Wealth, glamour, James Bond, private yachts and tax avoidance… A few of my thoughts when the Principality of Monaco comes to mind.
For a country mainly associated with wealth, Monaco’s rich history (see what I did there…) only began when Monaco’s House of Grimaldi almost reached bankruptcy back in the 1850’s.
Originally the idea of Princess Caroline, Charles III wanted to develop a casino in the capital of Monaco – Monte Carlo – to save the country from impending bankruptcy. Even though the venture was deemed to fail by many, thanks to the lack of easy access into the city at the time, fast-forward many years – along with a railway connection to Paris – and Monaco gradually became the playground it is now for the rich and famous.
Today Monaco is ruled by Prince Albert II – Grace Kelly’s son – and is still a city of luxury to many. It is also called home by an impressive roster of famous faces, including F1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, Bono of U2 fame and even Ringo Starr. Monaco draws in the cash-rich thanks to generous tax laws which include no income tax as well as no capital gains tax imposed on residents. The city is also very strict when deciding who is allowed to enter the country to set up home. Those who aren’t born in Monaco will never truly be a proper resident, as this is reserved for those who can claim the title of being a Monegasque.
I guess it’s for this reason that Monaco has an almost elusive and exclusive feel – one where everything shimmers and anything is possible. Upon arrival, I didn’t find an all-singing-all-dancing city that I previously imagined. Instead I was greeted with a concrete city built on money (in some cases perhaps dirty) which gave the place a sort-of superficial sheen. Where was the glamour I had dreamt in my head? There was no personality to the city, no character, no distinctive traits which Monaco could claim as its own amongst the stunning Cote d’Azur. I’ll be honest, I found it to be a bit of an anti-climax.
From the train station, as we weaved our way down the steep mountainside and we were able to take in the vast amount of new, existing and currently work-in-progress apartments as we headed towards the port where dozens and dozens of private yachts were docked. James spotted Philip Greens yacht – The Lionheart – on the opposite side of the port which was as big and as obnoxious as the greedy millionaire himself. The shining jewel of the city seems to be the grandiose Monte Carlo Casino where the rich can get richer. Perhaps the most unusual rule of the casino is the fact that Monegasques are barred from gambling there. Though looking around the ornate casino, it seemed to be filled with more tourists than serious gamblers looking to win big. To the right of the infamous casino is the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo, considered by many to be the finest hotel in the region – probs because it has bonus points for the quick and easy access it provides to the casino right on its doorstep.
I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like if I were to live in Monaco – would I be more drawn to it if I actually had millions of pounds to nestle away here?
Honestly? No, I don’t think so.
Despite the fact that the country provides the perfect haven for money moguls to pitch up and take off their Louboutin heels and Burberry loafers, to me, aside from the monetary gains it just doesn’t have anything else going for it. I need more in a home city than it simply being cash rich. I want to be surrounded by my family and friends, and be in a city which is vibrant and ever-changing. Looking around there were no quirky backroads selling local handmade items, there were no fun restaurants and coffee shops popping up, no individuality which brings a city to life.
Though for every negative (in my opinion), there are always positives, as with all cities. High up near the Princes Palace, the views across the harbour are brilliant and it’s also worth wandering through the Saint-Martin Gardens nearby the Palace of Justice for far-reaching views across the ocean whilst amongst the greenery.
Monte Carlo is also a haven for F1 fans – which is one reason why we visited the city in the first place. James and I spent the afternoon walking the famous Grand Prix track which has seen the likes of Hamilton, Rosberg and Bottas grace the streets of the city.
Now whilst I can see the appeal of Monaco, for me, it just doesn’t have enough of a personality to win me over.
So for now, so long Monaco, it’s back to Nice I go.