THE MONTE-CARLO BAY HOTEL AND RESORT
I hated this hotel at first sight. Granted, Monaco is, from most points of view, a best avoided complex of vertical cement depositories insensitively imposed upon what was once a dirty little Mediterranean fishing village. It's a mini French Rivera Hong Kong without the complex texture of a real city. But this monolithic bunker of a new hotel? Why it, and why here? I hadn't thought you could have ruined something already ruined beyond repair but I was convinced, throughout its construction, that this new hotel would have accomplished the impossible task.
But then why have I been staying here once a year ever since it was built? Answer: it's the nerve center of the Monte-Carlo Masters tennis tournament. (That high-rise to the left is not part of it.) But there is another reason: I find it amusing.
Over the years I've come to understand what's gone into creating such a thing: a new hotel, in a high-profile, high-end tourist destination where every month there are international meetings and events that bring in masses of visitors from all over the world, all hoping to have a fabulous, memorable experience in fabled and glamorous Monaco.
The creators of this hotel were clever and prescient. They knew where the future was headed. For instance, in this enormous hotel there isn't what could be called a "fine" restaurant—by that I mean a restaurant with charm, atmosphere, elegance, finery, dignified service and a well-dressed clientele. The creators of this hotel understood that that's a thing of the past. Everybody's in jeans nowadays. They put their feet up. They wash their hands with mineral water right out of the bottle over the table. Their kids drive electric Mercedes Benzes all around the lobby. This is the future and a hotel just better be ready for it.
And they spared no expense. Glamor as we once knew it might be gone forever but a new glamor has displaced it. People might be dressed down and have no manners but they want their stuff.
And this hotel provides it. The pools and simulated beaches go on forever, indoors and out. And to create a lush atmosphere of green they brought in Jean Mus, one of the most famous garden designers in France, who gave it a masterfully produced Provençal-themed garden—I hate to think of what the place would look without it.
But in all fairness, it's brilliant. All of it. It runs like a fine Swiss watch. It gives you desires you'd never thought you'd had and it fullfils them for you. It makes you smile and chuckle to yourself in astonishment and awe. All things considered you can't help but say to yourself, "They sure got it right, didn't they?"