Surrounded by France, except for a stretch along the Mediterranean, Monaco is a destination for the wealthy, as well as those with a penchant for auto racing or roulette. The only other ostensible reason to visit this tiny principality is curiosity — especially for Americans, it’s hard to believe that a plot of land that small could actually be its own country! Well, good things tend to come in small packages, and Monaco is no different. Monaco stands on its own, warranting a visit that’s more than an add-on to a vacation in France.
Need a reason? I have five for you, all at least a tad off-beat.
1. You can walk the entire country end-to-end
So, it’s not a journey worthy of a Jules Verne story, or for that matter, Michael Palin. But, it’s still pretty cool to brag that you’ve walked an entire country … in only one day. Monaco is only 0.76 square miles, so you’ll even be able to stop for lunch and a spin of the wheel at Casino de Monte-Carlo.
2. The Prince is everywhere
Every business establishment has a portrait of the country’s ruler, Prince Albert II, displayed prominently. It’s like experiencing a touch of North Korea in Europe: creepy but not scary.
3. The changing of the guard is … ummmm … unique
I had visions of Arlington National Cemetery while waiting for the changing of the guard in Monaco: proud, disciplined, military personnel flawlessly executing tightly scripted movements. Nope. Some were a tad tubby to bee soldiers. A few had trouble staying in step. Rifles were propped at varying angles, though fortunately all on right shoulders. It was comical. I offered to help, but Prince A. still hasn’t responded to my open letter.
4. You could be set for life
There’s always a shot that you could find fortune at the casinos. Win big, and you won’t have to worry about working again (hey, stretch out that vacation a bit!). Since the house always wins in the end, you’ll probably want to have a backup plan. I suggest love. Try to score a future as a mistress or boy-toy: Monaco is committed to equal opportunity. The hours are great, as is the compensation. But, the work can suck from time to time.
5. Nerds are welcomed desired
Actuaries and risk geeks should hit Monaco during the annual Rendez-Vous conference for the reinsurance industry. Even if you aren’t part of the official festivities, this event is one of the country’s biggest draws, beat only by the Grand Prix in terms of cash brought in. Everyone loves the risk crowd, so drop your slide rule, and get busy!
Oh, and you can do all the usual stuff, too. Tour the palace, hit the beach and try to sneak onto a rich guy’s yacht — it’s all in good fun. Just make sure you can outrun the local army if you try this last one. It’s not hard, though, and you’re never more than a few miles from the border.
[Photo by Salvatore.Freni via Flickr]