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Monaco Gears up for Grand Prix

May 24, 2008
The F1 Grand Prix circus roars into Monaco on 25th May for one of the biggest sports events of the year.

Monaco may be the second smallest country in the world - only Vatican City home to the Pope is smaller - but it plays host to one of the greatest sporting spectacles on earth - the Monaco Grand Prix.

Not only is the Grand Prix a must see sporting event, it's also an essential part of the social calendar, just like the Epsom Derby, Henley Regatta and Wimbledon. The race takes place on the sinuous streets of Monte Carlo and last year was won by Spain's Fernando Alonso driving a McLaren, with Britain's sporting idol Lewis Hamilton second, and Felipe Massa in a Ferrari third.

Tickets for the Monaco Grand Prix can be hard to come by, but the first port of call is the Automobile Club of Monaco which organises the race. Tickets can also be purchased from ticket booths set up for the race weekend. However, if you don't manage to find tickets from these sources there are other ways of getting a grandstand view.

Many residents of Monaco rent out their terraces and balconies for the Grand Prix, but these don't come cheap. Prices typically range from about 8000 euro to 140,000 euro for the four days of the event including the practice and qualifying sessions starting on 22nd May. Try looking on ebay or in newspapers such as the Nice Monaco Matin and Herald Tribune.

A cheaper way of watching the Monaco Grand Prix can be to book a meal at one of the restaurants and hotels lining the race circuit. Here you can enjoy lunch on the terrace while watching Lewis Hamilton speeding past in his McLaren. Expect to pay anything between around 90 euro to 500 euro for lunch with a view on race day.

Several of the luxury hotels Monaco is famous for have views of the Grand Prix circuit. Best known of all is probably the fabulous five star Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo in Casino Square. This luxury hotel has only 191 rooms so you'll have to book well in advance if you want to enjoy the opulence and excellent service that has attracted many celebrities.

No short break in Monaco is complete without a trip to the world famous Monte Carlo Casino. Whether gambling is your thing or you just want to indulge in some celebrity spotting, the Casino is a great place for a night out offering slots, roulette, craps, blackjack and poker plus bars and restaurants and a cabaret.

As well as numerous bars and nighclubs, Monte Carlo also has a thriving cultural scene. Popular choices for a night out are the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Opera of Monte Carlo, and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.

One of the many celebrities with a pad in Monaco is easyJet founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Lots of the F1 drivers also have a home here. Stelios' low cost airline easyJet is just one of the airlines offering flights to Nice airport, most convenient airport for Monaco.

Race goers travelling from the UK have a choice of flights to Nice. easyJet fly there from Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Edinburgh airports. From Heathrow airport there's the choice of BA (which also flies from Gatwick) and bmi. Passengers from Manchester airport can fly with Jet2.com, while bmibaby serves Birmingham airport and East Midlands airport. Budget airline Flyglobespan offers flights from Glasgow airport to Nice. From Nice airport a helicopter can whizz you into Monte Carlo in less than 10 minutes.

Another popular way to travel to Monaco is by boat or ship. The floating gin palaces - or luxury motoryachts such as Sunseekers and Princess yachts - are a familiar sight in the harbour at Monte Carlo on race day. If you can't quite stretch to one of these there is a boat service from the nearby port of St Jean Cap Ferrat to Monte Carlo.

Monaco is also a popular port of call for many Mediterranean cruises. Several cruise lines visit Monaco including Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Crystal Cruises.

It's probably not a good idea to travel to Monaco by road during the Grand Prix event, however. Access is very difficult and there is no car parking available. Better to leave the driving to Hamilton, Alonso, Massa and the boys.
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