Flying by helicopter from Nice’s Côte d’Azur Airport to the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo this year seems apt since it’s the 60th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s creation of the James Bond character. The opulent five-star hotel was used as a filming location for GoldenEye and Never Say Never Again, and it has hosted countless stars of stage and screen over the years. Indeed, Roger Moore, who played 007 in seven movies in the 1970s and ’80s, has a home in Monaco and has been known to drop by the hotel’s Le Bar Américain for a whisky on the rocks.
A private tour of the historic wine cellars deep under the hotel with head sommelier Patrice Frank is a wander through a series of caves hewn out of the rock. Half a million bottles preside here, including an 1835 Château Margaux Bel Air Marquis d’Aligre (the oldest bottle of wine) and a 1929 Château Margaux (the most expensive wine on the menu at €9,000, about $11,730 Canadian). More than 2,000 bottles of champagne are consumed during the Grand Prix alone. Monaco’s ruling Grimaldi royal family have had several celebrations here over the years; the dining room displays photographs of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary in the cellar. More recently, the Hôtel de Paris was the setting for Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene’s wedding party in 2011.
The newly renovated Casino de Monte-Carlo is celebrating its own 150th anniversary this year. Designed by Charles Garnier, the belle époque masterpiece was the inspiration for Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale. Marvel at the impressive onyx-pillared atrium where, in Never Say Never Again, Bond (then played by Sean Connery) tangoed with Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger). The gaming rooms are just as lavish; enter Salon Europe for a game of roulette (rub the knee of a statue of Louis XIV’s horse in the hotel lobby for good luck) or, for high rollers, there’s the invite-only Supers Privés, complete with private entrance.
For indulgence of a different kind, head to the four-level Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo spa (accessible by an underground tunnel from the Hôtel de Paris), which specializes in sea water therapies. Unwind with the 60-minute organic argan oil massage. Rich in anti-aging essential fatty acids and vitamin E, the oil used in the treatment comes from a fair trade co-operative of women in Morocco backed by Monaco’s government.
At the hotel’s Alain Ducasse restaurant, Le Grill, chefs Franck Cerutti and Jean-Philippe Borro prepare Mediterranean cuisine. Leave space for the Grand Marnier soufflé, which has been a signature dessert at the Hôtel de Paris since 1898. As you sit, you can just imagine a tuxedoed 007 dropping in at any moment.