I write to you today from Monaco. You’d already know this if you followed me on Twitter, where I’ve been posting pictures of all the exotic cars I’ve seen in Monaco, only to get replies such as: Look at that Citroen C5 in the background!
The reason I’m here is simple: I’m taking a much-needed vacation from my grueling schedule of a) posting articles on Jalopnik, and b) sitting around the house and scratching myself. So instead of writing something new, I’m leaving you with a story from my book.
Speaking of the book, it’s now available on the iTunes Bookstore and in paperback. That means you have no excuse not to buy it, unless of course you’re one of the people who read my Tail of the Dragon story and e-mailed me to say you would hunt me down and kill me, right after you finished your Miller Lite. Anyway, here goes:
The Search for the Automotive Holy Land
Our topic today is holy lands. I know what you’re thinking: He’s going to offend someone! But this isn’t my plan. (Now you’re thinking: Then why am I reading this?) Instead, I’m simply going to discuss the automotive holy land. We need one, you see – an automotive sacred place, like the Muslims have Mecca, and the mountain climbers have Everest, and the American Indoor Tanning Association has suburban New Jersey.
So where, exactly, is the automotive holy land? An easy answer is Indianapolis. That’s where they hold the Indy 500, which is undoubtedly the world’s most famous car race, based on the number of questions I get about it from people who otherwise couldn’t tell the difference between a Honda Civic and a rural post office. (“Yo man, you like cars… what’s up with that chick who’s racing at the Indy 500?”)
But aside from the race, Indianapolis doesn’t really have a car culture. I know this because I went there to pick up my E63 wagon, and I distinctly remember what every single local was driving: a Chevy Malibu whose list of features consisted entirely of federally mandated safety equipment.
There is, of course, Detroit, which is America’s motor city. Or maybe Stuttgart, which is Germany’s. But these aren’t holy places, unless “holy” translates to: “underpaid auto workers driving whichever one of their employer’s products isn’t selling.” Also, the weather isn’t good enough. In an automotive holy land, we should be able to drive hairy-chested sports cars year round, completely free from prosecution and also Chevrolet’s lineup from approximately 1971 until about two years ago.
Which brings us to Dubai. (Official motto: “You build the cars, we finish them in chrome.”) But Dubai isn’t about cars: it’s all million-dollar license plates and bored sheiks driving G-wagens over sand dunes. Plus: any place caught hosting the Sex and the City movie is officially out as a potential automotive holy land.
So now we have a problem: I’ve pissed off everyone from Indianapolis, Detroit, Stuttgart, and Dubai. And yet we still don’t have a holy land. That’s why, after considerable thought (read: browsing Facebook), I’ve decided on Monaco.
I’ve been to Monaco five times. This, by the way, is the single most pretentious thing a human being can say out loud, possibly rivaled only by the question “So, where do you summer?” But it’s precisely because I’ve been five times that I’m certain Monaco is the automotive holy land.
A little background: Monaco is the richest country in the world and also the best educated, though these feats are easy to achieve considering it’s roughly the size of a Days Inn. Wealthy European elites have visited it for decades to partake in a highly relaxing activity known in wealthy European elite circles as: Sitting On A Large Yacht Near The Harbor.
But there’s also an entirely different reason to visit Monaco: the cars. And I’m not even talking about the Formula 1 race, which is reason enough to consider Monaco the automotive holy land. The Grand Prix involves glamorous celebrities, enormous boats, and 78 laps of racing where two to four vehicles actually pass one another.
But Monaco is a haven for car enthusiasts even when Formula 1 isn’t in town. Allow me to walk you through a typical day.
8 AM: Wake up. By this point, your hotel room has already cost around €100 and you haven’t even gotten out of bed. Fortunately, they have monogrammed towels. You go to the bathroom, wash your face with one of the towels, and stuff it in your bag.
9 AM: Eat breakfast. If this is done outside, your food will be eaten by seagulls which understand the words “No!” and “Go away!” about as well as Italian men.
10 AM: Walk to the Casino Monte Carlo. Even though it’s only 10am, there is already a Maybach 62 with Russian plates in front. Presumably, it was left there last night after the owner drunkenly decided to sleep on the casino floor in his fur coat. While you’re looking at the Maybach, an Audi R8 pulls up. The driver leaves it idling outside and walks in without even looking at the valet.
12 Noon: Walk to the harbor. Dozens of young men are meticulously washing a yacht the size of an apartment building. It’s owned by an 80-year-old Swiss billionaire who hasn’t actually seen the boat in nine weeks. The men are wearing matching polos. You’re about to remark on how stupid this looks when a Porsche Cayenne drives by towing a Ferrari on an open trailer.
1 PM: If you haven’t had lunch, now’s the time. Go to the casino and eat at one of its restaurants overlooking the Mediterranean. Prepare to pay €11 for water, €50 for a sandwich, and €24 for a napkin. Also prepare for dirty looks from restaurant staff even if you are, in fact, the Prince of Monaco.
3 PM: Walk to the other side of the harbor. Along the way, you see an Aston-Martin DB AR1 and a Mercedes SLS cross paths. In the US, this would only happen at Cars and Coffee Irvine. In Monaco, it’s a daily occurrence. Neither driver acknowledges one another. No one in Monaco acknowledges anyone else, really.
5 PM: Walk the length of the F1 circuit. Two types of vehicles pass you: rented Peugeots and Porsche 911 GT3s. Occasionally, a Range Rover goes by, presumably because Hermes bags don’t fit in a Ferrari 458 Spider.
6 PM: Walk to old town Monaco. There aren’t any cars here – but that doesn’t stop every single business from selling Ferrari memorabilia. This includes dentists’ offices.
7 PM: Walk back to Monte Carlo, where the casino is located. By now, your legs hurt. But not as much as the legs of the guy who’s been driving around all day in his Testarossa, pumping his clutch and craning his neck to see who is watching. No one is: they’re all focused on the Bugattis.
8 PM: Dinnertime. During dinner, a Ferrari F40 goes by. You chase after it to snap a picture, and the driver parks at the casino. He’s bald, short, fat, and in his mid-70s. His passenger is a tall blonde woman in her 20s. The valet doesn’t even park the car up front. Those spots are reserved for a Phantom Drophead and a Koenigsegg.
11 PM: Time for bed. You leave the window open in your hotel room to catch some of the Mediterranean breeze. As you lay in bed, you hear the noises of downshifting Ferraris and Lamborghinis echoing between the tall buildings on Monaco’s narrow streets. These sounds go on all night. This, you think, is much better for falling asleep than those “whale sounds” CDs.
Admittedly, Monaco may have a few issues preventing it from being the automotive holy land. For example: you can’t drive more than 40 miles per hour in the entire country. And it’s so jaded by exotic cars that the only way something with wheels could possibly turn heads there is if it was a Boeing 747 landing on Avenue Princess Grace.
But Monaco is the greatest place on earth if you want to see – and hear – all those cars you only read about in magazines. I should know. I’ve been there five times.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com and writes for The Truth About Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.