Activities – MONACO (Monaco Grand Prix, 22May-25May 2014)

The last few weeks of May 2014 will be chaotic on the French Riviera – you have two major events (The Cannes Film Festival, and Monaco Grand Prix) as well as numerous other events such as the Historic Grand Prix and the Nice Matin Autoshow at the Cagnes-sur-mer Hippodrome.

Accommodation prices spike to coincide with the influx of visitors, and public transport is pushed to capacity.

However, while some residents despair about the month of May (and the craziness it brings to the region), I love it ! Both the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix are unrivalled for atmosphere, experience and thrills – and you don’t need a hefty credit card limit to enjoy them.

The Monaco Grand Prix is being held 22 May – 25 May in 2014.

Monaco Grand Prix (image Access Riviera)

Monaco Grand Prix (image Access Riviera)

The first thing you notice when you arrive and come out of the Monaco Monte Carlo train station is the noise – the reverberating sound of the Formula One car engines echoing off the mountains surrounding Monaco. For a racing enthusiast that sound is pure adrenaline. Monaco echoes with this sound all day !

Monaco Grand Prix (image Access Riviera)

Monaco Grand Prix (image Access Riviera)

The first time I visited the Monaco Grand Prix years ago, I thought it would be possible to take a train and maybe get a sneaky view of the track through the race barriers, without purchasing a ticket.  Wrong!   Grandstand security is tight, fencing is colossal and views are very restricted unless you have a ticket. I did manage to watch a snippet of the race for free from Le Rocher ramp up to the Palais, and the Porte Neuve/Fort Antoine gardens.

Although the Grandstand tickets are pricey, it is a fantastic experience and if your budget doesn’t stretch to the actual race on the Sunday, the qualifying sessions still allow racing enthusiasts to enjoy the atmosphere. Many companies offer package deals (including flights, accommodation, race tickets), or you can purchase stand-alone tickets from the Automobile Club of Monaco. There are also ticket booths on the race days, but be early.

Of course, there are VIP options including private balconies overlooking the circuit, and race-side berths on superyachts. The Monaco Heliport is a constant buzz of activity during the Grand Prix.

Geographically, Monaco is quite small so it’s walkable and they have a network of escalators and elevators to assist locals and visitors with the steep hills. The Grand Prix causes closure of many roads around Monaco and specifically the circuit so maintain realistic expectations (traffic jams, full carparks, road closures and detours) if you take a car.

Traditional race fans of Grand Prix may find the Monaco layout lacking – it is the slowest circuit of the Formula One championships. However, it is beyond exciting, and whilst there is rarely over-taking as the circuit width is narrow, the course has elevation shifts and tight bends and all of the driver’s skill is in negotiating the narrow and twisting roads. The proximity to the circuit for spectators is excellent.

Monaco Grand Prix circuit (layout courtesy of grand-prix-monaco)

Monaco Grand Prix circuit (layout courtesy of grand-prix-monaco)

Tips:

– Take the train as roads are blocked for both the Historic and F1 Grand Prix. No grandstand is more than 10-15 minutes walking from Monaco Monte Carlo train station.

– Use the toilet at the train station, or before you enter your Grandstand. Toilet facilities are sparse.

– There is tourist information at the train station, however if you require any maps or transport information source all this BEFORE you arrive in Monaco during Grand Prix time as the event is so busy that everything is congested and tourist offices are strained for resources. There are good websites for tourist information www.visitmonaco.com or www.monte-carlo.mc and other regional destinations have Tourist Offices (Nice train station or Promenade des Anglais offices are extensive). Here is a layout of the Monaco Monte Carlo train station which is handy for the location of elevators, travelators and toilets http://www.garedemonaco.com/plan-dacces 

– Prepare for all weather conditions. Monaco has it’s own micro-climate and the weather can change quickly. The Grandstands are not covered, so you must prepare for hot sunshine and/or rain.

– There are 3 free practice sessions at every Formula One Grand Prix to allow drivers to familiarize themselves with the circuit and for teams to set-up the cars for qualifying and the race. For Monaco 2014, the practice sessions are on 22 May – perfect for those spectators who want to experience some of the event, but not the full race day price tag. The cheapest race day tickets are on Le Rocher (Secteur Rocher) – the grassy steep hillside leading up to the Palace. There are big screens to cover the action if you can’t see properly. Wear comfy shoes, take a padded seat and snacks.

– Grandstand T is the perfect location for watching pit stop action.

– The stretch of bars along the port, including Stars ‘n’ Bars, are a hive of activity during the Grand Prix. Race drivers have their team trailers along this stretch, so you may get a photo opportunity.  I have seen Barichello, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg along this stretch (though it is fenced off).

Mark Webber at the Monaco Grand Prix (image copyright Access Riviera)

Mark Webber at the Monaco Grand Prix (image copyright Access Riviera)

– The noise is immense and it echoes around the mountains surrounding Monaco. If you have children with you, protect their hearing with earmuffs.

– At the end of each day, the race officials open the track to the public so you can walk on the circuit (photo opportunities abound!)

Automobile Club of Monaco for tickets www.acm.mc

Monaco tourist information www.visitmonaco.com or www.monte-carlo.mc

**Specific information for wheelchair-bound spectators: There is a Monaco association that assists wheelchair-bound spectators specifically for Monaco-based events. They have a designated viewing platform on Le Rocher (rue Philibert Florence) for Grand Prix as the grandstands close to the circuit are inaccessible for persons who are wheelchair-bound.  Photos of the platform and more information is found on their website. Contact them at least 48 hours in advance of your arrival at the Grand Prix, there is an email link on their website home page, you must give evidence of your mobility to obtain free tickets. Here is their website address http://amhm.chez-alice.fr/Page/Nosevenements.htm   Also, Access Plus offer free assistance to passengers at Monaco train station with reduced mobility. You must give 48 hours notice, email them accessplus@sncf.fr or phone 0890 640 650 (local call when in France).

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