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Like many first-time visitors, I arrived in Monaco with some preconceived notions. Images of fast cars, casinos, and yachts had shaped my idea of what to expect. As someone who prefers hiking boots to stilettos, my initial impression was that Monaco wasn't for me. However, I quickly learned there is far more to this tiny principality than meets the eye.
During my first few days in Monte Carlo, it was easy to feel out of place among the glitz and glamor. The flashy cars and designer fashion can seem intimidating if your usual attire involves yoga pants. But rather than judging the place by its cover, I tried to look deeper. It didn't take long to uncover Monaco's rich culture and natural beauty lying just below the surface.
Wandering the narrow alleys of Monaco-Ville transported me back to the Middle Ages. I discovered a quieter side to the city-state beyond the high-roller scene. By visiting landmarks like the Prince's Palace and the Oceanographic Museum, I gained insight into Monaco's fascinating history. Meandering through the shaded Jardin Exotique revealed a serene oasis of tropical plants and caves carved into the cliffside.
Venturing further afield, I found trails leading down to secluded coves for swimming and sunbathing away from the crowds. The coastal path winding between Monaco and Menton introduced me to a more relaxed way of life. Starting the day at a local market savoring fresh bread and produce gave me a taste of the region's flavors.
While Monaco charmed me with its rich history and casual seaside living, no visit would be complete without experiencing the other side of this principality: the opulent glitz and glamor of Monte Carlo. As a newbie, I was curious to glimpse how the other half lives, even if only briefly.
Strolling from the Old Town to the marina, it quickly becomes obvious you have entered the realm of the seriously wealthy. Superyachts worth tens of millions line the harbour, dwarfing the humble fishing boats bobbing nearby. Lamborghinis and Maseratis cruise along like they are straight from the factory floor. Watching them sparkle in the sun, you momentarily forget these aren't toys for the average person.
You can't help but gawk at the showy displays of wealth, from diamonds glistening in shop windows to furs draped over ladies who lunch. But in Monte Carlo, nonchalance is the name of the game. BlasÃ© billionaires breeze by without a second glance, though newcomers struggle not to stare. For those seeking both glitz and Old World charm, the HÃ´tel de Paris Monte-Carlo perfectly marries the two. With ornate architecture and an air of timeless elegance, the lobby alone oozes opulence.
Yet nothing embodies Monaco's reputation for luxury more than its famed Casino de Monte-Carlo. Few buildings capture the imagination like this Beaux-Arts landmark. Even if you don't play, witnessing the gaming rooms first-hand is a must. Velvet walls, frescoed ceilings and glittering chandeliers set the stage. Men in tuxedos and women dripping in jewels encircle crowded tables, hoping for a lucky hand. For the price of a drink, anyone can be an observer in this theatre of the rich.
Among glitzy casinos and luxury boutiques, Monte Carlo offers plenty of dazzling backdrops for travel selfies. When an iconic landmark like the Casino de Monte-Carlo comes into view, resist the urge to snap a quick pic on the go. Instead, take time to explore the best selfie spots to capture Monte Carlo"s opulence at its finest.
The manicured gardens directly in front provide the perfect foreground for a casino glam shot. Position yourself facing the entrance with the Beaux-Arts faÃ§ade and Corinthian columns towering behind you. For Instagram, use the "Clarendon" filter to give bold definition to the ornate stonework and iron accents.
For a sultry pose, head to the gilt-edged salons inside the casino, where frescoed ceilings and chandeliers create an atmosphere of old world elegance. Flanked by roulette wheels and card tables, strike a playful gambling pose or blow a kiss to lady luck. The rich colors of the salon make an eye-catching backdrop for vibrant outfits.
Beyond the casino, don"t overlook the Belle Ãpoque-style HÃ´tel de Paris next door. Its majestic arched doorway with twin columns makes a striking frame for model-esque mirror selfies. For fun boomerang shots, walk up the red-carpeted grand staircase under the glittering chandelier.
Nearby on Avenue Princesse Grace, strike a pose by the bronze statue of the former Hollywood star turned princess. Mimic her graceful hand gesture for an elegant shot with the Mediterranean sea sparkling behind you. Continue along the seaside promenade to the sweeping stairway above Larvotto Beach. Pause on the top steps and angle your camera up towards the Rocher, Monaco"s rocky outcrop, for a selfie with panoramic port views.
Should your travels take you to Nice, France, just twenty minutes away, grab some colorful candids amid the flower market"s buckets of blooms. For bokeh flair, artfully arrange blossoms in the foreground with the Promenade des Anglais"s iconic blue chairs lining the sea behind you.
While the French Riviera oozes glamor, don"t let visions of models in Chanel intimidate you into only packing couture. The key to looking effortlessly chic lies in embracing laidback riviera style with your own twist.
Channel your inner starlet with timeless staples like Breton striped tops, espadrilles, and oversized shades. Flowy midi skirts and cotton sundresses keep you cool in the Mediterranean heat, whether strolling seaside promenades or sipping rosÃ© at a beach bar. Accessorize with silk scarves tied in a loose knot or woven hats for a touch of French flair.
When the sun goes down, experiment with bolder looks. Sequined skirts or slinky slips pair perfectly with leather jackets for nighttime drinks at a Monte Carlo lounge. Statement earrings and red lips add old Hollywood vibes. For dining along the port, try relaxed elegance with palazzo pants or jumpsuits, topped with a kimono-style jacket.
While high fashion reigns in Monaco, don"t forget the marked cleavage and micro miniskirts. Not far away, seaside towns like St. Tropez and Cannes invite more bohemian style. Here, artisans sell handmade jewelry and breezy maxi dresses dominate the boutiques. Slip on some harem pants and get lost in the mazes of colorful local markets.
When preparing your Riviera wardrobe, focus on versatile pieces you can mix and match, then elevate with bold accessories. Pack items that transition from day to night and allow for fluctuating coastal weather. A few lightweight layers create options for sunny afternoons or breezy nights.
Beach coverups like crochet kimonos layer perfectly over swimsuits for spontaneous dips in the sea between sights. And don"t skimp on the swimwear. Pack at least a few suits to complement your complexion and silhouette. Solid colors and simple cuts keep the focus on you, not the clothes.
While packing, remember...the French Riviera looks effortless but rarely is. Behind the scenes, thought goes into creating a relaxed vibe. Nicole, who documents her riviera style on Insta, suggests embracing classics you feel beautiful in.
The key is finding pieces with irresistible silhouettes that flatter your figure. Invest in quality over quantity and you"ll turn heads whether strolling the port or dining beachside. Just don"t overpack! Riviera style embraces simplicity. A few versatile outfits give you room to shop local boutiques and markets for the perfect hat or jewelry find.
For a new visitor, Monte Carlo can feel like entering a real-life fairy tale. Its lavish architecture and larger-than-life aura stir childlike wonder and excitement. Simply walking its storied streets brings fantasies to life.
Seeing the iconic casino up close makes you pinch yourself that such grandeur exists outside the silver screen. Stepping inside its gilt-trimmed gaming rooms, you suddenly become a character in a James Bond film. Yet Monte Carlo captivates with more than just glamour. Here, novelty reigns supreme even in everyday experiences.
Ordering a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe means watching Bentleys glide by as you sip frothy foam. Strolling the port evokes both old world charm and modern opulence as you pass historic yachts and contemporary superyachts docked side-by-side. Wandering narrow lanes, you never know what scene awaits around the next corner: an old woman hanging laundry or a cliffside estate with panoramic views.
This blend of splendor, mystique and paradox intrigues first-time visitors. Basic errands become occasions simply because they happen in Monte Carlo. Newcomers may feel tentative about enjoying luxuries far outside their usual budget. But succumbing to iconic experiences like dining at the terrace cafe at the Hotel de Paris or visiting the palace's Changing of the Guard ceremony brings the fairy tale to life.
If playing Bond or princess even briefly, why resist? As Serena confided on her lifestyle blog, she hesitated about booking an indulgent Couples Champagne Ritual at the Monte Carlo Spa by La Prairie. But she finally decided experiencing such treatments even once can be transformative. Through fresh eyes, we permit ourselves to be dazzled.
Mike, reflecting on his guy's weekend in Monte Carlo, said they were giddy as kids on Christmas morning. Rather than mocking the extravagance surrounding them, they whole-heartedly embraced this adult playground. From racing souped-up Ferraris around the track at full throttle to cheering at the Monaco Grand Prix, nothing was off limits.
But he notes you don't have to break the bank to feel swept away in Monte Carlo. Watching the sunset from Jimmy'z nightclub terrace over a beer still made him feel like a VIP. When everything seems surreal, even small moments take on significance.
That's Monte Carlo's beauty - it allows you to see even ordinary experiences as special. As Amy described in her blog, drinking mediocre coffee at a cheap cafe in New Jersey is forgettable. But drinking the same coffee outside a Monte Carlo beach kiosk feels glamorous. When reality exceeds your imagination, mundane moments become memorable.
The French Riviera seduces visitors with its captivating coastal scenery and jet-set allure. But epicureans know that its crowning glory is the regional cuisine. From Monte Carlo to Cannes, the entire CÃ´te d"Azur celebrates culinary pleasures. Savoring the unique flavors of Southern French fare proves just as integral to the Riviera experience as basking on beaches or rubbing elbows with celebrities.
The sunny Mediterranean climate nurtures olives, lemons, herbs and vegetables that shape ProvenÃ§al cooking. Dishes celebrate seasonal ingredients at their peak freshness. Vibrant tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and aubergines star in ratatouille, a hearty vegetable stew. Subtle bouillabaisse stew blends local rockfish, shellfish and saffron. Fresh goat cheeses provide the perfect tangy finish to any meal.
But on the French Riviera, dining is about far more than exquisite food. It is meant to be a feast for all the senses that lingers in your memory long after. Spectacular settings like seaside restaurants overlooking the port or hilltop villages with endless vineyard views elevate the experience. Attentive waiters ensure your glass is never empty and your every need met promptly.
Savoring long lunches on sunny terraces or under the glow of twinkling lights transports diners. The easygoing pace of dining encourages lingering over every bite, not rushing between courses. Food is not just sustenance but a chance to soak in the atmosphere and company. For visitors used to fast casual meals back home, the leisurely dining culture becomes a highlight.
"Having a long, lazy French lunch was a major eye-opener for me," Andrea explained on her travel blog. "I realized how much pleasure there is in taking your time to appreciate both the food and ambience." She suggests leaving work concerns behind to fully immerse yourself in the Riviera dining ritual.
Sampling local specialties also provides insight into the region's culture and values. Dishes reflect both native ingredients and influences absorbed over centuries through trade and conquest. "The complex history of Provence is alive in its cuisine," food writer Simone notes. "One bite can tell the story of Greeks harvesting olives or Italians cultivating tomatoes."
Seeking out regional delicacies satisfies more than just taste buds. Discovering new flavors connects you to a place and its past. Visiting open-air markets to gather ingredients for a picnic or chat with a chef about his grandmother"s signature bouillabaisse recipe forges a deeper bond. It transforms food from mere sustenance to an intimate experience.
For a complete Riviera sojourn, don't limit yourself to just flashy restaurants with multi-course tasting menus. Some of the most memorable and authentic dining happens in humble settings. Look for small family-run bistros focused on quality over pomp. Ask locals for their favorite beachside snack stand or hole-in-the-wall crÃªperie off the tourist track.
Unlike Instagram hot spots tailor-made for social media, Monaco dazzles visitors with opulent landmarks untouched by modern trends. Yetthis old-world elegance offers no shortage of scenic backdrops for travel photography. From casino glam to Mediterranean panoramas, capturing the principality's splendor through your lens reveals Monte Carlo's photogenic spirit. But avoid the rookie mistake of a quick selfie on the run. Do these iconic sights justice and turn yourself into an Instagram sensation with insider tips for picture-perfect poses.
First, put yourself in the shoes of a professional. Study the location to find the most dynamic perspectives that tell a story beyond just documenting your presence. Think depth, angles, lighting. At the casino, photographing the exterior from head-on lacks creativity. Instead, shoot from the gardens facing the entrance for symmetrical grandeur. Or up close at an angle to highlight ornate details. Inside, move tables and chairs to frame your subject perfectly. Maximizing aesthetics takes precedence over convenience.
Rather than just smiling at the camera, interact with your opulent surroundings. At the HÃ´tel de Paris, lean on the grand staircase's railing to mimic descending the red carpet. Or extend your leg through the columns, as if frozen mid-dance move. At Princess Grace's statue, imitate her graceful hand gesture. Make the iconic setting a natural extension of your pose.
Channel a character to bring static spaces alive. Outside the casino, pretend arranging your chips before hitting the tables. Inside, sit pensively as if awaiting the roulette wheel's verdict on your bets. On the port, gaze longingly into the distance like a stylish 1940's film star arriving on a yacht. Embodying a role, rather than just posing, makes photos vivid and intriguing.
Schedule shoots for optimal lighting. On the coast, golden hour before sunset bathes the landscape in a warm glow. In shaded spots like the Jardin Exotique, shoot at midday when sunlight streams through treetops. For nighttime flair, snap the casino's illuminated faÃ§ade at dusk or pose under the Hotel de Paris' chandelier. Learn basic editing tricks to adjust lighting and filters for polish.
And don't underestimate the power of props and accessories to take your Monaco style photos next level. Luxe additions like silk Hermes scarves, fedora hats, or pearl necklaces transform outfits into Riviera chic worthy of the finest boutiques. A properly placed cigarette holder or hand fan channels old Hollywood allure. And don't forget bold lipstick or cat-eye sunglasses.
Collaborate with companions for dramatic scenes. Inspire jealousy with yacht photos lounging like elites on the luxurious deck. At the casino, gather around a high roller blowing on dice for luck. On the coast, sacrifice your sun hat to the wind gusts, hair flowing behind you. Showcased properly, friends make ideal co-stars.
Most importantly, let your photos capture genuine joie de vivre, not just envy-inducing aesthetics. Smile with childlike wonder outside the casino's grand entrance. Gaze up in awe at frescoed ceilings and glittering chandeliers. Laugh freely over drinks dockside. This principality was made for reveling in life's finest moments. Let your selfies reflect that joy of immersing in such grandeur, if only briefly.