Monaco & The Alps 2012

In May, 2012, I flew to Geneva and met up with my friend Alex, who lives just across the border in Annecy, France. Alex had always dreamed of doing a road trip through the  Alps and I had always dreamed of attending the historic racing weekend at Monaco. So we did both.

Using the AutoRoute – France’s version of the interstate highway system – we could have driven to our hotel in Nice in about 5 hours. But where’s the fun in that? Instead, we Panorama 2planned a route through the highest passes in the Alps, using roads that feature hundreds of switchbacks as they climb and descend the mountains. In places, these roads are only one car wide. Along the edge of the pavement are dropoffs that plunge thousands of feet down into the valleys below. Guardrails are usually non-existent.

We arrived in Nice, tired and hungry, more than 12 hours later, grinning from ear to ear. It was an incredible day, filled with scenic grandeur that defies description. Think of the Alps as hundreds of Mt. Washingtons, all linked together and marching across the horizon as far as the eye can see. Here’s a taste of what our drive that day was like.


Alpine HighwayOur weekend in Monaco was fabulous, of course, and I will tell you more about that in a minute. Or you can jump to the page about the racing itself at this link: Monaco Historic Races. But for me, the highlight of the trip was driving there and back through the Alps. I took tons of pictures, of course, and you can see them all at this link: Alpine Photos.
Stopped on the side of the road, taking a break from driving on the way back to  Annecy, we heard a sound from the valley below. At first I thought it was a motorcycle coming up toward us, but soon I realized it was two cars chasing each other up the mountain. I managed to grab a video of them as they flew past us. Now THIS is motoring!




What is there to say about Monaco that hasn’t already been said? It is an historical oddity, a tiny sliver of land about 1 mile square that somehow got left out when the duchies and dukedoms and city states that once comprised modern day France and Italy decided to assimilate themselves into the nations we know today. It has an incomparable harbor and is perhaps the place to be if you are wealthy and want to be seen.

There has been motor racing in Monaco since 1929. And I talk about that adventure on another page. But right now, let’s just talk about the city itself. It is a geological treasure that rises straight up out of the Mediterranean before joining the Alps to the north. I features stunning architecture and the world’s most famous casino. To see the picture I took while walking around, go to this link: The Principality.

Or you can join me for a stroll through the heart of the city in this video.



2 Responses to Monaco & The Alps 2012

  1. Ben Jones says:

    Thats sounds awesome, i thinking of doing something similar with freind. Can you tell me which route you took thorugh the alps as we will be travelling down from Paris? Thanks

    • Steve Hanley says:

      It WAS awesome, Ben. But I can’t tell you the exact route, as my co-driver planned the trip. He lives in France near Geneva and had dreamed for years of driving the highest mountain passes in the Alps. We went down toward Nice keeping west of Grenoble and came home driving east of Grenoble.

      We spent very, very little time on the AutoRoute. If you do some research online for the higher passes – called “cols” in French – and just pick the roads that take you there, you will have one of the most memorable driving experiences of your life.

      Good luck. I hope you get to do it. It’s one of those adventures that will stay with you forever! : )

      By the way, the really high passes are often closed due to snow until well into June and sometimes later. Don’t be surprised if you begin your ascent and find sighs warning that the road ahead is impassible. This happened to us a few times, so we had to adjust our route on the fly. It was only about 270 miles from Annecy to Nice, but it took us 13 hours. What a ride!!!!

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