The Christmas decorations are splendid in Monte Carlo this year, and every luxury hotel is trying to outdo the others. Apparently the Hermitage always does something special. This year the tree is an animals’ paradise. There are bears and tigers and even owls set among its branches, and everyone, the gal included, has to have at least one photograph taken by the tree. What is so special is that some of the animals move. The owls flap their wings (from ten a.m. on; after all even owls need their beauty sleep). A baby cheetah on its mother’s head turns as that head moves. The whole thing is absolutely brilliant and you cannot see an electric wire anywhere.
Actually many things in this Leading hotel are brilliant. Over the years five different buildings have cleverly been fitted together, Lego-style, so that now as you walk the upper corridors, which are palettes of taupe in the best designer style – some Pierre-Yves Rochon, some done by the Hermitage owner’s SBM people – you feel it is just one big building. They have even added two more floors to one of the original buildings, to give the whole exterior uniformity. They also dug down through a couple of floors to give a mega-ballroom. Nothing is too much for these people. This is a pretty amazing place. The GM, Pascal Camia, has taken part in three Olympics, in the bobsleigh (today he confines his sport to running the beach, he says).
This place caters for the most elevated tastes, with Salvatore Ferragamo and Prada boutiques flanking the hotel’s main door and wax-topped half bottles of Hudson Baby Bourbon, a Whiskey from the Catskills, in suite minibars. It looks after kids of all ages, from the dedicated corner in the breakfast buffet to a range of different sizes of bathrobe for them to pad with parents the subterranean walkway to the outstanding Thermes de Marin that the hotel shares with its sibling, Hôtel de Paris. Point to interject here, kids, and only kids, manage to look OK in bathrobes…
Les Thermes is about the only fitness centre I know where a café works. It is the meeting place for locals, who fit into the millionaire global sports star bracket or the seen-better-days-but-still-trying brigade. The gym has brand-new Antonio Citterio for Technogym equipment with screens with figures so large you can see exactly how long others are working out, and how many calories they have already consumed. There is a large oval pool, and a lovely deck for summer, and a spa with a range of beautifying and anti-aging options. Funnily enough the hotel itself never ages. Look up at it, from outside, and its Art Deco exterior seems, well, eternal. This photo, by the way, was taken after an hour-long run and hike up 675 steps up Escalier Riviera to the Beau Soleil area of town.
In the gardens immediately in front of the hotel there is a bust of Prince Albert’s godfather, Prince Louis de Polignac 1902-1993. There is so much history in Monte Carlo, and much of seems ageless. Look at the gilded and shiny-tiled corridors on the main floor, brilliantly set with glittering chandeliers. Try the Crystal Bar, another taupe haven. Dine in Le Vistamar, where tables are cleverly decorated with simple white china fish, and eat something from Menu Around the Season, say a ceps tart, simple grilled seabass with the most divine tube of linguini wrapped around parmesan cream, oh wow. Finish with the new this year yule log, another cream confection. The butter, by the way, is Bordier, nothing but the best for this place.
This 278-room luxury hotel is one of two that is ideally placed for viewing the Monaco Grand Prix. Here, rooms overlooking Avenue de Monte-Carlo are the most prized, and those with small balconies are limited to eight people for safety reasons. Suite 748/9, a Rochon delight, looks down over the race way, and across Port Hercule to the castle. It is a truly memorable view