It was Somerset Maugham who called Monaco " A sunny place for shady people", and this tax free principality on the Riviera, no bigger than London's Hyde Park, is full of shady people. Take Ken Bates, (please) the dodgy former owner of Leeds United and Chelsea. Of the 35,000 residents, about 6,000 are Brits, including Sir Roger Moore, Shirley Bassey, Lewis Hamilton,Jenson Button,Ringo Starr, plus Novak Djokavic, Gina Lollobrigida, Bono,and more.
Since 1267 AD The House of Grimaldi has ruled, on and off after Francesco Grimaldi, IL MALIZIA (The Cunning One), dressed as a monk, led a raid of the Rock of Monaco. During World War ll first Mussolini and then the Nazis invaded for a short time. It had been an impoverished place and difficult to get to along the coast, backed by high mountains. In the mid 19th Century it was linked to Paris by rail and a casino was opened which after a difficult start eventually became popular. By 1869 there was so much income that taxes were no longer collected from residents.
It is the second smallest and most densely populated place on earth, with France on three sides and the Mediterranean on the other side. When Prince Rainier married actress Grace Kelly in 1965 the world took notice and fell in love with PRINCESS GRACE. Today the ruler is ALBERT ll, educated at AMHERST COLLEGE, where he played in goal for the soccer team and toured Europe with the college glee club. He was known as Albert Grimaldi and just Al when he worked in Wall Street.
He competed in five Winter Olympics on the Monaco 2 man and 4 man bobsled teams, never finishing higher than 27th. He is a member of the IOC and President of AC Monaco who play at the Stade Louis ll.
I had visited a number of times, but not since 1998 during the World Cup in France, I was surprised to arrive at a new, much enlarged train station, completely underground MONACO-MONTE CARLO. I love to visit the place which is so clean and efficient and usually start in one of my favourite markets in the world,CONDAMINE MARKET, Place d'Armes, typically Provencial, open daily until 1.00pm for a quick outdoor breakfast. Then take the No 1 bus up the hill from Monte Carlo where they were putting up stands for the F1 MONACO GRAND PRIX in May and the super yacht harbour, and up the hill to MONACO-VILLE with the old town and the Royal Palace, just in time for the daily changing of the guard at 11.55am promptly.
Away from the skyscrapers and casinos the old ville has charming cobbled streets and home to the Musee Oceanographic made famous by Jaques Cousteau. Monaco has increased its size by 20% with the area down from the rock and to the west called FONTVIEILLE, with a new yacht basin and the new STADE LOUIS ll home of AS MONACO with its iconic 9 arches. Its hosts Juventus of Turin on Wednesday in the second leg of of the Champions League Quarter Final. Arsene Wenger won the league in the late '80's before going to Nagoya Grampus 8 for a short time and then to Arsenal. www.asmonaco.com/en
After many financial problems the new owner, with a 66.66% share is DMITRY RYBOLOVLEV, worth £8.6 million, and being sued by his ex wife for half that! The other third is owned by The Grimaldi Family. With 18,000 seats it can accommodate half the population and has a massive underground car park, swimming pool, gymnasium, offices and the International University of Monaco.
The local bus service is very efficient. Take an exiting bus ride around the Grand Prix Circuit and past the Casino where Monagasque citizens, including the Prince, are banned from entering. Take in the scene from the nearby Cafe du Paris. I caught the bus up to the Jardins Exotique for a birds eye view and then along a zig zag chicane to the mountain village of EZE. Avoid the expensive hotels, restaurants and the casino in Monaco for a great visit.www.visitmonaco.com.