New lines on old pages in the book of the Principality of Monaco, at the Hotel de Paris – hollowed out behind a facade that has remained intact. The hotel survived the scalpel of a restoration on a scale we are not accustomed to here in Europe, as our imagination associates such marvels of engineering with the Emirates. The building was opened up and disemboweled – like on an operating table – a new covered courtyard, new paintwork and new spaces – even new scents of fresh flowers: the result is reminiscent of a world made of glass.
A book rekindled – I was saying, if schemes and events have found new life and light around the Hotel de Paris. The square opposite is the essence of Monte Carlo: on the map, it is just a ward of the Principality of Monaco that almost in discord is the catalyst of its legend. Rolls-Royces used to park up here, just like they do now, dropping off the Gotha and glam, Ira Furstenberg and the actors invited over from Hollywood by Princess Grace. A photograph, for a party with Proustian or similar theme, shows Grace kissing – or in common-man’s terms, eating – an ice-cream placed on a biscuit, or should we say a cornet. Beauty and frivolity playing cops and robbers in the space opposite the Hotel de Paris – transparent glass concealing the economy booming behind it: the facade of the Hotel de Paris left intact during the work, is its nemesis. The Casino is still accessible to whoever is capable of guaranteeing a level of decorum that goes beyond a pair of shorts – whereas if you turn to face the Hotel de Paris, it is more interesting to watch the people coming out than to go in yourself. It was at the Hotel de Paris, at the Hermitage, that the pages continued to be written.
The Hotel de Paris today: a glass terrace wraps around the top floor by almost 180 degrees – glass offering protection while ensuring you can be seen, that even makes the water in the pool transparent, playing with the reflections of the light. The rooms are large, some of the largest in its category – white marble crossed by grey veins, a dressing area that could well take offense should you dare refer to it as a walk-in-wardrobe – colorful macarons awaiting on the table when you enter (but ask for one in the morning and the answer will be no – and if the glass were crystal, it would shatter right away). Monte Carlo is a world that every James Bond film refers to – a diamond set in an Aston Martin lost or stolen to promote Ocean’s Twelve – perhaps it was made of glass – or something similar, forgive me for not knowing the details, but this is easy reading, remember, not a science treaty. KGB and Casa Rosada included.
There was the boom, everything was possible, it was the Fifties. Elizabeth Taylor was more important than Queen Elisabeth. Grace Kelly retired from acting and became the Princess of Monaco but only after winning her Oscar – what snobbery: all eyes were on her, a real-life Cinderella, with people wondering which one in the couple was Cinderella: Kelly or Grimaldi. The film stars, gossip stars were more interesting than any aristocrat. B25s became jets used by the select few who could afford them. The papers were full of pictures of celebrities boarding stairs in front of the ship’s captain – the word jet-set was coined. People were no longer interested in princes, dukes and sovereigns, but in whoever wanted to be noticed. No longer those lucky enough to be born with a double-barreled surname. People wanted to meet James Dean, not the Duke of Windsor – people who had made it, who had managed to turn ambition into recognition – Marlon Brando, Alain Delon. Aristotle Onassis: the Greek shipping magnate had Monaco under his thumb, engendering a strong sense of dislike in the new Queen.
Brakes failing and a car crashing down into a ravine. Safra died in a fire and the aura of mystery has never been dissolved. Soraya, the repudiated Empress. The years went by, and riches met with good looks, maybe too good – the genes of Grace Kelly mixed with the genes of a guy from Como, Stefano Casiraghi. Black, the color of a gala evening and of mourning, marking the obsession of the Press: a speedboat accident, offshore – yet everything just carried on, rekindled, in Monte Carlo, where tears become diamonds, if they are not already glass. If the second generation tarnished the marvel and the Nineties clamored after Stephanie as the yuppy dream, Caroline’s children were so lovely that they drowned out the noise of the Grand Prix in May. If there is too much beauty, it creates distance.
One evening last March, the Frozen Gala hoped to pen a few lines in this book that has appeared ever more rarefied in recent years – Princess Alexandra of Hannover, Caroline’s youngest child, a princess more noble than the entire ruling family of Monaco, is still too young. The spring evening was quite chilly, the theme of the party was ice, culminating in a performance of glass and crystal, white paint and flowers – with penguins waddling between the tables. The shimmering chandeliers and embroidered evening gowns – the story of Monte Carlo hopes to find rekindled energy in two young women who had the idea and the desire to stage this party, and write this page: Silvia Bortolotto and Alina Veladini put their hearts into warming up the cold.
Place du Casino
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