A Weekend in Monaco at a 1930s-Inspired Hotel
By Maxime Landemaine
A weekend is plenty of time to discover Monaco, a small yet glamorous country sandwiched between France and the Mediterranean Sea. Treat yourself to a stay in one of its best hotels, the Monte-Carlo Bay, and enjoy the numerous attractions in this sun-kissed playground for the rich and famous.
Where to Sleep
Opened in 2004, the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort features 334 rooms, including 22 suites with high-end amenities. Each accommodation comes with a private balcony and three out of four boast a view of the Mediterranean Sea. The interior design, both contemporary and sleek, is the brainchild of Pierre-Yves Rochon. In some of the rooms, you can hear the waves crashing upon the rocks beneath your balcony.
Take a dip in the indoor pool, heated year-round to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. From May to September, you can also indulge in a white sand-bottomed outdoor lagoon situated amidst the lush garden strewn with olive trees, palm trees, orange trees and cacti. The Monte-Carlo Bay also features a Cinq Mondes spa with 11 treatment rooms, a fitness center, a banquet hall, 15 meeting rooms and a posh casino with 167 slot machines.
Where to Eat
The Martinique-born chef Marcel Ravin helms the kitchens of the hotel. He previously honed his chops at Le Meridien Brussels (now the Hilton Brussels Grand Place) before moving to the Monte-Carlo Bay in 2005. His versatile cuisine emphasizes foreign spices and sometimes astonishing textures and taste combinations.
On the menu at Blue Bay, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, you may find such items as cocoa-perfumed foie gras with Tahitian vanilla and rum, scallops seasoned with timut pepper (an exceptional, citrusy pepper from Nepal) with Jerusalem artichokes and grilled coffee, and catfish with rockfish dashi broth. Desserts are original as well, such as the avocado soufflé with chocolate chips. The dinner menu at Blue Bay starts at €88.
The hotel includes two other restaurants, L’Orange Verte, a brasserie that serves up simple dishes like organic salmon with green asparagus and vinaigrette sauce, and Las Brisas, a seasonal restaurant open from May to September. Chef Marcel Ravin is also in charge of the snack food served at the Blue Gin Bar.
The Monte-Carlo Bay belongs to the SBM, the Société des Bains de Mer de Monaco. The SBM owns three other hotels—the Hotel de Paris, the Hermitage and the Monte-Carlo Beach—33 restaurants, four casinos, the Thermes Marins spa, a golf club, a tennis club and the Sporting Monte-Carlo. Just beside the Monte-Carlo Bay, the Sporting is comprised of a famous Jimmy’z nightclub and the Salle des Etoiles, a venue where popular artists such as Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett perform.
The luxurious Hotel de Paris is currently undergoing refurbishment, with renovations scheduled for completion by September 2018. Reopened on April 2, the gourmet restaurant of the hotel has also been remodeled. Overseen by Alain Ducasse and endowed with an updated décor, it also boasts a new name, Louis XV – Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris.
When facing the Casino de Monte-Carlo, the Hotel de Paris is located on the right and the Café de Paris with its immense terrace is off to the left. The latter is an excellent venue for people-watching, where guests can get a great view of the incoming stream of limos and sports cars transporting sophisticated gamblers to the neighboring casino. The price for a beverage is nonetheless stiff—€9 for a double espresso and about the same for a glass of orange juice.
What to Do
A visit to Monaco isn’t complete without a stroll on Le Rocher, along its little streets which date back several centuries and bring to mind an Italian village. It’s the oldest part of Monaco, home of the Palais Princier and the Oceanographic Museum established by Prince Albert I in 1910.
At the Oceanographic Museum, a majestic dwelling built on the cliff side, you’re treated on the first floor to an exhibition of objects and photos pertaining to the numerous sea expeditions of Prince Albert I. The basement houses the aquarium where sharks, among other species, swim in an immense lagoon. Several tanks also showcase rare and little known species, such as the razorfish, seahorse, piranha, stonefish and even the Japanese fugu, often called the most dangerous fish in the world. The museum’s rooftop offers a commanding view of the city, spotted with huge towers standing erect on the hillside.
The housing density of Monaco is such that promoters are now raking their brains to find where to build. As a matter of fact, Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, with an area of 0.78 square miles. The project to extend the territory more than six hectares out over the sea within the next 10 years is currently under consideration. If greenlighted, a concrete slab will be poured 20 meters below sea level to support future condominiums, offices, retail shops, parking lots and even a marina. Progress never stops in this fast-paced Mediterranean principality.