Okay, so we were here to do a job.┬* It has to be said that I’ve worked in worse places and for worse people but it’s still boring.┬* We were shown around the property - easily the most awesome house that I have ever been in - and were then offered lunch on the terrace (which benefitted from awe inspiring views along the French Riviera to the east and Monaco and Italy to the west) but, when it comes down to it, it was still work so I’ll not mention it again.
When we’d finished the unmentionable we decided to head on down the coast to check out Monaco.┬* The drive along the coast was beautiful but almost spoiled by a crazy local who did his utmost to reverse into us.┬* Twice!┬* He then proceeded to remonstrate with us for having the audacity to parp our horn at him.┬* We gave back as good as we got but, ass it transpired, he’d probably done us a favour by introducing us to the atrocious driving standards of the Monacese before we arrived in the chaos of Monte Carlo.
Of course I’ve seen it on the TV during the coverage of the Grand Prix but it’s simply not possible to get a good impression of the place as the cameras try their best to follow the cars as they race around the streets.┬* It was quite surreal then to suddenly turn onto the circuit and follow the route that the racecars will be taking in a few weeks.┬* If the gleaming yachts moored in the harbour didn’t set the scene then the already installed Armco barriers and track signage, along with the construction crews assembling the grandstands and safety crews rehearsing around the track, sure did.┬*
There was absolutely no hope of parking up and going to explore on foot - much as I would have loved to - but it was quite amazing to have driven a thousand miles and have driven through the streets of Monte Carlo.┬* What a place.┬* I’ve never felt the desire to visit the race before as it is ludicrously expensive and you see next to nothing but I now feel quite differently.┬* I┬*will be back.┬* Watch this space!
To the man in the street Monaco’s only sporting event of note is the Grand Prix but the motorsport fan is better educated than that - there is the small matter of the Monte Carlo Rally in the hills above the harbour - and I had set my heart on checking out some of the stunning roads which make up the stages.┬* One of the most challenging of these stages is the Col de Turini so naturally that was where I was planning to head.
I had a route map planned and everything but, much as I was enjoying myself on the switchbacks, I couldn’t ignore Paul who was sat in the passenger seat.┬* He had a funny shade of yellow and he really wasn’t saying a great deal.┬* I thought he was kidding me when he said he gets a little freaked out by big drops but - as the roads became narrower, the hairpins tighter and the drops higher - it was becoming apparent that he was deadly serious.┬*
When we reached the village of Ste Agnes - a mere 20 miles in to my planned route and twice that shy of Turini - I knew I had no choice but to get him back to Nice using the Autoroute.┬* I was a little gutted to have to give up the sort of landscape that I thought only existed in South America but, if I were honest I knew that we’d never make it back to Nice before dark and, whilst I enjoy a challenge behind the wheel, we really weren’t in the right vehicle to enjoy the drive as the road was quickly becoming narrower and more challenging.┬* And, well, I’d be back in a year or two for the Grand Prix.┬* Right?┬*
Back to the hotel then and I was suddenly feeling a little tired but a nice hot shower, a bite to eat and a cold beer from the mini bar certainly hit the spot.┬* I left Paul in his room and went for a wander to explore the local area.┬* After the sights of the last few days it was nothing amazing but, as I sat on the beach and watched the sun set over the Mediterranean, I had time to chill and reflect.┬* I never used to be much of a fan of Europe at all but what I’d seen in the last few days, as well as on our recent visit to Spain, had turned that on its head.┬* I’m really starting to love it down here.┬* I will be back.┬* Oh yes indeed.┬* And not just to the Grand Prix.