A great little state
The tiny independent Principality of Monaco, no bigger than London’s Hyde Park, has been in the hands of the autocratic Grimaldi family since the 13th century, save for the two decades following the French Revolution, and in theory would become part of France were the royal line to die out.
When you’re on a cruise to Monaco it’s easy to understand how the last hundred years the principality has lived off gambling, tourism and its status as a tax haven. Among its inhabitants, French citizens outnumber native-born Monegasques.
Along with the Pope and the house of Liechtenstein, Prince Albert II is one of Europe’s few remaining constitutionally autocratic rulers. A holiday to Monaco is like taking a stroll along the Mediterranean. The three-kilometre-long state consists of several distinct quarters.
The pretty old town of Monaco-Ville around the palace stands on the high promontory, with the densely built suburb and marina of Fontvieille in its western shadow. La Condamine is the old port quarter on the other side of the rock; Larvotto, the rather ugly bathing resort with artificial beaches of imported sand, reaches to the eastern border; and Monte Carlo is in the middle. French Beausoleil, uphill to the north, is merely an extension of the conurbation – the border is often unmarked and always easily crossed on foot.