How to enjoy the Monaco Grand Prix weekend for little, or no money. Watch the F1 cars zip around the famous street circuit, go into the casino and the Cafe de Paris and many of the tourist attractions.
We can all name a few of the World’s iconic events, for example; the Hajj Pilgrimage, the Biennale in Venice, the Glastonbury Festival in Southern England, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the Snow and Ice Festival in China, Cannes Film Festival in France. Of course, all of us harbour a fistful of shindigs that we fancy going to one day, but this year, there are very few for any of us to attend.
Last weekend Covid 19 took it’s toll on the Monaco Grand Prix, which joined all those other sporting occasions and was binned. We Wallys and our friend, had planned to be in Monaco, in this super glamorous principality, enjoying the atmosphere that surrounds the Grand Prix weekend. In 2019, three of us went and we had a ball. Then and there, we decided we would all go again this year.
Not being able to go was painful. To help salve our wounds, I fished out the photos from last year, looked through them, and both smiled and shed a soft, silent tear. Even though we could not be there, we have decided to convince you that you should plan to go and soak up the atmosphere. Who knows, we may se each other there!
As with all big occasions, there is the opportunity to spend huge amounts of money, but you really do not have to. Most of the time, people are hanging out, mooching about and exploring the local sights, and that is something we can all do. Some have come to sit in their costly ticketed seats and take in the car race, blow cash in the world famous casino, and feast in the Cafe de Paris before heading back to their yachts to glug champagne. We had decided that, as we had been here many years before and knew a thing or two, that we would do some of the fancy things again. Why? Because we can!
If you want to see the F1 cars blasting around the track, but do not want to pay out a penny, go on the Friday of race weekend. The stands are open and they are free to enter for anyone. You will need a ticket for the Saturday and the Sunday. They are most expensive on the Sunday. Prices vary according to the location of your seating. They can be bought over the internet during the preceding winter and early spring and you do not need to use an agent or tour company. It is all straight forward.
The other thing you can do is walk the race track, tracing every twist and turn and being silly on the start finish line. All you do is make sure the racing has finished for the day and off you go. It is a very popular activity, you will be in good company.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is free to go into. All you do is step away from the crowd of tourists who stand on the far side of the street to admire the holy trinity that is the building, the conspicuous wealth of those who are fortunate to be allowed to enter and the fabulous cars they park outside by the kerb. Be brave, cross the road, passing between the most deliciously expensive rank of cars you are ever likely to get so close to and, taking a deep breath, walk up those very imposing steps, saying a polite hello to the guards either side of the grand entrance. If you have backpacks, handbags etc, they will ask to take a peep inside; be gracious, you are worthy of this place.
Now all you do is walk right through those huge doors and you are in. If you would like to have a small flutter, go to the obvious desk and hand over your ID or passport and at least 40 Euros. Otherwise, you can chill in the grand salon and bar. I had the salon and bar all to myself, whist the lads went into the gambling room and blew 80 Euros in, what felt like five minutes. The house generally wins, but I chatted with an elated American tourist who swirled towards me to tell me that she had come out a few cents richer than she went in. Her husband, however, lost the lot, but seemed happy about it.
This is the perfect place to spend a few quiet moments, and it is free of charge. You do not have to gamble here to enjoy the ground floor with it’s luxurious ambience and it’s gorgeous loos.
The Cafe de Paris is the place to ‘take tea’. A cuppa costs no more than anywhere else in the area, but it is the only place where, ‘dwarlink, you absolutely must pull up a seat and have a drink’. It is a grand building, heavily masked by awnings that shade the numerous outside tables. There is a casino here as well. If you fancy a proper meal, there are plenty of sensibly priced places that offer a good menu and there are also lovely parks where you can sit and eat a picnic; always a good choice.
What else does the town of Monte Carlo have to offer? The old town is worth strolling through as it wends it’s way up towards the Princes Palace.
Here are a few of the other attractions that we took in over the weekend. We have included the entrance fees in Euros.
Accommodation, even over the Grand Prix weekend is not expensive.
We hired a big apartment in Nice and used the coastal train to nip in and out of Monaco, which is about half an hour away. The trains ply the coast to the left and right of Nice; they are frequent and cheap.
Travelling from the UK was, for us, by train. Flying is an option, as is driving. Remember the Grand Prix falls over an English bank holiday weekend and, for some counties, a one week school holiday, both of which push up travel costs.