Monaco is one of those places everybody’s heard of; its reputation precedes it. It reeks wealth, glamour and fast cars. It’s the only place I’ve come across that advertises its distance as “15 minutes by helicopter” from an international airport rather than the train/bus timing. It’s the only place I’ve been to where public toilets are like 5 star hotel bathrooms (well, minus the fluffy towels and cosmetic freebies, but in terms of cleanliness and decor) and it’s the only place I know where you can traverse the majority of the country through sparkly clean tunnels, travelators, escalators, elevators and walkways. It’s also where I recently went on a walking tour of Monaco, in pink!
But then there are a great deal of superlatives for Monaco. It’s the most densely populated country in the world, with the longest life expectancy too (at nearly 90 years). It has the highest GDP in the world and the lowest unemployment globally. It also has the lowest poverty rate and highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita. And not surprisingly it has the most expensive real estate in the world. But does all this make it a nice place? Let’s take a little walking tour to find out.
A walking tour with a twist. Recently my family and I, along with 20 or so friends and a further 380-ish pinkly-dressed strangers, participated in the 3rd annual Pink Ribbon Monaco Walk. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to wander through this enigmatic Principality. Basking in the sunshine which actually produced heat despite the March date, Monaco looked its best and I’d defy anyone not to fall under its charm in these circumstances.
The walk started on the main port – Port Hercule – at the iconic start and finish line of the famous Monaco Grand Prix. From there we wound our way up the hill, snaking along in one great pink ribbon, on to “The Rock”. This is the historical old part of Monaco where narrow medieval alleys, the Cathedral and Royal Palace are located. It’s the area with the most charm, though its perfectly renovated buildings, squeaky clean streets and (far too) many souvenir shops leave it a little soul-less compared with many of the other medieval towns on the Riviera. So having come up Avenue de la Porte-Neuve, we passed in front of the magnificent Oceanographic Museum (possibly the best thing about Monaco) and into the lovely Jardins St Martin. This park, planted with Mediterranean and tropical species, and plenty of exotic cacti, is gloriously lovely, with its views out to the sea, up to the Cathedral and over the Fontvieille port. We walked through the middle this time but if you pop over to the Pointe St Martin on the seaside you get the most wonderful view of the museum, and along the coast eastwards taking in three countries at once: Monaco, France and Italy. At the end of the park you come to Ruelle Sainte Barbe, lined on the right by beautiful old colourful houses (with squillion dollar views!).
Next up on our little walk was the Place du Palais, the Palace Square, for a group photo. The Palace is the home of Prince Albert II, constitutional Monarch and Head of State, and tours are possible. (This brings us to another superlative as regards Monaco, that it has the longest reigning monarchy in the world – the House of Grimaldi have ruled, with brief interuptions, since 1297.) Once the press photo was taken we were off again, down the steps known as the Rampe Major offering great views across Port Hercule and the highrise towers that surround the harbour.
We circumvented the Place d’Armes and headed into Fontvieille. This part of Monaco is constructed on reclaimed land; it contains some of the slightly cheaper housing, the second port, the all-important heliport, the “normal” shops, the permanent circus bigtop (home to the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo held annually in January) and the stadium. It also has some charming parks, including the Princess Grace Rose Garden, which even in March were full of flowers in bloom. For anyone interested in sculpture there are plenty of unusual and striking pieces dotted through the gardens. So we walked along the edge of the port, following Quai Jean-Charles Rey, as far as the Heliport. There we turned right to pass the circus and cross the attractive green parks before taking an escalator back up to Place du Canton. Retracing our steps we found ourselves back in Place d’Armes where under stripey red and yellow awnings local Monagesques were going about their Sunday shopping in a charming little street market. It was a side of Monaco I hadn’t seen before, authentic and a far cry from the glitzy, designer boutiques most commonly seen here.
The final bit of the walk took us from the Place d’Armes into the area known as La Condamine, down a fairly ordinary pedestrian street, rue Princesse Caroline, and back out onto the port where we started. All up it took us just over an hour and a half, walking at a regular pace, not fast, not slow, with only the one stop outside the Palace. It’s an easy walk for all levels of fitness though owing to the number of steps it wouldn’t be easy with a child’s buggy, nor possible in a wheelchair. But what it was perfect for, as well as sightseeing, was creating awareness and raising money for breast cancer sufferers.
Pink Ribbon Monaco is affiliated with the worldwide movement but all funds raised go towards local projects. This walk was only the 3rd and it has grown in numbers year on year. It was a great event, in a perfect setting, blessed with the best weather ever! I found the atmosphere incredible – emotionally charged, hugely supportive – as everyone there had a story to tell. Instead of numbers our bibs were left blank to write a personal message dedicated to a loved one fighting or lost to cancer. I walked with two survivors, both young mums, and reflected on two friends lost recently to the dreadful disease. I hope this walk continues to grow and urge anyone reading locally to get involved next year. (You can read the inspiring story of my friend’s fight against cancer in her recently published book “Breathing Out“.)
So back to my original question. Is Monaco a “nice” place? I think the answer is a resounding “yes”. “Nice” sums it up well. It’s so perfectly clean, efficient and well looked after, with lovely green spaces amongst its densely built-up streets, and extraordinary views, that despite any misgivings about its phenomenal wealth and lack of “soul” it’s a good place to visit.
I’ll leave you with some more images from the day.
* Thanks to talented photographer Inès Herlicq for all photos marked with an asterisk *
Notes from the Monte Carlo Rally
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Great photos – and a great cause. You give us a really good tour of Monaco. What a perfect place for a pink ribbon walk: nice weather and great sights to walk past. #citytripping
Wow!!! What an awesome experience. I never thought to look up those types of walks in international locations. I will now though. Thanks for sharing #CityTripping
Wonderful cause Phoebe – well done! Great to do it with friends who have fought the disease and so powerful seeing all that pink through the streets of Monaco – what a way to see the city – and many parts which many tourists wouldn’t venture to. Thank you for linking to #citytripping
Amen to this cause, Phoebe! Love the hot pink all over Monaco. 🙂
What a great idea for an event, and some gorgeous photos – I’ve only had a brief visit to Monaco and I don’t remember a great deal apart from thinking I was too poor to be there! It does look very pretty in the sun, and ‘nice’ as you say, lovely to see some of the real life of the principality too. Although I think I’d still prefer somewhere with a bit more atmosphere, even if it’s a bit grubbier. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping
I’m so pleased you liked it, and thanks for all your hard work organising this great event.
THANK YOU for this post! It really captured the spirit of the event! We are so excited about your documentation, and so moved by the comments! You were all fabulous! Can’t wait for next year! :D:D:D:D:D
I agree, it really was a very scenic cancer walk, and we were so lucky with the weather. 😉
Beautiful photos and walk through Monaco. What a great way to spend the day and for such a worthy cause. I have always wanted to visit and see all the glitz and glamour but also experience its charm. Thanks for the virtual tour. Love all the pink and camaraderie here! This has got to be one of the most scenic cancer walks I’ve ever seen.
This is definitely an ideal setting for a walk! It’s so clean and bright it hardly seems real.
We sure did! :p
Do you have plans to come over this way? I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself!
Very much my feelings too Caitlyn, thanks for stopping by.
Wow, you guys must have drawn a lot of attention as you meandered through the city. What a great day for it.
What a wonderful reason to do a walking tour and I love all the pink! I have heard such great things about travel to Monaco, and I cannot wait to go in person soon. Thank you for linking up for Travel Tuesday!
Thanks Delia 🙂
It was a great day! Thanks for stopping by
Hopefully there’ll be even more next year after more publicity like this spreads the words!
It looks like a wonderful place and that’s wonderful you were able to participate in the walk!
Wonderful cause and great pictures, Phoebe!
History, beauty, fitness and a great cause. Great post Lou, thanks so very much for linking up to #SundayTraveler!
What a nice walk you took us on through this post. It’s great to see that so many people support Pin Ribbon Movement. Such a great cause!
Thanks Emma 🙂
Well done, what a great cause! Love Monaco, it’s such an interesting place! Great photos too! :0
Yes you’re right Clara, the Monaco royals are very good at supporting charity.
And we were soooo lucky with the weather too Rosie, the contrast of the pink balloons with the blue sky was so photogenic!
Thanks for your lovely words Victoria. 🙂
As it was only the 3rd time this walk has happened in MC it was great to see so many people. Let’s hope next year is even bigger.
What great timing Stacey, have a great time in MC 🙂
Love this post ~ My husband and I are flying to Monaco next week and I can’t wait! While he wants to pretend he is James Bond ~ I am exciting just to walk around and explore! I for sure will be using your blog to guide us! thank you so much for sharing!
What a great turn out. I love all the balloons. It is wonderful the press was there to get the word out about this important cause.
Wow. Just wow! Your post is stunning and it sounds like you had a wonderful walk. The photos are just beautiful – all that pink with the back drop of Monaco (somewhere I have always wanted to go). Thank you for linking to PoCoLo, it’s lovely to have you on board – hope to see you again next week x
What a brilliant way to see Monaco and promote a worthy cause. (and I love the “15 mins by helicopter” sign!)
Princess Carolina is very careful about charity events, she was in Genova some weeks ago, she was here for a gran gala charity event. I love Monaco and I love this “pink panorama”!!!
I’m glad you enjoyed it Merlinda
How amazing to have seen such a icon – Princesse Grace. The great thing is that Monaco is so safe and paparazzi aren’t allowed so celebs can wander around freely.
You’re right it does look like a toy town!! (Albeit a very built-up toy town)
Monaco is a good place to visit for a day when staying near by. I wouldn’t make a destination in itself per se.
This is amazing! The place, the people, the event & the cause they are supporting! Thanks for sharing this marvellous place and people =)
Beautiful photos! There is something special about Monaco. I actually saw Princess Grace there before she died at a private art viewing I went to with my Mum!
Thanks for sharing the lovely photos. It reminded me of when I went there on holiday years ago. The place is so clean and looks like toy town 🙂
What a great way to see Monaco! I’ve never considered it as a destination. Might have to change that!
Thanks for your kind words Carolyn 🙂
Beautiful. What an absolutely inspiring post and place!
I’m visiting you from Blog Formatting. So glad I stopped by!
The pink balloons looked so good againgst the bright blue sky. It was such a fun day.
I agree Irene, thanks for commenting 🙂
I have never been to Monaco and enjoyed reading your post.
All these pink balloons add another dimension to the photos! xx
Looks like beautiful weather set off a wonderful visit and there’s no better way to see a city than on foot!
I’m glad you enjoyed my post Carly. Thanks for stopping by.
Monaco looks incredible! I would love to join in on that pink ribbon walk! I also loved learning a little about monaco in your first two paragraphs! Its definitely got the reputation as a flashy, glamouroys, wealthy country!