In the Footsteps of Tom Cruise and Ayrton Senna

Benjamin Mazati's trip to the Côte d’Azur 

Glitz, Glamour, CannesA few weeks ago, I spend some days in the Palais des Festivals of the legendary Cannes Film Festival, which is currently hosting the 75th edition of the festival with such red-carpet stars as Tom Cruise and Woody Harrelson. Joined by two colleagues from my hometown Bruckmühl, I took part in a chess tournament, together with 320 participants from 25 nations from four different continents. Seeded first was one of the greatest chess talents in the world, the 17-year-old grandmaster from India: Nihal Sarin. It was a unique opportunity to come into this famous building of Palais des Festivals; after all it is not normally open to the public. Despite our accreditation, we had to go through a tight security check before entering, as you normally know it from an airport. However, it was worth the effort. We played at the top of the building, and from the adjacent terrace we had a wonderful view over the harbour of Cannes with all its luxury yachts.

The view from the fortress, the so-called Château de la Castre on the other side of the harbour basin, was just as beautiful. We visited it on one of the other days.

And of course, for the evenings: the beach, the sea and nice restaurants with good food.

All in all, it was a great experience to have seen Cannes and, besides, the chess tournament went relatively well. I played one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, which included all the sacrifices possible in chess. Pawn sacrifices, two pieces sacrifices, a rook sacrifice, several quality sacrifices and even a queen sacrifice! The whole range of the great game of chess in which the position and activity are more important than the nominal value of the pieces.

One day we also visited Monaco. Of course, I had to walk around the racetrack. That was a very special moment because I had never been to the Monaco Principality before. In 2011, I wanted to take part in the Monaco Kart Cup, but unfortunately it was discontinued that year. So, I drove the Formula BMW in Valencia shootout. That was mega, of course, but it was still always a shame that I could never come to Monte-Carlo. Now, more than ten years later, I was finally able to make up for it and close that gap on my world map. First stop was, of course, Turn 1, the corner's namesake the Église de Saint-Dévote. A really beautiful little chapel.

Then, on the opposite side of the road, we visited the statue of William Grover, the winner of the very first Monaco Grand Prix. Then we went up the hill towards the casino, which is really much steeper than it looks on TV.

Then the Casino, but only from the outside, before a first pit stop. Breakfast in a small boulangerie at the Mirabeau corners. Then the legendary hairpin, which probably remains in the memory of everyone who has ever watched the Monaco GP or played it themselves on the PC or console.

We continued towards the Portier, but due to the construction of the new city district, Anse du Portier, where a six-hectare area of the Mediterranean Sea is being developed, we had to take a small diversion past the Japanese Garden. A second break was taken there, and we could enjoy the tranquillity of the garden in the otherwise hectic principality. One feels as if in another world. Then we were back out into the traffic and the legendary Tunnel.

We continued through the harbour chicane, passing all the yachts. Here we could also observe a mooring manoeuvre of one of the luxury ships.

Afterwards, we went around the Piscine (Pool), which now served as an ice rink on which a competition took place, towards the legendary Rascasse. From there, however, we did not go to the last bend and the start finish; instead, we turned off opposite the entrance to the pits and went up the hill to the Prince's Palace. From the top, you not only have a good view of the monarch's residence, but also a fantastic panorama over the small state and, of course, the racetrack.

We continued through small alleys, past the Chocolaterie of Monaco and the Oceanographic Museum to the Fort Antoine Theatre. Nearby, I discovered a fitness area with a perfect view of the harbour and all the yachts. Of course, I had to do a little workout here before heading back to the Antony Noghes, the last bend of the street circuit.

Now arrived at the start and finish, we walked across the painted city squares to the start and finish line. There, in the direction of the Grand Prix, on the left-hand side was the Automobile Club of Monaco. Our last stop.

Now it was back to the Saint-Dévote curve, where the entrance to the Principality's underground station is located, and back to Cannes by train. That was one lap and half a day of Monte-Carlo. Following in the footsteps of the Monaco Grand Prix's record winner Ayrton Senna. A fantastic experience after having to wait for it so long. 

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