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EurFirst Trip to Monaco

Revised October 3, 2006

This tiny country, famed for its casino and the celebrities who measure their luck on its velvet tables, is carefully tucked between the beautiful Italian and French Mediterranean coasts. It's king is the son of one of Hollywood's most stunning actresses, Grace Kelly, whose fairy tale life came to an end on the winding roads that lead from the palace and marina toward France and Italy. It is the place to come if you want to see opulence with no guilt or shame.

On our first trip to Europe, we gave Monaco a brief glance as we dashed from Arles to Florence. From the highway above the wealthy nation, you could see tall apartment buildings and a marina filled with multimillion dollar yachts. It was clear that tourism and gambling were vital industries in Monaco.

But when we returned to southern France two years later, we took the time to cruise the streets of Monaco, driving by the casino and around the marina toward the palace. Though we had packed evening clothes for a possible visit to the famed Monte Carlo casino, when finally faced with the option to wander through the casino or head to the beaches of the Riveria, we opted to spare the pocketbook and spoil the skin at some unknown spot on the Mediterranean.

It is likely we were intimidated by the Rolls Royces and Bentleys parked at the casino and the green jacketed attendants who worked the doors. But as tourists strolled through the parking lot for their snapshot in front of the grand gambling house, it seemed to lose its Hollywood glamour. In many ways, it felt like Beverly Hills...a nice place with stores carrying the mosted noted names in fashion, where you might bump into a movie star shopping but where you were more likely to meet a doctor's wife looking for a great outfit for the weekend.

Though the casino draws the tourists, the most visible wealth is docked in the marina. Some spectacular yachts reside in the calm basin while others stop in for a break on summertime trips around the Mediterranean.

For those who are curious about the "good life," there is much that Monaco has to share with tourists. It is a visually stunning spot sitting beside the brilliant blue waters of the Mediterranean. Make time to enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants near the marina and wander into some of the alluring shops in downtown. If you make plans far enough in advance, you may also be able to tour the palace.