Monte Carlo for winners
Curious to see what a lazy half-billion dollars looks like? Stroll around the corner from Monaco’s Hotel Columbus Monte-Carlo to the Fontvieille yacht harbour where a fleet of Croesus-worthy bath toys, some almost the size of Sydney ferries, sits idle for much of the year. Unlike many of their owners, at least I am definitely in Monaco on this sunny afternoon, with the added bonus of staying at its terrific Hotel Columbus.
The hotel’s informal motto of “where the winners stay” is literally true, thanks to its impeccable Formula One credentials. In 2001, Scottish ace driver David Coulthard and his business partners bought the Columbus, thoroughly retuned it and sent it back out on the track. His fellow drivers flocked to sign in. Modestly billed as a 3.5-star hotel (in many other destinations it would be five-star), the unpretentious Columbus soon became home during Monaco’s annual Grand Prix to legendary motor racing names such as Webber, Ecclestone, Villeneuve, Raikkonen, Alonso, Button and Vettel. While easily able to afford the opulent hotel palaces for which Monaco is famous, many drivers preferred the Columbus’s camaraderie, informal elegance and away-fromthe-hoopla location.
Hotel Columbus Monte-Carlo has 181 guestrooms and suites, most with a balcony or terrace. Step off the street (through a deceptively plain entrance) and you’re met by a palette of calming greys, whites and muted blues. There’s a choice of four categories of accommodation, the majority of which are one-bedroom “deluxe” with twin beds or a double.
The calm feel continues within these guestrooms, abetted by retro photographic art. (Art is a signature feature here, with quality, contemporary pieces on rotation throughout the public areas.) The deluxe category has plenty of wardrobe space, good lighting, flat-screen TV, blackout curtains and soundproofed walls. The bathroom is bright and functional, but memorable mostly for its over-fangled, “all-in- one” shower tap.
Looking past wall-sized glass doors or from a guestroom balcony, there are views of Fontvieille harbour (and its fabulous water toys), the towering, fabled Rock (home of the ruling Grimaldi dynasty), the Princess Grace Rose Garden and the Mediterranean’s blazing blues. Buffet breakfast on the terrace overlooking the memorial rose garden is a great heart-starter; equally so
is a tray delivered for breakfast on your balcony. Some time later, you may head to the hotel pool or gym to make amends.
Catch the hotel shuttle or stroll an easy 10 minutes into central Monaco, to visit La Condamine Market and Port Hercules, or head up to The Rock with its palace, museum and superb Oceanographic Museum. While the
Columbus name-checks Monte-Carlo, it is actually located in the relatively new area of Fontvieille. Monte Carlo proper is about 1km away, “up the hill”, upon which its famous Casino perches like a goose that nightly lays a golden egg for Monaco’s coffers.
Pool deck at Hotel Columbus MonteCarlo, above; guestroom, far left; Oceanographic Museum, left