Monte-Carlo’s Casino Square looks unusual, to say the least, at this time of year. Fir trees miraculously appear, covered in what looks like snow. The ground around is covered in sheets of white cotton. You imagine Father Christmas and his sleigh arriving any moment… like the luxury hotels around, the Square is ready for the holidays. Even the new retail walk to the north of the Square is suitably white (it is the big white blobs beyond the trees). There used to be a garden there, says the gal, but obviously the lure of yet more retail was too much for Monaco’s bosses to resist.
The famous Hôtel de Paris immediately to the west of the Square is more or less closed, for a multi-million dollar redo by Pierre-Yves Rochon. I say ‘more or less’ because, this being Monaco, they are opening up 20 rooms specially over New Year, when Alain Ducasse‘s three-star Louis XV also comes out of hibernation, for New Year’s Eve (€850 per person, drinks extra) followed by a somewhat less extravagant €310 lunch, drinks also extra, the next day. No-one is giving the slightest hint of what the ‘new’ Hôtel de Paris will look like when it does reopen but knowing Mr R’s work, and SBM‘s usually-good taste, I am sure it will be spectacular.
Hôtel de Paris’ immediate sibling, Hôtel Hermitage, meanwhile, seems more beautiful than ever. Look at the elegance of the main crossway-corridor behind the principal lobby. Even the lighting is perfect. Not surprisingly people seem to sit here day, and evening, long. If you want to see latest fashions, Monaco style, just sit here with a coupe of Krug and watch the passers-by. I did actually happen to coincide with the annual Russian Christmas Ball, and whatever roubles are left had been poured into slinky floor-length gowns on size zero bodies that were well over six feet tall, and add another six inches for their footwear.
I remembered breakfasting, years ago, in a ground floor room near the front of the 278-room luxury hotel. This year, breakfast is in the circular gallery, mezzanine level, 29 red carpeted stairs above the secondary lobby. It seems odd but actually it was very savoir faire to sit up there, peeping down through Christmas decorations at life below. Mac the Knife played softly as I tried the Andresy Bio preserves, even though Monte-Carlo’s best croissants did not need them.