Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Just back from a weekend in Monte Carlo. Most visitors to this pretty principality arrive at Nice airport and if you want to pay £100 for a 7 min helicopter ride along the coast to the heart of Monaco - although the place doesn't really have a heart - it's a fitting way to arrive at a Square Mile that hosts some of the most expensive real estate on the planet and even more wealth than our own beloved Square Mile does in the City of London. Monte Carlo is a small place which packs a big punch but it's an expensive punch, verging on the obscene. I've visited twice before. First time I went with someone who had the monopoly on cob nuts in England and had his own helicopter, and second time, I was there presenting a show on the 'three faces' of the South of France, although I'm sure it has many more. The TV crew (Only three of us) started in Monte Carlo, then went onto Aix and finally Arles - the last of which proved to be my favourite destination of the three. I interviewed Ile Nastase, danced with Prince Albert of Monaco and didn't lose any money in the Casino, or win any for that matter.

Monte Carlo is an edgy place. Edgy and seedy despite it's wealth, or perhaps because of it, it should be glamorous. It has a style, but I'm not sure if it has style. The scattering of celebrities who live there and make you do double takes (was that really Roger Moore I just saw?), and the opulent so so shiny yachts that stand to attention in the harbour, are usually empty. Old Monaco has more charm - around the Palace where the narrow cobbled streets cobweb, and you find the more reasonably priced restaurants. This area resonates with a soul that the MC lacks or lost or never had. Close to the port, there's a lovely rose garden in honour of Grace Kelly, and I couldn't help think of Princess Diana's failed fountain and how two lovely ladies really chose the wrong men to marry. Grace should have stayed in Hollywood and shone with the rest of the stars.

We went on a speed boat to a private beach that cost £100 a sunbed to sit on, or was that £20 an hour? I'm not sure. Any way, instead of tanned half naked men selling donuts on the beach, they had a fashion show with a stunning girl coming round the sunbeds wearing different outfits. Any way I think it was a fashion show. Lunch was fabulous as was all the food but then at those prices you should be able to take the plate and cutlery away with you. But I'm out of touch. To me, Pizza Express seems expensive these days. And the high light? I dipped my toe and swam in the sea. The water was crystal clear, sublime and wonderfully warm, swimming in it, floating on it, an almost ethereal experience. One of the best thalassotherapy centres in Europe is next to the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, the French firmly believing in the healing quality of water treatments. For me, the overwhelmingly energizing experience of swimming in the sea worked. It was the one part of the Monte Carlo experience that was utterly priceless, and the only thing that was free.

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