France // The Côte d’Azur //


Monte-Carlo is where the real money is flung about, and its famous casino demands to be seen. Adjoining it is the gaudy opera house, and around the palm-tree-lined place du Casino are more casinos, palace-hotels and grands cafés. The American Bar of the Hôtel de Paris is the place for the elite to meet, while the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Hermitage has a beautiful Gustave Eiffel iron-and-glass dome.

Entrance to Casino de Monte-Carlo is restricted to over-18s and you may have to show your passport; dress code is rigid, with shorts and T-shirts frowned upon, though most visitors are scarcely the last word in designer chic. Skirts, jackets and ties are obligatory for the more interesting sections. Bags and large coats are checked at the door. The first gambling hall is the Salons Européens where slot machines surround the American roulette, craps and blackjack tables, the managers are Vegas-trained and the lights are low. Above this slice of Nevada, however, the decor is fin-de-siècle Rococo extravagance, while the ceilings in the adjoining Pink Salon Bar are adorned with female nudes smoking cigarettes. The heart of the place is the Salons Privés. To get in, you have to look like a gambler. Rather larger and more richly decorated than the European Rooms, the atmosphere is of intense concentration.

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