Saturday, May 8, 2010
In the 1920s Monaco destinations guide became the place for the rich and famous to come and play, driving big cars, betting big bucks and drinking copious amounts of fine champagne. It still hosts such strenuous activities, but these days as much fun can be had in watching those at play than those taking part.
If there's anywhere in Europe where the rich are free to flaunt their wealth it's Monaco. Diamonds, designer clothes and Ferraris are vital accessories in the leading local past time - showing off.
Perched on the cliffs looking out to sea, on France's Côte D'Azur, Monaco is one of Europe's smallest Independent States. It is also, for its size, one of the world's richest, with possibly more millionaires than anywhere else on earth. Nowhere is this more on show than in the harbour.
There's certainly no shortage of extremely large and expensive yachts in the marina. At 50,000 pounds a day, not including fuel, the luxury super yacht, Savarona, is all yours. With its solid silver sinks, and Turkish bath, it's very Monaco.
However, don't be alarmed. Luxury in Monaco does not have to be quite so ostentatious. Craig's hotel Columbus was among the apartment blocks of La Fontvieille in the commercial district. It has a distinctively hip and laid-back feel about it. It's also a good place to chill out away from Monaco's social whirl.
It's no surprise that eating out in Monaco is expensive so it's worth taking advantage of the Brasserie. Dinner is included in the price of the package. This hotel has stirred things up a little and it's a refreshing addition to some of the stale traditional hotels you might otherwise find.
Formula One, anyone?
The streets of Monaco are like any ordinary streets for every day of the year except on a certain famous weekend, making this the only grand prix circuit in the world where you can live out your formula one fantasies while popping out to the shops.
The big players still come to Monaco to stake fortunes on the role of a dice. Gambling has been a serious pastime here since the 19th Century with takings from society's high rollers keeping the principality awash with cash.
This is a hard place to do on a budget, so if you've had enough of the extravagance and expense you can jump on a train at Monaco's main railway station, and head down the coast. A 50-mile train ride will take you away from it all and at just £1.50.
Ten miles west of Monaco is Villefranche. Since the last century, it has been a favourite haunt of the English well-to-do. The harbour area and the beach are the town's main attraction. It's worth exploring the pretty streets as well. Sunday morning is a good time to visit Villefranche, when the town holds a weekly antiques market, a kind of glorified car boot sale flogging items from Monaco's glamorous past.
Back in Monaco harbour and there's always another excuse for the locals to show off. The annual Riva regatta is one of many society events held throughout the summer and there's no shortage of spectator sports for the weekend visitor to enjoy.