Champagne is the official national drink of Monaco—and rightly so. Home to the ultra rich and über cool, life in the tiny principality is one never-ending celebration. Glamorous parties aboard yachts (worth the GDP of a small country), gourmet lunches with the crème of high society, aristocrats rubbing shoulders with business moguls at the grand casino—For any tourist looking to hobnob with the rich and flirt with the famous, it’s destination Monaco.
Viva la Vida!
There’s only one way to live life in Monaco—king size. Saunter by the iconic Monxegasque harbour, lined with rows of expensive yachts and sailboats. Mecca for the rich and idle, the Port is home to the toys of the rich boys. So what if you can’t afford one, do take in the aura of billionaire row by the seaside. Tuck in to a typically Mediterranean meal at one of the trendy seaside cafes that dot the city’s streets. For a real culinary treat, splurge at the Louis XV Restaurant or the Le Grill de L’Hotel de Paris. The gourmet food, antiquated wines and glamorous dining companions may leave you slightly heady—though the bill will bring you right back to reality.
The art of gambling
Monaco is the stuff dreams are made of, get rich quick dreams included. Grab some billionaire inspiration and head to the grand old Monte-Carlo Casino, with its iconic columns of onyx. What is a frivolous casino doing inside a heritage monument, you ask. Well, the Monegasque take their money very seriously—gambling included. The gaming rooms don’t spell nouveau riche, but undiluted class. Nestled between the slot machines are beautiful bronze statues, masterpieces are hung above roulette tables. Giant stained glass windows and elegant carpets complete the picture. Remember, formal attire is a must for entry. It is also advisable to carry your passport along.
Monaco puts a new twist in the musty, dusty and conventionally staid history. This is a metropolis where the potent mélange of history tinged with glamour and grandeur truly comes alive. The breathtakingly beautiful Monaco Cathedral is testament to this. Built in the Roman Byzantine style of white stone, the structure houses the tombs of deceased royalty.
The real Monaco
Yes, there is a Monaco beyond the glass, concrete and makeup. Like most great metros, the city has been diagnosed with mild case of multiple identities. Take a walk through Monaco Village (Le Rocher) to know why. A bazaar village nestled in the heart of the metropolis, its twisted bylanes and vibrant little cottages are in stark contrast to the glamour and grandeur. Check in at The Palais Princier (Prince's Palace) any morning at 11:55 AM, to witness the ceremonial changing of guard ceremony. The routine is performed by ‘Carabiniers,’ also known as the royal escorts. With their ink blue helmets, blaring trumpets and pulsating red drum, they make a pretty picture.
Beautiful people, big money and fast cars—the three are almost synonymous. The annual Monaco Grand Prix brings alive raw speed, unapologetic flamboyance and power games. As high octane cars screech around the city’s tight and twisted streets, the battle for ultimate glory plays out. Even if you cannot make it to the holy pilgrimage of motor racing, be sure to trace the marked Grand Prix route. You can follow in Schumacher’s steps, literally.
Though tax evading millionaires make up a chunk of Monaco’s population, it’s a good idea to come financially prepared. Posh Monaco is not for the faint hearted or weak wallet-ed. Most places of interest have a hefty entrance fee, restaurants expect more than grimy coins as a tip, and price tags are grossly inflated. But it’s an experience. Never mind the cost; sip some champagne and have a blast! Living in Monaco is unnecessary, it is more economical to stay in one of the picturesque French towns on the outskirts of the principality and make the commute. Don’t even think about bringing a car to Monaco, the tolls and parking charges will kill you, if the traffic woes don’t.
Here’s to Monaco, where reality is on pause as life operates in fairytale mode.
Article by - Mithila Mehta
Photo Courtesy - Michael Crovetto