Visiting an international conurbation at Beausoleil, France: where streets merge into the neighbouring Principality

Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
'Place du marché', Beausoleil, south-eastern France
'Place du marché', Beausoleil, south-eastern France | Source
Passport of Monaco
Passport of Monaco | Source
French Euro coin design
French Euro coin design | Source
Monégasque Euro coin design
Monégasque Euro coin design | Source

France and Monaco: peaceful neighbours

See the main photo, above and you are actually looking at two countries rather than one. The photo illustrates the existence of an international conurbation, to which the town of Beausoleil, in France's Alpes-Maritimes department, belongs, situated on the border with the Principality of Monaco (1). People may simply stroll across this international border, with no customs or immigration formalities.

Would that other international borders were so peaceful and as easy to cross!

The foreground in the photo is in France, but on the horizon, part of the tower block skyline is in Monaco. It can be easy to forget that the border is there at all, although if one examines the paving stones the proximity of Beausoleil is seen by the frequency of ones coloured yellow, many of them showing a sun motif. 'Soleil' is sun, and 'beau' is fine or beautiful; thus the very name of the town links in with the expected, Mediterranean weather of the region.

Even before the advent of the Euro, France and Monaco shared a common currency effectively: though for reasons of sovereignty, the Principality minted its own coins at a parity with the French franc, these were freely interchangeable. Thus, cross-border shopping was and is simple in currency terms. (I have included pictures of Euro coins from France and Monaco respectively.)

President Charles de Gaulle, Cologne/Bonn Airport, 1961
President Charles de Gaulle, Cologne/Bonn Airport, 1961 | Source
Prince Rainier III of Monaco at the White House, 1961
Prince Rainier III of Monaco at the White House, 1961 | Source

A now quiet border crossing

When General Charles de Gaulle was President of France, however, for a short period French officials were checking vehicles and their passengers at the border because of a disagreement with the Principality's government over tax issues. These issues were resolved by a treaty between President de Gaulle on behalf of France and Prince Rainier III on behalf of Monaco.

It would be wrong to say that there are no controls whatever at the borders of Monaco: access is also possible by sea and air, and in theory if the sea passage or flight originates outside the European Union then travellers are subject to controls. In treaty terms, what has happened between Monaco and France (and, by extension, the other European Union countries also) is that French entry visas are also valid in Monaco and Monaco visas are also valid in France. Thus, because all land crossings are exclusively with France, this preempts the need for immigration checks. Because also scheduled flights from the Principality's Heliport are to French destinations only, this also precludes the need for air route immigration controls. So pedestrians normally come and go as they please, across the border.

I have included a view of a Monaco passport, but really this is more of symbolic rather than practical importance at the Franco-Monégasque border, because of the absence of overt controls.

This is therefore a very quiet border. But the symbols of the two countries' respective sovereignties are still perceptible.

July 4, 2013

Map location of Alpes-Maritimes department, France
Map location of Alpes-Maritimes department, France | Source

Note

(1) Other French towns which also border Monaco are Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, La Turbie and Cap-d'Aïl.

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Also worth seeing

In Beausoleil itself, noted buildings include St Joseph's Church, the Town Hall in rue de la République, with gardens commemorating founding mayor Camille Blanc, and the Belle Epoque former Riviera Palace hotel.

Visitor attractions of neighbouring Monaco (distance from Beausoleil town hall to the Prince's Palace square, Monaco: 3.2 kilometres) are too numerous to summarize properly, but included in Monaco Town's visitor attractions are the Prince's Palace, the Napoleon Museum, and the Oceanographic Museum; in Fontvieille, the coin and stamp museum and the Naval Museum are noteworthy.

...

How to get there: Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur ), where car rental is available. There are regular bus links from Nice airport to Beausoleil/Monaco. For North American visitors making the London, England area their tour base, airlines flying to Nice include easyJet, from London Luton Airport. Be advised that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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