Even on Google Images there’s only a handful of pictures showing the interior of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. Tourists are forbidden to take any photographs so I take the flash off and quickly snap one before the security people peek around the corner. The opulence is jaw-dropping: chandeliers the size of small planets and enough gold gilt to solve the debt of a third world country. The other picture in the collage is from a photographic exhibition dedicated to the life of Princess Grace, in the historic village of Les Baux de Provence.
The late Princess Grace – Hollywood royalty long before she became European aristocracy – redecorated some of The State Apartments, the only palace section open to the public at 8 euros a ticket. Access is through the Mirror Gallery, where visitors can adjust their tiaras before sweeping into the Red Room furnished in the flamboyant style of Louis XV, and featuring paintings by Flemish painter Jan Breughel (1568-1625).
Also open to the public is the Blue Room where royal receptions are still held, the Yellow Room of Louis XV, the York Room (where the Duke of York, brother to King Charles III, died after falling ill in 1787), and the Throne Room which displays a large painting of Grace with daughters Caroline and Stephanie in the idealized style of romance lit nobility Mills and Boon. No joke. Breughel sure didn’t paint this one. And I know, I won’t be invited to dine at the palace any time soon.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN MONACO:
Royal botanic gardens: Also a few minutes walk from the palace (everything’s a short walk), where the whiff of scented pine mingles with salty air. Dazzling views of the hillside sovereign city state out to the Mediterranean and overlooking the harbor and yacht marina. The elegant and graceful garden paths are a peaceful retreat from the clutter of high-rise buildings and condensed urban landscape.
Monte Carlo: Tourists in shorts and t-shirts mill around the front of the casino or drape themselves over Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Ferraris parked in the square, and take selfies or get fellow travellers to do the snapping. I stroll down Boulevard Princesse Grace de Monaco and Rue Princesse Caroline pedestrian mall. I go into a boutique and try on 1,000 euro shoes and 5,000 euro jackets, and walk out with a catalogue. Shopping is off the Richter scale.
*I visited Monaco as part of my two-week tour of Provence and the French Riviera with Back-Roads Touring