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Visiting the Port of Cap-d'Aïl: a facility on the south coast of France, in a unique location adjoining Monaco

Updated on November 13, 2012
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Building in the suburb of Fontvieille in Monaco, behind the port area of Cap-d'Aïl
Building in the suburb of Fontvieille in Monaco, behind the port area of Cap-d'Aïl | Source
The quarter of Fontvieille in Monaco, seen from Cap d'Aïl in the west, Alpes-Maritimes, France
The quarter of Fontvieille in Monaco, seen from Cap d'Aïl in the west, Alpes-Maritimes, France | Source
Map location of Alpes-Maritimes department, France
Map location of Alpes-Maritimes department, France | Source

Scenic borderland

This is a facility with a unique location. Situated wholly in France, it is yet withing a literal stone's throw from territory outside France, namely: in the Principality of Monaco. When I say 'territory', even there, it needs to be qualified somewhat. In recent decades, the territory of the Principality has grown by one fifth, especially at land adjoining the Port of Cap-d'Aïl: land reclaimed from the Mediterranean now forms the Monaco suburb of Fontvieille. Interestingly, the line of the principal sea wall of Cap-d'Aïl is an extension of Fontvielle's shoreline with the Mediterranean.

At the Port of Cap-d'Aïl, there is berthing for up to 253 boats. The Port is able to receive vessels up to 80 metres long.

In the main photo supplied, above, which has been taken with a long distance lens, the port area is seen in the middle distance; the tall buildings behind the Port are in Monaco.

Almost on the border itself between France and Monaco, overlooking the Port of Cap-d'Aïl, is Avenue du Port . This Avenue ends at the Mediterranean coastline, but projecting out to sea in the same direction in which the Avenue and the closely parallel border between the two countries is the invisible boundary which marks the division between French and Monégasque territorial waters.

In Medieval times, the shoreline of what is now Cap-d'Aïl was used as shelter by warships which would periodically attack neighbouring Monaco, in great contrast to the cordial and peaceful relationship which the two communities enjoy today.

Various theories exist as to the origins of the name of the municipality. One of these is that it is derived from the Latin Caput Dalphini , used by a Medieval Count of Savoy, later shortened into a French version. Other suggestions, with maybe reasonable validity, have also been suggested. What seems to be a consensus is that it is difficult to be categorical about its etymology.

Cap-d'Aïl is situated in the Alpes-Maritimes department, in the south of France.

November 13, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Cap-d'Aïl itself, a coastal path gives scenic, Mediterranean views. The Tête du Chien , an enormous rock outcrop, is a very prominent landmark.

Fontvieille, Monaco (distance: approx. 0.5 kilometres) has the Princess Grace Rose Garden, among other attractions.

Monaco Town (distance: 2.6 kilometres) counts the guard changing ceremony at the Prince's Palace and the Oceanographic Museum among its many visitor attractions.


How to get there: Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur ), where car rental is available. The French railroad company SNCF maintains services to Cap-d'Aïl from Downtown Nice. Please be aware 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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