azur Express Tourist Train, which is actually an open air bus disguised as a train.  It covers the same stops as the hop-on-hop-off and more.  The ticket booth for the "train" is across from the aquarium.  Cruise ships dock at Port Hercule.  Passengers can walk up the hill to the Palace, Cathedral and aquarium in about 20 minutes.

Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco

Monte Carlo Casino, © Can Stock Photo / gary718

Attractions in Monte Carlo:

Things to see and do:


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Monte Carlo Visit

by Tim Anderson
It takes 3 trains, including one reservation, to get from Monterosso to Monaco, the stops being Genoa and Ventimiglia. The last section of open seating took us to our personal travel disaster in Monte Carlo.  This town too was over run, this time by the time-trials for the Grand Prix.  First it was difficult to exit the train, as there were throngs of people waiting to board the train. They rushed 5 deep from across the entire platform.  As I tried to step out onto the platform, the flood blasted me backward. Those behind me shouted and pushed me out the door through the massive surge.  When we tried to exit the station, the exit was blocked with chain link fence. An attendant finally explained in French that we would need to go to the end of the platform, turn left, take a tunnel that led to a side street and then climb the hill if I wanted to get to the aquarium at the Musee Oceanagraphique, (which Jacques Cousteau was once director of).  Basically, the cab or bus ride normally taken would need to be made on foot today. My travel companions will never forgive me.  We had to ask directions twice more along the way and climbed a hill with numerous steps with our luggage.  Along the way I got pics of the race trials, the Palace, the statue of Grimaldi, the Cathedrale de Monaco and finally the aquarium.  If we had arrived any other day, we could have taken the Azur Express Tourist Train to easily see all the sites in a very short period of time.

The aquarium was a disappointment.  It wasn’t nearly as nice as some other aquariums, such as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta or the Maui Ocean Center on Maui. It was a small aquarium that took up the lower two floors of the building.  The third floor was a strange museum with some old relics from diving, bones of whales structured to complete skeletons, fossils, wooden boat models and various sea creatures preserved in formaldehyde.  The top floor had some views of the city and the ocean, which was probably the best part.  Not a great experience and some very unhappy travelers, who were developing calluses from pulling their bags.  We found a free bus down the hill, but had to walk through town and then walked on the closed freeway that led to the train station.


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