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Summer on the French Riviera – the Monaco international fireworks competition, a practical guide

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Every summer all across the French Riviera coastline, the night sky is lit up by hundreds of spectacular colours and festive bangs to celebrate the balmy weather and the holiday season. The Principality of Monaco is no exception, since pretty much every evening around midnight, a short fireworks display is launched during the Sporting Club summer festival after each concert for the benefit of the viewing public who have paid for the privilege.

But in terms of fireworks, the centrepiece remains the Monaco International Fireworks Competition (officially the “Concours international de feux d’artifice pyromélodiques de Monaco”) which blocks off the whole town for 20 minutes of magic set to synchronised (the organisers hope!) music, highlighting the talents of fireworks artists from all around the world – obviously everything is free!

For the 2017 edition, two of the shows, by France and Austria, have already taken place and there are still two more, with the USA showing their prowess on Saturday 5 August and Australia on Saturday 12 August, both at 9.30pm. As usual, the fireworks will be launched from the big semi-floating jetty on the southern side of Port Hercule by the cruise terminal.

If you are interested in watching the next two sessions, here is some practical advice about the best places to watch from are:

  • The central esplanade of Port Hercule, Quai Albert 1er: there is now a cordoned off area with security checks so come early and be prepared to share the view with thousands of other people. However, it is popular for a reason – the view is wonderful, directly opposite the fireworks and it is one of the only places from which you can hear the music properly thanks to some good loudspeakers.
  • The casino area, in front of Hotel de Paris: great views also facing the whole length of the jetty.
  • Larvotto Beach: a bit further away so no chance of hearing the music, but it makes for an interesting perspective and it’s also a great place to picnic and even have a swim afterwards, there are plenty of local families there. Just come early (around two hours before) if you want to find a good spot, the best views are from the eastern tip of the beach in front of the former restaurant called “La Spiaggia” and just before the Meridien Beach Plaza hotel.

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  • The bus stop in front of the Jardin Exotique for a bird’s eye view of the show: also best to come early but it is absolutely spectacular as you’ll also have a view of the whole Principality and the surrounding area, when there is another show going off at the same time in Menton, it’s truly magical.
  • In the same vein, but from even higher up, if you have a car, go to the village of la Turbie at 450m altitude: the tip of Jardin Albert 1er overlooking Monaco affords spectacular views. For equally spectacular views, you can also go to the Tête de Chien cliff along the ridge from la Turbie, but in both cases, just check first that there isn’t any fog to avoid potential disappointment.
  • If you’re willing to fork out a bit, most restaurants have some special fireworks menus (a practical way to charge more money for the same food!) but I would instead strongly recommend the public electric Bateau Bus for a spectacular view and cocktail: the price is 25€ per person and the experience (viewed from the sea in the middle of the harbour, only a few metres away from the fireworks) is wonderful according to some friends, you can find the details about how to book in advance on this link.
  • Finally, if you are really nice to me, I can invite you to see the special view from my balcony, just 100 metres away from the action 😉 No, just kidding, I’m actually rarely at home at the moment!

Here are some photos I took from the first two shows in July this year, you can also see some of the videos I shot live on the French Riviera Blog Facebook page. The first one was viewed from Larvotto Beach and the second from my flat, with a real close-up!





For those interested in the historical context, the competition is organised by Monaco’s city council (la mairie) and was set up in 1966 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Monte Carlo and to deliver a festive atmosphere for the summer, making it the oldest such festival on the French Riviera although there is a similar one in Cannes.

In 1996, the musical component was added and the competition became “pyromélodique” as opposed to simply “pyrotechnique”, synchronising the fireworks to specially selected music.

Each company wishing to compete needs to apply to the council, no costs are covered but they are paid 30.000€ per show. The third party insurance cover they need is enormous: 7.6 million euros for personal injury and 2.3 million euros for material damage. The jury is made out of members of the city council including the mayor of Monaco as well as artists and professionals and the judging criteria include the choice of music, the power of the final bouquet and the general show quality. The public can also vote online to have their say after each show. The winner gets a cheque of 10.000€ and lots of special recognition in the industry to increase their business.

For more information in English about the competition, see the Mairie de Monaco website.

Wishing you a spectacular time enjoying the fireworks this summer and don’t hesitate to leave me some feedback below or on my Facebook page about how you enjoyed them and whom you think deserves to win!

      

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