The moment she steps off the helicopter, travel architect Marie-Hélène Jacques of Groupe Voyages VP, is blown away by the craggy coastline, saturated blue sky and, most of all, the smell: a delicate perfume of flowers mingles with the sea-breeze blowing off the Mediterranean. Welcome to Monaco, the capital of all that is gorgeous and grand.
A person can breathe here, despite the fact that the Principality of Monaco occupies only two square kilometers, and is the most densely populated country in the world. You’d never know it, though, as the wide-open building facades and broad smiles of the Monegasque create a truly peaceful, easy feeling.
After landing, Jacques is driven to the opulent Hermitage Monte-Carlo Hotel, a brilliant five-star gem that celebrates the art of living. From the lobby, designed by Gustave Eiffel, she is accompanied to her discreetly luxurious room, and then offered the services of the Thermes Marins, a massive spa complex facing the water, located right in the hotel. It is the ultimate in seaside tranquility, and our traveller is smitten.
To whet her appetite, Jacques starts with some window shopping in the glamorous Carré d’Or, where Chanel, Dior, Saint-Laurent and a host of other fashionable boutiques make her little outing worth every minute. She doesn’t even have to buy!
When dinnertime arrives, an embarrassment of riches awaits Jacques. She finally decides on chef Joël Robuchon at the Hôtel Métropole, an iconic establishment with contemporary charm. Robuchon serves up a sophisticated yet friendly take on Mediterranean cuisine, including fresh sardines with asparagus and preserved lemon, langoustine ravioli and duck foie gras burgers. What the Principality lacks in size, it makes up for in grandeur, which radiates from the mythical Monte-Carlo Casino. A late-night visit is a must, if only to watch the fabulous collector cars and stunning patrons against the backdrop of Belle Époque gold leaf, fancy cornices and fountains. It’s a scene out of a James Bond film. There is so much to see in Monaco. The Prince’s Palace, the exotic garden, the Marché de la Condamine… and it is all doable on foot! All that’s left is to come back in May for the Grand Prix.
ON RICHARD PETIT’S BUCKET LIST
Last June, our coeditor, Richard Petit, who is a great fan of all things automotive, got a little closer to one of his dreams: a front-row seat for the Monaco Grand Prix. He found himself comfortably settled on the roof of the chic Fairmont Monte-Carlo Hotel, enjoying the perfect view. On one side, the sparkling bay, luxury yachts and bathing beauties by the pool at Nikki Beach; directly below, the famous hairpin turn on the Grand Prix track. Indeed, there is no better seat from which to watch Formula 1 driving at its best, but you’d better think ahead: reservations are made years in advance.
It’s a treat for other senses, as well. There’s simply no resisting the heady aroma of pizza being freshly baked right on the roof, and served before the mind-blowing panorama of the magnificent Mediterranean. Enjoy one with a crisp glass of white wine as the sun goes down on another perfect day, and let the magic do its work.
Air Canada Rouge offers seasonal non-stop service between Montreal and Nice
With the collaboration of Marie-Hélène Jacques and Richard Petit