By Mara Papatheodorou, your Tastes & Traditions Expert
Set atop craggy rocks of Southern France’s captivating coastline, Monte Carlo, the capital of Monaco, embellishes its international reputation as a glamorous playground for the rich and famous. Created in 1866 and named in honor of Prince Charles III, it is the 2nd smallest country in the world and secured its place on the map when American movie star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer III in April 1956. Their son HSH Prince Albert II now reigns over the principality where the Grimaldi family has been in power for over 700 years. Visit the Pink Palace, their family home and originally a 13th century fortress, to see the regal and artistic splendors of the Throne Room, the Louis XVth lounge, the State Apartments, St Mary’s Tower and the Courtyard. At noon, the Changing of the Guard with all of its pomp and circumstance is a daily impressive ritual to observe. The beautiful Monaco Cathedral is also worth seeing as is the amazing Oceanographic Museum.
For a different daytime detour, take an excursion to other unique Riviera offerings. Monte Carlo is situated between Provence and Italy so heading off to the charming medieval cobble-stoned villages of St Paul de Vence or Eze, the perfume factories of Grasse, the museums of Nice (Matisse and Chagall), the shopping streets of Cannes or the markets of San Remo are all memorable options. For lunch, sip local rose, a kir (white wine & cassis) or a pastis (anise) and order soupe de poisson (fish) or d’oignon (onion), a croque monsieur (grilled ham and cheese) or bouillabaisse (seafood stew).
The nightlife of Monte Carlo is world-renowned and the sparkling Place de Casino does not disappoint (think James Bond in Casino Royale). Built in 1893, it is the work of architect Charles Garnier, who also designed the Paris Opera House. Roulette wheels, slot machines, Black Jack and other gaming tables are situated in different lounges decadently decorated with stunning stained glass windows, sculptures and paintings. For a divine dinner beforehand, a staircase from the Casino to the majestic Hotel de Paris will lead you to the 3 star Michelin restaurant, Louis XV Alain Ducasse.
Enjoy it all!
SAIL: Monte Carlo. Before sailing away, bring the region’s flavors and flair home. As the waterfront of Provence, Cote D’Azur reminders include colorful Provencal linens, herbes de provence (dried herbs), miel (honey) infused with lavender or herbs and bottles of crème de cassis (a black currant liquer) or pastis (anise/licorice flavored liquer).
SIP: Rose. Light bodied and slightly sweet, this pretty pink wine is the star of Provence vineyards such as Bandol or Cotes De Provence. It perfectly suits this sun-kissed area and its seafood specialties.
SAVOR: Bouillabaisse. Refined yet rustic, this celebrated Provencal seafood stew was created by fishermen from their daily catch. Made with fresh fish and shellfish in an onion, tomato and white wine broth, it is served with slices of baguette.