Rich + Famous Playground Secretly Centered Around Sustainability.
Picture this: getting all dressed up in your favorite designer, Wai Ming. Stepping out for hors d'oeuvres hour. Hailing an Aston Martin taxi. Being dropped off Mediterranean side for caviar + Cristal. Noshing while taking in the gorgeous cliffside. Admiring the multi-million dollar yachts. And then all of a sudden...
A BIGGER yacht makes its way into the harbor. It towers over those mega yachts. You can't even look at these mega yachts now, which look like babies in comparison. And it towers by about 500 times. That's 500 MILLION dollars worth of times. And it belongs to a Russian oligarch.
Yup, welcome to MONACO kids. The most stunning, luxe country I have ever been to.. and it's the wee size of a park in NYC: Central Park.
This little country is actually a Kingdom. It's called a 'principality'. It's the 2nd smallest country in all the world + it's ruled by the Grimaldi family. And it's just like you'd imagine.
Set on the Mediterranean between Italy + France, where celebrity homes are built right into the cliffside, its infamous city, Monte Carlo is synonymous with PLAYGROUND for the rich + famous.
Not only are the views impeccable, but the weather's also perfect. And Monte Carlo holds incredible events every month, like the Grand Prix for example. We happened to be there for the Television Festival, a huge gathering to honor up + coming pilots, scripts + shows. And get this: the Royal Family covered our travel + accommodations!! Insane right?
OK so here's what I know about Monte Carlo. If you're heading overseas, you HAVE to make this one of your stops. And while you're there, here's what you should do:
✖️ TRAVEL: Fly into Nice, France. Helicopter to Monaco. Trust me it's worth it.
✖️ SUN: Nikki Beach at the Fairmont is the best hotel I've ever sunbathed at -- the decor, the food, the views, the music. It is literally ALL THE THINGS. (be sure to reserve a bed)
✖️ SIGHTSEE: Cafe de Paris for afternoon coffee, dessert + the best people watching you'll ever see.
✖️ SHOP: Start walking. The shops are incredible + they're all centered around Cafe de Paris + Casino du Royale.
✖️ GAMBLE: Casino du Royale (next door to the cafe) for a quick gamble -- 007 was filmed here!
✖️ FOOD: Dinner at the Italian restaurant inside Casino du Royale. It's called Le Train Bleu + the rigatoni is everything. EVERYTHING.
✖️ TOURIST: Pop into Hotel de Paris just to see what all the hype is about (unless you're staying there). The hype is spot on.
✖️ PHOTO: Don't forget to snap pics of the exotic cars all around you, as they pull up + park right there.
✖️ PARTY: End your night at SASS. It's a nightclub + it's one of the most fun clubs I've ever been to -- It starts with live music + then goes to a DJ. Outside on the terrace, it's a hotspot for dinner. Reservations are v. hard to come by so if you can't dine there, drink there.. inside! ALSO, Jimmy'z is fun. It's a night club behind Monte Carlo Bay hotel where Princess Charlene has been known to make appearances on the dance floor.
SIDE NOTE: I'm allergic to yeast + I was completely fine eating all the bread + pastries in Monaco.
Now for a little history (in LAYMAN'S TERMS), as I'm not into history but the history of Monaco is crazy. KEEP READING.
The Grimaldi family has reigned over Monaco since the 13th century. But the whole country went completely BANKRUPT. I told you this is crazy. So, because gambling was banned in Italy + France, the Royal Family took advantage of this ban + the Casino du Royale was built. That was in the 1800's. Tourism went up, + so did the financial status of Monaco. However, residents were NOT allowed into the casino because the Royal Family didn't want its residents to waste their money away, as they were all just bankrupt. This citizen ban holds up today.
Well this sounds great + all, but as the Casino du Royal drew in rich party crowds, the principality was rendering a bad rep. A reputation so naughty, that neighboring Royals wouldn't step foot in Monaco. Until the rule of Prince Rainier III. His Serene Highness is credited for turning both the palace + the kingdom's reputation AND economy around.
Prince Rainier was married to academy award winning American actress Grace Kelly. And THAT's how the famous festivals started... Princess Grace missed Hollywood so Prince Rainier brought Hollywood to her. In the form of the film + television festivals. Cool huh?
NOW, Prince Albert II rules Monaco, along side his wife, Olympian swimmer Princess Charlene. (Whom I've seen in person + is absolutely gorg!)
The economy in Monaco is booming, but not even from tourism. Tourism rakes in a mere 15%. The economy is centered around private banking + and real estate. Monaco holds over 100 billion Euros in funds + it is the WORLD'S most expensive real estate market. There's also NO TAXES for citizens, aka Monegasque. Yes you heard that right. If you're a citizen of Monaco, you don't get taxed. And you probably have a job, as Monaco's unemployment rate is only 2%. Monaco also holds the world's lowest poverty rate.
But before you think about moving to Monaco, I'm going to just lay this right here: 48,000 people from France + Italy commute to Monaco to work. That means there's not a lot of locals who work there. Which also explains why I only met ONE person who was from Monaco. Also, the cost of living is extremely high. In comparison to New York City, where you have to be a multi-millionaire to live comfortably, Monte Carlo's rent prices are 20% HIGHER. And to buy an apartment in Monte Carlo, you're going to spend 5 times what you would in NYC.
SIDE NOTE: a taxi cost me $25 to go 1/4 mile.
So, what's Monaco's reputation now? A place you should definitely visit. Where the yachts are plentiful, the models are many + the cars are out of this world. It's still a playground for the rich + famous. And even though the Royal Family has been rocked with scandal for centuries, the Principality itself is SOLID.
OHHHH did you hear me say SCANDAL?
Saving the best for last lol... here's what I've heard:
✖️ Prince Albert II was quite the playboy in his day. He went to school in Massachusetts + before his marriage to Princess Charlene, he had two illegitimate children (who are NOT in line to the throne).
✖️ Now, I'm not sure if this is true BUT while I was in Monte Carlo, I heard that on her wedding day, Princess Charlene ESCAPED. She didn't want to marry Prince Albert II + their security team found her at the airport, where they escorted Her Serene Highness back to her wedding.
✖️ Prince Albert II spends a LOT of money. In 2015 alone, he spent 43 MILLION euros. But he's also worth a lot. His Serene Highness is estimated at over 1 billion USD. One of the richest in the world. And get this... that wealth is made up of land + palaces, antique cars, art and...... a rare STAMP COLLECTION.
So here's the cool thing. Yes the House of Grimaldi has what seems like an unlimited amount of mulah. But it's spent on something important. Something that our world depends on. And that's... SUSTAINABILITY.
In June 2006, His Serene Highness set up The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which works for the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development. And in the past 12 years, the Foundation has done a LOT of good. Prince Albert's Foundation has donated millions to support a plethora of projects, ranging from saving endangered marine life, sustainable consumption of seafood, decreasing deforestation, establishing food storage in areas with no electricity + improving living conditions in third world countries.
Prince Albert II is a true pioneer in oceanography + a trailblazer in environmental protection. HSH says, “We must make the blue economy a priority. Clearly this is an immense task, a long and difficult battle to be fought, but one we can win."
A blue economy is much like a green economy. In the same way as a ‘green economy’ centers around sustainable development in renewable energy, sustainable transport + green buildings, a ‘blue economy’ can be constructed around the oceans. And it is essential to our survival as a species.
This may be the longest piece I've ever written. But for good reason. Monaco is truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. Things are ENTIRELY different there. The imbalance of wealth is incredible. It actually bothered me A LOT. Like, why would anyone have a 500 million dollar yacht when there are 815 million people STARVING in this world? Why is it ok that I'm driving around in a new Mercedes that I've yet to see on the market when there are 780 million people who don't have access to something as simple as clean drinking water? There are no homeless there. I didn't even see one single stray animal. It's all Gucci, caviar + v. beautiful people. BTW you seriously should've seen the security at these shops. I literally went shopping just to check out the hot guys/male models guarding these store fronts. Like is that not David Beckham right there? (see below pic)
OK back on track.
For what seems VERY surface. Very unimportant, very scandalous... beneath all of that topical beauty is a story of inspirational resilience. And for being a country SO small. So tiny. Monaco is BIG on the sustainability forefront. Other countries like ours, massive in size in comparison, just can't compare at all. And we owe it all... to His Serene Highness Prince Albert II.
GO MONACO 🇮🇩 X