In 1977 I was still at University, and Page & Moy was offering a return coach trip to Monaco that arrived on the morning of the Grand Prix and included a general admission ticket to the “Pelouses Rocher” spectator enclosure that overlooked the Rascasse and the swimming pool.
In 1980, I was lucky enough to go to the Grand Prix again, and in much better style. Although, as I was to discover, the style to which my budget stretched was still way short of the level attained by others. I was living in Lugano, Switzerland, at the time, so I hired a car to drive there and booked a hotel in Nice. I remember it was the Hotel Imperial, whether it is still there or not, I don’t know. The drive down from Switzerland was sublime, I felt like a movie star as I navigated down to Genoa and along the coast past Sanremo towards Ventimiglia. OK so I was only in an Opel Kadett – I remember it was red – but in my head I was Roger Moore in the Volvo P1800.
It was also possible to wander around the paddock area (then, as now, along the harbour front from the actual pits) and get up close to the cars being worked on. At the time, I felt very much that this was the 'modern era', when technology (turbo-charging, electronics, etc.) was at its height, but to look back now on cars being worked on under awnings, on dirt floor, by mechanics in t-shirts and shorts, makes you realise how rudimentary it all was, by modern standards. One wonders how the current age will be regarded by the next generation?
The race itself on Sunday was almost an anti-climax, compared to the exhilaration of actually being there. There was a support race for Renault 5s, then Prince Rainer arrived to take up his position in the Royal box.
A classic setting for Grand Prix cars, and some very special memories for me.