14. Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Casinos and crashes

There are a few places in the world that man has turned into something that, for one reason or another, defies logical belief. One of these places is a settlement on the Mediterranean coastline, just to the East of Nice, which most people will know as Monte-Carlo.

Apparently this is where the rich and possibly famous like to chill out when they’re not making far too much money doing things they probably shouldn’t be doing. One only needs to glance down at the marina with its copious show-offery, or the price column of a typical restaurant, and you know you’re in a place where money talks louder than the angry tooting of cars stuck in a jam caused by two busses unable to pass each other round the Fairmont hairpin.

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However, the best example of the ridiculousness of this principality happens once a year, in late spring. One day, back in the 1920s, someone looked at the narrow, tight, twisty nature of Monte-Carlo’s streets and thought “hey, this is the perfect place for a racetrack”. And so, every year, incredible machines capable of driving at speeds of over 220mph and cornering at over 5G, descend upon these streets for the unique, how-are-they-not-hitting-the-wall-at-every-corner Monaco Grand Prix.

As an avid Formula One fan, the opportunity to visit the “jewel of the calendar” and walk a lap of perhaps the most famous racing circuit in the world was one I was not going to pass up, and it was a special experience I will never forget.

Every corner around this special circuit has its own story to tell, its own piece of history – whether it’s the second Portier turn, where Ayrton Senna famously crashed his dominant McLaren in 1988, the left-handed Tabac, where Takuma Sato’s massive engine failure in 2004 covered the track in smoke, causing carnage behind him, or the final bend, where the late Jules Bianchi made a brilliant “banzai” overtaking move on the last lap to give Manor Racing the only points in their short history.

What made my visit ever so slightly more special was that, due to it being less than a month before this year’s race, the grandstands and barriers were in the process of being put up, so I was able to see the town as it transformed itself from a haven for the overly-rich, into a playground for the fastest men on Earth. This wasn’t particularly good news for the motorists at the time, who had to navigate their way around what was essentially a massive construction site (and in today’s case, some fairly miserable weather), but it did allow me to immerse myself just that little bit better in what is, for a fan of all things F1, the best town in the world.

(Unfortunately, due to internet connection speed issues, I am unable to upload any more pictures at the present moment)

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