Weekend Getaways: Monaco
C’est la rentrée, the time of year when everyone in France returns from their 3 week summer holidays and gets back to work. As summer skies fade to the traditional Paris grey, Parisians start to dreaming of an exotic escape with the promise of sunshine. Many find it with a weekend getaway to Monaco, a foreign country with a romantic history ensconced in a discrete corner of the French Côte d’Azur.
It sounds intimidating, but the exclusive city of Monte Carlo is surprisingly relaxed welcoming all kinds of visitors throughout the year. There are cruisers on day excursions, hikers following the coast, yachtsmen, gamblers, the curious and the jetset, all sharing the same tiny space.
If you’re tempted to visit, do it like a Parisienne and start Friday evening. There are regular flights from Orly to Nice, then hop into a cab, or take the bus to any one of the dozen hotels in this miniscule country. You can book a room on the Maria Teresa yacht or go for the royal treatment at the historic Hôtel de Paris.
After check-in, work up an appetite drooling over the cutting edge yachts that fill the harbor, before heading up to dinner with a view at Le Grill, which serves the catch of the day and an unforgettable lemon soufflé from the 8th floor of the Hôtel de Paris. After admiring the scintillating cityscape at your feet, hit the Bar Américain and practice ordering your martini à la James Bond. Take your newly found cocktail courage and cross the street to the legendary casino for a date with lady luck at the slot machines, black jack tables and roulette wheels. Even if you’re not a player, it’s worth a visit for the Belle Epoque decor.
Saturday morning take advantage of the glorious weather to hit the beach at the Monte Carlo Beach club, or spend the day visiting the gorgeous gardens that are spread through out the Principality. From the Exotic Gardens and their Observatory to the equally exotic Japanese Gardens, the Princess Antoinette Park, to the Princess Grace Rose Gardens, their flowers perfume the air of an entire country.
When you’re ready for a break, linger over an outdoor lunch by the sea at L’Hirondelle, then head up to the “Le Rocher”, the Rock, as the French call it, to visit the Prince’s Palace and the Monaco Cathedral where Princess Grace now rests. True fans of the Hollywood icon gone royal will want to follow the Parcours Princess Grace, a walking tour of 25 spots throughout the area, with clearly marked signs pointing out her favorite haunts.
One of her favorite places was the extensive cellar under the Hôtel de Paris, the largest privately owned collection in Europe. The atmospheric cellars play back-drop to the Ranier family’s most intimate celebrations and private tours can be arranged to view historic bottles, important vintages, as well as the royal family’s personal stock.
In the evening, attend a performance at the Royal Opera House, appreciating the Princess’ beloved Ballet de Monte Carlo, or indulge in a Michelin 3 star meal at the Louis XV before heading out for a night with international superstars at the über chic Jimmy’Z where guests include Bono and Eva Herzigova.
For your post-partying Sunday morning, make the most of the wealth of the sea at the Oceanographic museum or with restorative spa treatment at the Thermes Marins Monte Carlo. Then pack your, bags full rested and ready for adventure in Paris.
Sylvia Sabes is one of our favorite bloggers who writes for many publications including her own blog, Finding Noon.
Discover Monaco and arrive in style when you use the gg2p GO-Card which gets you a free helicopter ride into town from the airport when you book at the Hotel de Paris and other participating hotels.