Monaco – Not Bust, Just Different: 48 Hours in the Principality
From the glamour of its sixties heyday to the moneyed-metropolis-in-the-Med it has become, Mark Southern discovered Monaco still has it, just a different kind of it.
As originally published in Tempus Magazine, 2015
When Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III in 1956, she applied the final jewels to Monaco’s undisputed crown of global glamour. A place on Earth did not exist with the splendour, reputation, and style of the Mediterranean principality.
Popular culture followed, with Ian Fleming and Cubby Broccoli’s Bonds frequently to be found shaking not stirring Monte Carlo, as the world’s elite had only one location on their minds when seeking a few days in the lap of luxury, amidst boulevards of palm trees.
However, the 1960’s turned into the seventies, and the fashion faded, as global trends are wont to do, before the wealthy surge of the 1980’s re-energised Monaco into a playground for new money, as well as old.
This is the Monaco we find today; still sun-drenched, still glamorous, but awash with high-rise luxury, to cater for all needs, no matter how niche.
It’s a more inclusive place, in so far as 1 percenter places can be, where anyone is welcome if they can afford it. The phrase if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it, was made for Monaco, but equally there is no Pretty Woman-esque expectations about what money looks like either.
A world away from most of the South coast of France, Monaco remains a must-see destination, just for different reasons than when Princess Grace was gliding around.
Situated right on the famous eponymous hairpin bend, the Fairmont looks over the startling blue of the bay, whilst providing that higher kind of luxury you don’t often see.
From its impressive lobby, to its relatively spacious rooms, the decor is exquisite, and its recent €46m refurb has made a special place even more so.
The hotel’s garden offer a splendid ambience, and service comes with a smile, and not a snoot, which can’t be said for everywhere in town.
There are more high end restaurants within the state’s 0.78 square miles than some countries of millions have in their entire nation, but there are also some truly interesting surprises.
None more so, than the playfully named Tip Top, which is usually full of locals, but can often find space for an out of towner seeking a slice of authenticity.
Serving a French menu and some of the best pizza you’ll ever taste, the place remains a hidden treasure, and one to visit, but keep on the downlow before everyone finds out.
Beautiful Mediterranean bars compete with glamorous low-lit dens, whilst pool parties for the rich and famous offer something different again.
However, one spot not to miss is Buddha Bar, with its enviable location within the world-famous Monte Carlo casino – wait for it, more to come on that one later.
With its Garnier Opera House Parisian stylings, gilded ceilings and a colonial Asian setting, it promises guests a unique and fairytale-like ambiance with a chic, elegant and cozy atmosphere. It delivers.
On glorious summer days, you’ll most likely want to get out of the high-rise and explore the stunning riviera, with its perfect beaches and chic cafes.
However, when in Monaco it seems unseemly to hire something for functional purposes, and nothing quite beats the sensation of cruising along the coast in a 1956 Porsche convertible.
With Chelsea tractors the transport de jour in Monte Carlo, it’s a far more satisfying way to get around.
The shimmering sea is too inviting not to explore further, and there is no better way than chartering one of the hundreds of luxury yachts moored in the world’s most expensive harbour.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic small sailboat for two, or a 45 metre mega yacht for you and dozens of friends, there are more sailing options than almost anywhere you’ll visit.
When out on the boat head out for lunch in Saint Tropez, before a sunset sail back to the principality – it’s a glorious way to spend a day.
There are few places so synonymous with a destination that a trip without visiting is rendered almost wasted. The Casino de Monte Carlo is one such place.
007 gambles here. Leonardo DiCaprio does, alongside countless other A-listers. It’s a genuine showstopper. The casino itself is a beacon of opulent style, with a more relaxed ambience than you might expect from its international repute. However, it’s not for the first timers, and you’ll need to know your stuff before sitting down at any table.
British Airways fly to Nice from London and other UK airports.
This article originally appeared in Tempus Magazine, 2015. See below for full article: