Every great sporting fixture has a special feel and texture, from the twin spires of Churchill Downs to the emerald lawns of Wimbledon. But none has a setting quite so wondrous as the Grand Prix of Monaco, an event for which an entire principality serves as backdrop. This Sunday's 22nd Monaco Grand Prix opens the 1964 world-championship season and, as Al Parker's paintings on the following pages reveal, the course is unique. It measures just under two miles and consists of the principality's streets. As Princess Grace and Prince Rainier watch from their red-velvet-draped dais opposite the pits near the yacht harbor, 16 single-seaters speed up from the sea at 120 mph, swerve into the principal square between the Hotel de Paris and the Casino, negotiate a series of sharp bends around the railroad station, scream along the quay to a 30-mph hairpin turn and then do it over again—100 times. From balconies, yachts, hillside perches, restaurants and bars, the 50,000 spectators witness an unforgettable tableau.
Monte Carlo Travel Facts: The Thing to Do Is Join the Club
PLAYING THERE: Although Riviera seasons are almost as imperceptible as the boundaries that separate the 370-acre principality of Monaco from France (Monaco's only frontiers are flowers, wrote Colette), the Grand Prix, illustrated on the preceding pages, marks the end of the old-fashioned English, or winter, season of indoor galas, operas and concerts and the beginning of summer, when seemingly all Monaco but the croupiers moves out of doors. From an aerie on the Moyenne Corniche, the winding highway terraced out from, then tunneling into, the cliffs high above the overlapping towns of Monte Carlo, Monaco-Ville and La Condamine, a motorist looks down on the greatest concentration of sporting clubs on the Riviera and probably in Europe. The delightful surprise to the American visitor is that all of these facilities are easily available to him, and are not merely the special playground of Prince Rainier and his friend Aristotle Onassis, who makes tax-free Monaco his headquarters, owns great chunks of the real estate and is the principal shareholder in the Casino. All one has to do in this playground (less than half the size of Central Park) where the only industry is pleasure and passports are not required, is join the club. Joining the club is not a matter of difficulty, as it is in many another resort. The Yacht Club de Monaco, for example, practices international club reciprocity. Membership for foreign visitors who are members of any water-oriented club back home—sail, motorboat, skin-diving or even canoe—is only $8. Once a member, an agreeable foreign sportsman will have no difficulty making friends who will offer to take him sailing, not for money but for the fun of it. "We are sportsmen, not businessmen making money out of sport," says Yacht Club Secretary Pierre Marsan. The club also has Snipes and a Caravelle to lend members who know how to sail, instructors to teach those who do not. Deep-sea fishing boats are almost impossible to charter on most of the Riviera. At the Yacht Club there are well-outfitted fishing craft for hire at $90 per day, but these will seldom be needed. The gregarious European sports fishermen welcome Americans to their private boats to seek the 30-to-60-pound Mediterranean tuna—small by Atlantic standards, but a man can catch 30 in a day.
Skin-diving members can rent scuba gear for $8 or $10 per day and explore the sub-oceanic cliffs, which are a favorite diving ground of Commandant Jacques-Yves Cousteau, a former club president. There are also two 2,000-year-old Roman galleys to explore in the harbor, one 40 feet down, another a deep 60, but filled with amphorae. On the cliff above there is one of the world's best oceanographic museums, the life work of Prince Albert I, Rainier's great-grandfather. No spear fishing is allowed—the club shares Cousteau's horror of "massacring fish." There are Yacht Club regattas and fishing tournaments all summer long. The Yacht Club also has a power fleet. The Genoa-to-San Remo-to-Monaco powerboat race will be held July 5. The biggest sailing race, the Trophée du Yacht Club, from Bandol to Ile de la Gorgone to Monaco, takes place August 4 to August 8.
The Monte Carlo Golf Club, an 18-hole, par-66 links, resembles the more sporting courses of the Scottish highlands. "We do everything possible to make foreign golfers at home," says the club secretary, Englishman Anthony Bushel. The hospitality is as broad as the view—the course is at Mont Agel, 2,600 feet above the sea. For nine holes one looks at the snow-topped Alps; for the other nine, the Mediterranean. Green fees all year round are only $3 per day, and there are clubs for hire. Prince Rainier plays here four or five times a week.
The Monte Carlo Country Club, like everything else in town, overlooks the sea. It has 20 fine clay tennis courts, squash racquets courts, volleyball and badminton. A year's membership is $50, a day card $2.50.
As at Capri and Sorrento, the landscape plummets into the sea, with Monte Carlo clinging to its rocks and promontories, leaving very little room for anything like the American concept of a first-rate beach. The Monte Carlo Beach Club has cornered the best sand beach, a curving, cabana-lined strip. There are also an Olympic pool, a poolside restaurant and the most provocative bikinis in the principality. Admission and a cabin at "Le Beach" is $1.50, with rates increasing to $2.20 in July and August.
This lack of sandy shore is compensated for in part by spectacular swimming pools. One of them, of Olympic dimensions, is built right out into the harbor and is heated for year-round swimming. Another, at the Hotel de Paris, is a splendid oval under glass, with a sauna attached for winter use.
In February only, there is shooting at the Tir aux Pigeons, directly below the Casino—plastic birds are the targets, shot out to sea, and the cost is $20 per day plus $2 for the targets. Most popular spectator sport is professional soccer—Monaco won the European championship last year and is in second place currently in French championship play. The Louis II Stadium is the team's home grounds, where the last game will be played May 31. Play resumes in August.
But the ornate century-old Casino remains the heart of Monte Carlo's sporting life. The principal games are roulette, chemin de fer, baccarat and American-style craps. It costs 80¢ to get into the public rooms, another 60¢ to the salles privées. The minimum wager is 40¢, the maximum $2,000. The Casino is a dressy place—no jeans or St. Tropez T shirts here. The Sporting Club is a large nightclub establishment that specializes in the kind of gala evenings that are a Riviera trademark: dinner and dancing on a seaside terrace, black tie, white jackets, fireworks and spectacles featuring a corps de ballet. There is also gambling.
STAYING THERE: There are 35 hotels in Monaco. The premier one since 1880 has been the Hotel de Paris. It is to Monte Carlo what the Negresco is to Nice, the Carlton to Cannes. A single here, European plan, goes for $12 to $30, a double from $16 to $40 per day. Suites arc astronomically higher. The Metropole is less ornate, no less distinguished and a lot less costly: $8 to $12 for a single, $16 to $22 per double. The best middle-class hotel is the Helder, where a double with bath can be had for $10.
EATING THERE: Of Monaco's 85 restaurants, the panoramic Roof Grill of the Hotel de Paris is the first choice when price does not matter. Depending largely on the. wine one selects—the Grill has the best caves on the Riviera—a dinner will run from $10 to $15 per person. In the $5-to-$10-per-person category the best restaurants are Le Bec Rouge (where Princess Grace and Prince Rainier frequently dine), Rampoldi and Le Sorrento. Unfortunately, there are no little dockside seafood restaurants. For these, natives cross over into France, where they find—more easily than at home—such Monégasque specialties as pissaladi√®re (anchovy-olive-and-onion tart). One unforgettable excursion out of the principality is to Eze-Village, perched on its eagle's nest on top of the Basse Corniche, with all the Riviera strung out in lights below. The Ch√®vre d'Or is the place to dine.
GETTING THERE: If you're flying, Nice is the airport destination—30 minutes from Monte Carlo by bus or car. From New York, Pan Am flies to Nice via Lisbon and Barcelona; Air France makes a stop in Paris. Either way, the first-class round-trip fare is $837, the economy jet fare, $503.50. From Paris, the Blue Train departs each evening from the Gare de Lyon at 8:03, arrives in Monte Carlo at 9:25 in the morning. A single sleeping compartment is $58.45.
Through Monte Carlo's main square at nerve-stretching speed goes a Grand Prix car, and the Casino's wheels are for the hour eclipsed by those on the road.
As dawn spreads a soft glow across the Mediterranean sky, a tarpaulin-draped Formula Junior car rests mutely in the parking space allotted it on Larvotto Beach. Soon it will have its hour in a preliminary to the Grand Prix.
Dropping steeply to a curve opposite the Monte Carlo railroad station, the racecourse plunges down to the sea.
As if at a parade, Monegasques see the race from a strategic balcony on Boulevard Albert I near the harbor.
Bracketed by parallel legs of the circuit at harborside, the pits are a tense, noise-buffeted command center.
As a racing car speeds along the harbor promenade, this fortunate lady, reclining on a yacht's deck, not only has a splendid view of the Grand Prix but an opportunity to indulge the Mediterranean passion for sunbathing.
To the victor goes a huge wreath—and the satisfaction of mastering a course uniquely beautiful and perilous.