© 2013 by AL. All rights reserved.

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  • Angela Louie and Allan de la Plante

The Mecca of Monte Carlo

Martha said 25 km to Monte Carlo. Of course the last 5 km again took us an hour to weave through the narrow streets to get to the principality.

If you recall, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier a generation ago and the world knew Monte Carlo as the haven and residence of choice for the very rich and famous. The reason a lot of ultra-wealthy people choose to live in Monte Carlo? You do not pay income tax. But don’t get too comfortable. You have to be eligible for residency, which means the monarchy has to approve of you. They don’t want just any old wealthy riff-raff living in Monaco.

The things you notice when you walk around in Monte Carlo are the steep streets and the display of wealth. Cruising in Monte Carlo means Bentley’s, McClaren’s and yes, Ferrari’s. BMW’s, Audi’s and Mercedes are just ordinary.

Even the shopping centre looks like the foyer of a first class hotel. We stopped for a couple of Mohito’s (we acquired a taste for them in Spain) and the two small drinks cost us 28 euros.

For Allan, coming to Monte Carlo was like going to Mecca. It represents the ultimate in autoracing and Formula One. Monte Carlo holds many memories for him, but again, “That wasn’t there 30 years ago” came out of his mouth more than a few times.

For you racing fans, we walked some of the track. We started at Casino Square with the Hotel de Paris on our right. We then turned left and went down the steep incline into Mirabeau. It was an incredibly sharp right after a steep downhill run. The cars must go incredibly fast. We walked along the outside of the track as it wove down towards the hairpin. We looked over the wall and down onto the track below. Allan’s memories kept flooding back.

When we got to the hairpin, I couldn’t believe how sharp it was. The road turned back onto itself. It was slightly downhill. We stopped and Allan recreated some of the pictures that he took so long ago. The teams need to change the steering mechanism on the car just for this race so they can make this sharp turn. We took Allan’s picture standing in the same spot where he took Villeneuve’s image used for the Canadian stamp. We went down through the tunnel then along the seawall. Allan pointed out where the chicane was temporarily put in that is meant to slow the cars down. He showed me where different racing incidents had occurred in the past.

We tried to get into Rasgasse to have a beer, but it was closed. Allan peered into the window and commented how it had changed from a cave-like den to a posh club/restaurant. He took me to the start/finish line and showed me the pit boxes marked on the pavement and the sharp turn and steep climb up from St. Devote. When we got to the top of the hill, we were back to Casino Square.

Thirty years ago, when Allan worked the Grand Prix at Monte Carlo, there were barriers separating the cars from the people. He worked at the edges of the track and had full access to the cars coming through every turn. Coming back now, he was struck by the congestion of the traffic and the pedestrians. He had no barriers to separate him anymore. “This wasn’t here 30 years ago!” I guess what they say is true. You can go back home for a visit, but you can never come back home.

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