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Monaco, radiant and fascinating

August 31 category:Escape
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Monaco, radiant and fascinating

Monaco mixes monarchical pomp and glamor, and dolce-vita History.

Albano Noor for L'Express Styles

The scene is played daily around the most chic roundabout on the planet. A Lamborghini or Ferrari Metallic parks between Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin coupe. Immediately, a dozen tourists strafed the car. The driver abandoned the keys to the valet and then climbed the steps of the casino. So every visitor picture taken in turn, next prestige cars.

Other film the Belle Epoque facade of the Hotel de Paris, the palace remote 5 stars barely walking, watching for the possible appearance of a celebrity. The Casino of Monaco reserves sometimes real surprises. For example, when the CEO of an aeronautical company gets for his birthday, that one of its helicopters is exposed near the central fountain. Or when an elephant caparisoned with golden brocade escort 600 guests in traditional dress, the wedding of two wealthy Indian heirs. It was March 2011, three months before the wedding of Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock.

A princely dynasty friend of the stars, the thrill of the game, the taste for luxury and the presence of beautiful women, all on background blue decoration Mediterranean hundred and fifty years, the legend of Monaco is stainless. This city-state -2 square kilometers in the French- landlocked territory is now one of the most expensive cities in the world. Very wealthy families staying the summer, there have billionaires senseless villas, when the price per square meter can reach 100 000.

If the global jet set alternately found in Gstaad, Nassau and St. Bartholomew, the principality remains a unique destination. The Rock combines monarchical pomp and glamor, weight of history and dolce vita. We grow a very select between oneself, amid lavish celebrations, sometimes unbridled.

Luxury, rhinestones and pleasure. "Here, wealthy people can spend their money without hiding, women wear their jewelry carefree, slips a resident. Monaco is safety for those who want to display all the trappings of wealth." Good taste is not always of the "party", but who cares the bottle ...

Some old Monegasque regret this flashy display and say not recognize their "country". Along the Boulevard des Moulins or Princess Grace Avenue, lined with ultrachics skyscrapers, it is now almost impossible to imagine the landscape once qu'offraient the same places. Monaco has the highest population density in the world 16 200 inhabitants per kilometer squarely, almost double Singapore. Who remembers that there is a century and a half the principality was a village of 1,150 souls clinging to his rock and living mainly in the export of lemons and olive oil?

A delicious scent of forbidden and adventure

In 1848, the Monegasque princes dominion extends even on a thin coastal strip of 24 square kilometers. But this year, between spring of the European peoples and the advent of the Second French Republic, Menton and Roquebrune rise and declare themselves "free cities". In 1860, together with the county of Nice, the two towns are linked to France. The principality is then amputated 93% of its territory and 85% of its population. This is serious: how will she survive? The solution will come from a big gamble. This is Princess Caroline, mother of the new king, Charles III (1856-1889), who raises an idea never materialized, why not open a casino to attract wealthy clients who frequent the Riviera?

After several unsuccessful attempts, the challenge is met by François Blanc, a French businessman. The latter made his fortune by transforming the German spa town of Homburg European capital in the game. In Monaco, the idea is to combine casino, luxury hotels and sea resorts. In 1863, François Blanc, aka "the Magician", founded the Society of sea bathing and the circle of strangers. He bought for 1.7 million gold francs, the concession games and the first buildings on the Spélugues plateau, extended overlooking the bay, about 1 km as the crow flies from the princely palace. The principality is still an isolated village, easily accessible. Nice to come, there are only two possibilities. The first is made between two and four hours crossing on a boat which provides only a link per day. The second is to go to La Turbie by horse and then down a steep path donkey.

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Colossal work will -morphoser meta places: the casino was opened in 1863, the Hotel de Paris the following year. In 1868, a railway line between Nice and Monaco finally, in half an hour. Villas, decorated public gardens will soon emerge. Meanwhile, the district of -the Spélugues "small caves" in monégasque- was renamed to a name "worthy of the future reserved for him." One hesitates between Albertville (son of Charles III) and Charlesville. This will ultimately Mount Charles: Monte Carlo. What holds a reputation ...

The new resort quickly attracts the rich families and British royalty, who have grown accustomed to winter on the French Riviera. First reason for this enthusiasm since 1836, gambling is prohibited in France. Casino Monte Carlo, exclusive of the Society of sea bathing, exhales a delicious perfume forbidden and adventure. In 1866, major players will take their habits, like the Duke of Hamilton or Mustapha Pasha, brother of the viceroy of Egypt, which lost 100,000 gold francs that year: a dizzying amount. For Francis and Charles White III is the jackpot. "So much so that before this massive influx of money, the Prince decides, in 1869, to exempt from tax his subjects!" said Jean-Marc Ferrie, tour operator in the principality. Since then this sweet taxation continues to attract wealthy foreigners wishing to obtain the status of Monaco resident.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, while the elite is "slumming" in Monte Carlo. The Russian nobility -the grandduc Nicolas, Prince Dimitroff, notamment- up fortunes at roulette or baccarat. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII of England, also leads a double life under the pseudonym "Captain White". Even after his coronation in 1901, will continue to patronize the incognito Rock.

When François Blanc died in 1877, his wife inherits a company that manages the largest establishment of world games, an opera house, built by Garnier, and has, with the Hotel de Paris, one of the three palaces most lavish of the time. The history of the Monte Carlo Casino is packed with incredible anecdotes. Every night, some call into play their fortunes or their lives. Of greed, boredom sometimes, more often for show or for the sake of a woman. During the Belle Epoque, courtesans, such as Belle Otero, turn heads.

"When a man is rich, it is not ugly," he used to say it. The suitors of these femmes fatales mop abyssal debts; Some commit suicide after being ruined or turned away. Actress Sarah Bernhardt is not far from knowing the same purpose. One evening, she entered the casino with 100,000 gold francs in his bag. That's all he has left. Three hours later, she has nothing left. Sarah Bernhardt returned to the Hotel de Paris and takes a strong dose of sleeping pills. She is happily discovered and rescued by a friend who lent him the equivalent of the amount lost. From that day, the actress no longer puts foot in a casino.

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Churchill loses 1.3 million francs, the check will not be cashed

Other players have no such worries. October 6, 1950, from 20 am to 1 am, King Farouk of Egypt began systematically to bet on the same combinations thirty-forty, a card game. When, from 22 hours, the bets are not capped, he plays freely. That evening, Farouk loses 6 million francs. But it remains one of the most loyal customers of the place.

Few would emerge victorious from the property. In July 1891, a Briton, Charles Wells, broke the bank twice in the same day, then once the next day, earning 1 million francs. In the following November, it starts with the same gain. But the following year, when he returns, Wells has squandered his fortune. This time he plays with money borrowed from gullible friends. Luck has abandoned him: his wild journey ends in prison.

In this high of characters in color, the palm of elegance back to Lord Winston Churchill. One evening in January 1939, the British politician loses a large sum to the game table. However, it promises to return quickly. The outbreak of World War II propels the post of Prime Minister and prevents it to honor his promise. In October 1945, the "old lion", still basking in the Allied victory, is back at the casino. It launches the croupiers "Gentlemen, let's take the game where we left!" That night, he loses 1.3 million francs.

However, the casino manager does not cash the check, piously preserved until today. On the top floor of the Hotel de Paris, the suite of 250 square meters (excluding terrace) occupied Churchill still bears his name. Price per night: 11 500 euros, vintage champagne included.

A whirlwind of parties where anything seemed possible

1950 further strengthens the Monaco myth. Shareholder of the Company for sea bathing, Aristotle Onassis, the Greek billionaire owner, pushes Prince Rainier III married a movie star. A media marriage would attract all eyes on the principality, just as the Cannes Film Festival neighbor itself as the world's largest film event. Onassis imagine a time Marilyn Monroe in the role of the princess.

Rainier III prefers another blonde, delicate and less flashy beauty Grace Kelly. The actress, at the top of his career, just turned in Dial M for Murder,, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief, Alfred Hitchcock. Oscar winner in 1955, the young woman leaves the theater the following year, at the age of 27, to marry Prince Rainier. In April 1956, the wedding of a total cost of 300 million francs, are celebrated in an unreal atmosphere. Red and white carnations rain down from the seaplane Onassis. All-Hollywood has moved. Of torque walks are organized to satisfy the appetite of the paparazzi. The "wedding of the century", broadcast on television, brings together 30 million viewers.

With Princess Grace, Monaco is now the ultimate symbol of glamor. The Grimaldi family becomes an inexhaustible goodwill for glossy magazines, especially since she regularly alongside the stars of the Atlantic, taking their habits in Monte Carlo. You can see Orson Welles smoking his everlasting cigar while sipping a cocktail in the American Bar of the Paris hotel. John Wayne tries his luck at blackjack and craps, typically American games, which are now entitled to town. Frank Sinatra Sammy Davis Jr., themselves, make their voices heard crooning at ultrachics recitals.

One can see Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor ... The "beautiful Italian" are not left out: Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale and Gina Lollobrigida come regularly enhance their presence charity galas. In 1974, Josephine Baker, a great friend of Grace, who inaugurated the Sporting Club, the new theater. His triumph is such that the artists scheduled the following day accept to postpone the date to let the limelight during several nights. This exceptional dining, the sunroof can contemplate the stars, then scroll sees the cream of show business: Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, The Who, Michael Jackson, Leonard Cohen, among many others.

What remains today of those crazy years, this whirlwind of parties where anything seemed possible? "Few things in reality, notes a connoisseur of the principality. Monaco has lived for five decades in the princely myth, that of the eternal Grace-torque Rainier III. In fact, it is a marketing product that needs to create constantly events exist ... "The hype around the royal family may seem excessive, foolish or anachronistic. Nevertheless: every important moment of the Grimaldi privacy arouses the interest of the public. The announcement at the end of May, the pregnancy of Princess Charlene and a birth in December once again gilded image of the old dynasty 700 years. And it's a little of what fairy tale for grown children that come for tourists to Monaco.

Every day at 11 am 55, at least a hundred people gather on Palace Square on the Rock. It's time for the changing of the guard. The sound of the drum, a rifle detachment of the prince, dressed in white summer comes to take over from his predecessor. The ritual in front of the palace straight out of a scene operetta, is a little folk. Yet his success with the public is unalterable. The day visitors continue their procession on a route mapped out: stroll and lunch in the small streets of Monaco-Ville, stop at the cathedral, always on the Rock, and then, via the tourist bus, stop in Monte Carlo for slot machines at the Sun Casino ...

For residents, the high season begins in April, with the Open played tennis at the Monte Carlo Country Club, and culminates with the ball of the Red Cross, the largest charity gala in the world, in August. This event is reserved for the privileged few hundred gathered around the royal family: Monaco notables, international stars and generous donors. In May, however, 100,000 spectators invest the Principality to attend the Grand Prix of Formula 1. The race is a myth, too. Every day of the year, buffs roam the circuit map, photograph the famous Rascasse corner on Port Hercule, or the pin facing the Fairmont.

900 bottles of champagne emptied within hours

The Grand Prize, played in the city on a circuit of 3.34 kilometers, is considered the most difficult of the season. The most prestigious, too. On this occasion, the slightest terrace overlooking the course is rented to several thousand euros. In the paddocks around the old road of F1, Bernie Ecclestone and as Flavio Briatore (now owner of trendy places in Monaco), a bunch of models and celebrities pose for photographers. Not to celebrate. On May 25, the guests of the gala of the Automobile Club, after the race, have engulfed 900 bottles of champagne in a few hours ...

For Monaco rest stop for a golden stars. Their density per square kilometer is certainly the highest in the world. Certainly the bling sometimes takes the ascendancy over the class of "stars" of the past. Some people have no other merit than to be known. But the Principality still playing in the big leagues. First, the celebrities will enjoy a priceless privilege tranquility. Besides the omni presence of video surveillance and police, local, unwritten rule is never to approach a public event -out personality, of course-. So it is not unusual to see a well-known actress in the street or to see that his neighbor's terrace is a French singer of the 1980s.

Among these "famous", it first has permanent residents. Among them, many foreign athletes. Former tennis champions like Boris Becker, Justine Henin. And David Coulthard, former Formula 1 driver but also the giants of today. Novak Djokovic, the current world No. 1 ATP resides Princess Grace Avenue, facing the sea Its neighbor Brazilian driver Felipe Massa. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button live in the area. On another note, David Hallyday, married to Alexandra Pastor, from a Monegasque property dynasty, also has a Princess Grace Avenue address.

A "hall of fame" where Rihanna alongside Sean Penn and Karen Mulder

Then there is the stars that occur in the principality for a show or make it hard some days. The list is endless. Usually, they stay at the Hotel de Paris. Last year, Rihanna has settled in Monte Carlo in July. On its planning: shopping in the boutiques in black monokini and transparent blouse, boat and parasailing. The high class, what ... After their show, some celebrities try their luck at the casino, in a private room, away from prying eyes. Later, they can make an appearance at Jimmy'z, the largest nightclub in Monaco, one of the most exclusive too.

Finally, there are those who are here friends, regulars. Bono, who lives in Eze (Alpes-Maritimes), is one of them. And his accomplices U2. The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr near the princely family, Elton John is almost part of the scenery. Not to mention Claudia Schiffer, Karen Mulder, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli ...

Some do come out that during private parties and social events. Others are partying in fancy places, but accessible. The Princess Grace Avenue, a customer megastars and anonymous, 25 to 70, mixes with Sass' Café, in a trendy, relaxed atmosphere. At this address, while both restaurant and night club, have dinner about 22 hours and then dancing until 2 or 3 am, between live music and DJs. "The idea is to provide a stage between the traditional restaurant and the box," said Salvador Treves, aka "Sassa" owner, with his wife, Yolande, and their son Samy.

Here, above all, do not be surprised to come across familiar faces. Bono, once again, going every week, often with his friend Julian Lennon. Jennifer Lopez and Sharon Stone at the cheek boss. We find ourselves seated near Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy and Jean-Paul Belmondo, who made ​​a detour to each visit on the French Riviera. The Golden Book of Sass' looks like a "hall of fame": Paul Anka, the Spice Girls, Buzz Aldrin, Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio have affixed an autograph, a thank you ... Sometimes a guest wealthy command 150 bottles Dom Pérignon to delight the whole assembly. Crazy, bubbly, exhilarating. On the avenue, round sports cars continues along the sea. By 23 hours, a fireworks night ablaze over Larvotto beach. Yes, it's Monaco.

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