Reliving Casino Royale
Monaco – the world’s second smallest country (just inches bigger than the Vatican City), where the casino takes up almost a quarter of it (jokes).
Nope, I am not a fan of gambling, and wasn’t sure about going to Monte Carlo at first. We were staying at a friend’s place near Aix-en-Provence and didn’t plan ahead where we would go each day, as it was supposed to be a chillaxing trip. One morning when we got up, we had this random idea of going to Monte Carlo (approx. an hour drive away) for lunch – Call me Bond, James Bond.
I am one of those who never had fantasies about stars or the rich and famous, so I could never remember their names, let alone spotting them. There might have been hundreds driving/shouldering past me while I was there (after all, it’s one of the best-weather tax-free heaven where the billionaires would reside), and my friends were totally asking me about it… but whatever, I don’t really care. One thing interests me though – the infamous Circuit de Monaco(Monaco street race track). I started to learn bits and pieces about F1 (because of the boy’s influence), and saw quite a lot of breaking marks all along the streets in the city. One funny sight found inside the tunnel – there’s a 50m/hr speed limit and a police with radar gun waiting for you.
I would suggest watching an F1 race in this track before you go, because it helps so much to visualise and remember the map of most of the city. See below for a few picks (some of them are actually funny hacks) for top spots, hotels, and what to bring with you.
Top 3 spots to See
Facing the Monte Carlo Casino is the well-known cafe with open terrace where you can grab a coffee to soothe the sore legs, while watching the valet parkers of the casino swapping car spaces – whenever someone drives a nicer car (more expensive or someone more important) there, they will have to make sure those cars are parked in the middle of the entrance. I heard quite a lot of people got upset when their cars were not parked in the places they wished to be… funny to us, but they are pretty serious!
2. Monte Carlo Pavilions
From where you sit at Cafe de Paris, Monte Carlo Pavilions is right across the street, where you can shop. It was designed by architect Richard Martinet of Affine Design and completed in late 2014. I enjoyed walking in between the big white domes, feeling as if I were an alien.
You are reading it right – it’s Starbucks! Normally I would stay away from these cafes and McDonalds as these are the areas where the ultra touristy crowd/street kids hang out. But this time was totally worth it. Just grab a drink at the Starbucks on top of the tunnel (at Lot Rainier III, Rue de la Colle) and enjoy the best sea view of Monaco – I swear their view is better than going up to the hill (we did that too).
When to Visit
If you are an F1 fan and don’t mind the jam-packed city, go during the race end of May. You might get a chance to see all the F1 drivers, especially those living there (like Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button); along with Prince Albert II and family (who rules the country); you can name all the rest who might be at the event.
Prefer a more quiet walk-around? Go during summer time between July to September, when weather is perfect with cloudless blue skies. It is a nice breezy walk around, with cafes, restaurants, hotels, and luxury shops for you to stop by, along the beautiful yacht-packed seafront. If you are curious, go into the Monte Carlo Casino to look around even if you don’t play. But you will have to put all your cameras and gadgets away before you enter. Anyhow, you might still have a chance to bump into the rich and famous like world champion tennis player Novak Djokovic and the real James Bond Sir Roger Moore (he played the British secret agent James Bond in seven feature films between 1973 and 1985).
Where to Stay
1. Resort style
(Photo credits to Mr and Mrs Smith)
Check-in to the Monte-Carlo Beach hotel for a room with a view. One of those romantic getaway hotel destinations if you want to stay relaxed, while close enough for some shopping and bustling city. Room rates starting from €180, book here.
2. Rock your boat
(Photo credits to Airbnb hosts)
If you don’t get seasick and love the smell of the ocean, staying the night on a boat might be an even more romantic idea. There are various sailboats, motorboats, or yachts available on Airbnbfor rent by the day or overnight. Some are actually quite reasonably priced – check them out here.
What to Pack
The list below is for those who wish to be well-prepared to get star-struck, and photo ready. There used to be a dress code in Monaco but not being seriously strict, but I would suggest not to walk around in flip flops as you might feel a bit intimidated.
To protect your eyes and look cool in this hot and glam area. This pair of classic vintage sunglasses will definitely offer the benefits… and you don’t have to worry about seeing anyone with the same pair.
2. Long-lasting lipstick
Nothing beats a long lasting lipstick that keeps your lips moist and defined. I personally use GUCCI “Luxurious Moisture-Rich Lipstick” and would highly recommend it. I seldom have to re-apply after meals, and it will just last the whole day.
3. Instant camera
Time doesn’t wait – bring along an instant camera like this Lomo pack with 3 lenses to print out the star-studded photos and get the autographs right away.
4. Waterproof pen
All the hard work won’t stay unless the autograph is done in waterproof pen. Grab this “Rite in the Rain” pen and don’t screw it up!
5. Small to medium size shoulder bag
You don’t need to bring a lot of things to Monaco so a small to medium size shoulder bag would be perfect to put all the things above in. The one I was carrying (in the photos above) is my GLUSH/ White Marble Round Crossbody with removable strap, in case I wanted to change it to a clutch.
If you wish to know more about my itinerary, personal tips, or other suggestions, feel free to email me or leave a comment below!