Monday, May 11, 2009

Breaking the Bank in Monte Carlo

Whenever I arrive in Monte Carlo, my first impulse at the check-in desk is to ask, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"

This old joke isn't even funny (If so, let him out) and Prince Albert could well be down the road in Cannes for the Film Festival, nonetheless, he is surely revving up his engine. The grandstands, the barricades and the wire mesh are all in place for the next Grand Prix which will run May 24, the last day of the Cannes Film Festival.

Certainly Albert's arrival to the throne has made this city a lot younger and more hip. Casino Square, the heart of downtown Monte Carlo, is pretty much the same-- perfect flower beds, perfect Garnier buildings, perfectly tanned people. Yet to one side of the square, the Metropole Hotel has been totally re-done and now strives to outshine any of themore traditional local hotels. They've brought onboard a lot of big name talent, from the multi-starred chef Joel Robuchon (who recently opened Yoshi, his second restraunt on the property), to the famed ESPA (also have spas in several Peninsula hotels in Asia), to the decor by world reknown Jacques Garcia.

Better still (although few things are better than Jacques Garcia) is the fact that the hotel is on top of a three level mall. One of the newcomers since I was here last is a branch of Laduree, the most famous maker of macaroons in Paris.

If you're thinking that's nice but old hat (and fattening), consdier that one block over, next door to the Hermitage Hotel, Zara has opened a gigantic megaflagship where they sell the Monte Carlo look for reasonable prices.

Across the street from Zara is, as I said, the Hermitage Hotel. BUT, across the street in the other direction is my favorite new attraction in town and one that I admit, I have never seen elsewhere. There's a red-orange, glass fronted, break case in case of emergency defiberlator, right there on the street! Am not certain if this is for those who have a hard time walking up and down all the hills...or for the old fossils who could croak without extra aid. Maybe it's for those poor shoppers like me, who saw the IT bag in the YSL window nearby and the price tag of $20,000 USD.

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