My I first visit came to Monaco was as a journalist, sent there on assignment for . I had been sent there by the daily newspaper Le Figaro and I was fascinated by this little territory and .
First of all, by its history.
150 years ago – before the casinos and fashion and dazzling luxury – Monaco was a small village by the sea. . A hundred and fifty years ago it was just a village by the sea. Then, with the advent of gaming, luck and the effects of fashion, Monaco became a dazzling land of luxury, a world apart, a timeless world.
It was this incredible rise to fame that intrigued me – how this legend was created, and how it continues today.
I think if you go to Monaco, you will ask yourself the same questions.
It continues to amaze me how such a small land, with a surface area of less than two square kilometres managed to achone square mile – just 2 km2 – do you achieve international renown.
These days, Monaco gets , seven million visitors each year and is a recognized worldwide presence on the international scene?
As you know, for a good subject you need some good eyewitness reports and some good anecdotes that will capture your readers’ imagination.
An employee of the Société des Bains de Mer told me some incredible stories about the casino. It became a great success very quickly, he informed me.Part of Monaco’s success is due to the fact that gaming was banned in France, and the Monte-Carlo Casino became was a popular delightful place for wealthy British families and royalty to indulge in forbidden pleasures and adventure.
Any croupier will recount the amazing stories that are part of the legend of Monaco, such as that of the actress Sarah Bernhardt, who almost committed suicide after losing 100,000 francs, or King Farouk of Egypt, who lost six6 million francs in one evening.
The story I told in my article was that of Winston Churchill. One evening in January 1939, the British politician lost a large amount of money at the gaming tables.
Nevertheless, he promised that he would return. But soon be back. Wwith the outbreak of the Second World War, he was made Prime Minister, and was unable to keep his promise.
In October 1945, “The Old Lion,” still basking in the glory of the Allied victory, returned to the casino. He said to the croupiers, “Gentlemen, let us continue the game where we left off.”
That evening, he lost 1.3 million francs . But the director of the casino refused to didn’t cash Churchill’s the cheque. The cheque , which has been carefully preserved to this day and . The suite that Churchill occupied on the top floor of the Hôtel de Paris still bears his name.
The 1950s strengthened the myth of Monaco still further.
Aristotle Onassis was a Greek shipping magnate and a shareholder in the Société des Bains de Mer. He suggested to Prince Rainier III that he should marry a film star. A media marriage would focus attention on the Principality, at a time when the nearby Cannes Film Festival was making a name for itself as the greatest international film event.
Onassis once imagined Marilyn Monroe in the role of Princess but . Rainier III preferred another blonde, a more refined, less showy beauty – Grace Kelly.
In April 1956, the wedding, which cost a total of 300 million francs, was celebrated in a dreamlike atmosphere. Red and white carnations, in the colours of Monaco’s flag, were dropped from Onassis’ seaplane.
With Princess Grace brought glamour to Monaco. became the ultimate symbol of glamour. The Princess rubbed shoulders regularly mixed with American stars.
IWe can imagine Orson Welles smoking a his eternal cigar while sipping a cocktail at the American bar at the Hôtel de Paris; John Wayne trying his luck at Black Jack; and Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior singing ballads. at ultra-chic recitals.
We can catch imaginary glimpses of Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Elisabeth Taylor flit through my mind there.
Those were the days, the What remains today of those crazy years filled with a , the whirlwind of parties. where everything seemed possible?
These days, the Royal Family still attracts the attention of the public and the international media.
The announcement at the end of last May that Princess Charlene is expecting a baby in December has once again put this 700-year-old dynasty in the spotlight. That’s what tourists in Monaco are looking for – a fairy tale little bit of this fairy story for grown ups.
For residents, the high season begins in April with the Tennis Open, which is held at the Monte Carlo Country Club. This is followed by the Rose Ball, and in May, by the Formula One Grand Prix, when 200,000 spectators flock to the Principality.
This race is also legendary. Every day of the year, fans travel around the race circuit, photographing the famous Rascasse bend on Port Hercule, or the hairpin bend by the Fairmont Hotel.
The Monaco Grand Prix, a 2.07-mile (3.34-km) race, takes place in town, and is considered the most difficult race of the season.
Aficionados and celebrities all attend. As soon as the Cannes Festival is over, yachts and helicopters transport them at top speed over the 18 or so miles that separate La Croisette from the Rock of Monaco, so as not to miss the start of the Grand Prix.
Monaco is still a gilded paradise for stars. The density of celebrities per square mile is definitely the highest in the world. Perhaps they appreciate the inestimable privilege of tranquillity and security.
In addition to the presence of the police, and video surveillance, locals abide by the unwritten rule of never approaching the local, unspoken rule, is never to approach a celebrity.
As a result, iIt’s not unusual to walk pastpass a famous actor in the street, or discover note that your neighbour on the next balcony is a well-known singer.
Some of these celebrities are permanent residents. These include many international sportspeople, some of whom are longstanding residents, such as Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg and David Coulthard, the former Formula 1 racing driver.
There are also some of today’s megastars, such as Novak Djokovic, who lives on the Avenue Princesse Grace, overlooking the sea. Not far away lives there’s Felipe Massa, who when he was a boy, used to cycle to school along the same Formula 1 circuit where he won last year’s Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button also live in the area. Then there is an endless list of are stars who perform in Monaco. The list is endless. This year, Rihanna stayed in Monaco. Her schedule included shopping in the luxury boutiques in a black monokini and see-through blouse, a boat trip and parasailing. Such class!
Finally, there are the stars who are friends of Monaco and regular visitors, such as – Bono and his associates from U2, Elton John, Claudia Schiffer, Karen Mulder and , Karl Lagerfeld. , who is a friend of the Royal Family, and others.
One day, I found myself dining with a famous French actor, Paul Belmondo.
We were beside the swimming pool at the Monte Carlo Beach. The wine waiter came up to us and served us what is undoubtedly the one of the best wines in the world, and perhaps the most expensive – Pétrus. No one around the table had ordered it. The wine waiter then explained to us that it was from an admirer of Mr. Paul Belmondo, who didn’t want to make himself known.
In the hotel car park, the latest Bugatti Veyron shone out from among the countless Bentleys, Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis.
At around 11 p.m., you could smell the parasol pines; the air was so mild, and a firework display lit up the night sky.
Yes, that’s Monaco.