Meeting Monaco

As a committed Francophile, I feel a little silly at having very little idea about Monaco, that dot of a country tacked onto France's bottom right-hand corner. Until the other day, the sum total of my knowledge of this principality, which I've now learned has been mainly independent since the 13th-century, was Princess Grace (I grew up following her film star-to-princess fairytale life - and ultimate tragic too-early death) and casinos.

Not being a member of the jet-set or a gambler has helped me to put Monaco lower on my list of travel priorities. I have never quite made it to this rocky 195-hectare country, second-smallest in the world, and now I am perhaps a little sorry.

The other day I was invited, along with many others, to a presentation from the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority in conjunction with French Tourism in Sydney. The fact that it was to be held at est., that colonnaded and gracious restaurant in The Establishment which under the command of chef Peter Doyle was awarded three hats by the SMH Good Food Guide this year - was indeed an added incentive.

A D'jeuner - Monaco, the lunch was called and so, over a salad of sand crab and asparagus, then steamed snapper on fennel, followed by the smoothest-ever mascarpone sorbet, we watched pictures of a place I barely knew existed (surprisingly bays and beaches, not just bars and baccarat tables) and heard some amazing facts.

For instance, did you know:

  • There are 3000 hotel rooms in Monaco, 90 percent of which are 5-star 'palaces'.

  • If you (or your mega-company) have a seriously large 'do', it is feasible to book out the entire country. True!

  • Monaco has more than 300 days of sunshine a year.

  • By TGV (France's high-speed train) you can reach Monaco in 5 hours 50 minutes from Paris.

  • Monaco is growing - In the past thirty or so years, Fontvielle, a residential and industrial area with marina and other facilities has been built on 22 hectares reclaimed from the Mediterranean.

  • To mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Princess Grace at the age of 52 in a car accident above Monte Carlo, Monaco is staging The Grace Kelly Years, a retrospective exhibition tracing the late princess's life and legacy.  It is expected to visit Melbourne in 2008.

  • In Monaco hers is the only tomb where there are always fresh flowers, and the 25-stop Princess Grace walking tour includes the cathedral, where she and Prince Rainier were married and are buried.

 

 

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