I have just returned from Monaco, where I was told Le Méridien Beach Plaza hotel is celebrating its 40th birthday, while the august Société Bains de Mer will celebrate its 150th birthday next year. The Gilded Age or modernity? What did I want Monaco to reveal to me, both from work and personal angles? I usually shun too much glitz (really, in Monaco, it is possible to get bored noticing that every other car is a Ferrari), but I know many people love it. I wanted to see the 'real' Monaco, but as I get older and (probably not) wiser, I increasingly do not know what that means.
What do meeting and incentive attendees want from a destination? Usually it is a feel for the destination's heritage, culture and daily life (that is, old men in berets with time-worn visages, not hooded youths skulking on corners). Surely a 'real' experience would involve a bit of both, perhaps? How would I do this in a place as compact as Monaco?
My idea to combine the old and the new would be to have a plush event at a rooftop restaurant with an outdoor terrace looking down at the mega yachts in Monaco Harbour and then zip down to the harbour to meet the one remaining Monégasque fisherman (I was told that the chef from the Michelin-starred Le Vistamar restaurant at the Hotel Hermitage visits him each morning to select the catch of the day). How wonderful would it be to have that glimpse into the modern and old life of Monaco, from the principality’s upper levels of sophistication to its no-less-interesting working life.
So, with these clashing ideas in mind, I woke up very early to see if I could locate that one fisherman coming into port. I did not. Perhaps there were no fish left? I was told where he berthed, but he was not there. I did, however, have a wonderful walk to the Grimaldi’s hilltop palace through the old streets near the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, but I failed to land my own fish, so to speak.
For that I would have had to have had the superior organisational skills of a planner backed up by local destination management knowledge. No doubt they'd have been able to organise that rooftop party for me, too.
Pictured: Somewhere in Monaco Harbour might be its last fisherman