The Monte Carlo Affair…

…Which sounds a bit like a spy movie. Except they never show the bits where the secret agent has to take an elderly dependent with mobility issues around an iconic/cinematic location. Is Monaco wheelchair friendly? Is it worth a visit? Is it doable in a campervan? We found out.

First, a bit of Askew glossary: The ‘Franklin Index’ is a measure of ‘well-travelled-ness’ – the number of countries visited, divided by age in years. Inspired by the arctic explorer John Franklin and in part by his namesake Jon Franklin, who I worked with for a while and whose wife regularly used the same calculation to plan their holidays. A positive Franklin index, a score greater than 1, means you’ve visited more countries than your age in years. Whoo. We didn’t really travel a great deal until our late 20’s so a positive index would be a tough target but still, any opportunity to visit a new country is quite a draw.

So, the James Bond glamour and the chance to tick another country off made me want to try to visit Monaco seeing as we were passing so close as we moved from France to Italy. We googled ‘motorhome parking monaco’ and there was some older information about parking spaces without height restrictions at the stadium but nothing conclusive from more recent comments. The weather wasn’t great as we passed anyway, so we didn’t bother – I was already hatching a new scheme!

We were camping in Ventimiglia, a short hop into Italy. The train from Ventimiglia to Monaco takes 30 minutes, and the campsite was a 10 minute stroll from the station. That sounds a lot easier that struggling to find parking for the motorhome!

Rules on taking dogs – and taking an old dog in a fairly chunky stroller – on trains were a bit vague, it depends on the type of train, size of dog, etc. We can only try. We positioned Marra in his rover in clear view of the guy at the ticket office and asked for 2 adults, 2 dogs ‘andate e ritorno’ to Monaco. Puffing away on his e-cigarette, the guy obliged, with nothing to indicate any concerns. The dogs paid half the child fare, had their own ticket, which we stamped before boarding.

The train was at the platform so we legged it. No lift so a bit of a haul down the steps to the underpass and back up to the platform. On the train no problem as they had lots of space for bikes, but there were no cyclists on so we parked ourselves in there. Nothing but smiles and cooing from the (French) train guards.

I realised I didn’t know much about Monaco other than it has a Grand Prix, it’s small, expensive and glamorous and the casino was in a Bond film. I now know it is very steep – there are public elevators between levels; it has several districts, of which Monte Carlo is one; and, there are 3 main attractions: the Casino, the Aquarium and the Japanese Garden.

We hit a snag trying to leave the station – the rover wouldn’t fit through the doors to the lifts. We had to remove one wheel. I guess we are just a little bit wider than an average wheelchair! We found this to be the case all round the city, so we avoided all the lifts except one up out of the marina. Good exercise, pushing the rover! Apart from that, we had very little bother all day.

We took a circular route:

  • down the roads to a pedestrianised shopping area, where we stopped at Grubers for an excellent burger,
  • round to the marina, where they were setting up for the upcoming e-prix and where we ogled the yachts,
  • up to the Japanese garden, where we took turns to wander as dogs weren’t allowed,
  • round to the casino, again where we took turns to have a nosy inside,
  • through the posh shopping/hotel area, where we ogled the fancy cars,
  • then on back round to the station.

A grand day out! Wasn’t that sunny but we got a few pics.