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Travel: Grand Prix Dame

Wendy O'Dea

Below the butter-colored stucco terrace of the Hotel Metropole’s Joël Robuchon restaurant, Avenue des Spelugues curves sharply toward the Place du Casino and the port of Monte Carlo. The hairpin turn is just one of many in which Michael Schumacher will maneuver his Ferrari at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, yet few locations in the principality will provide a finer view of the action than the reopened Metropole.
 
The Hotel Metropole was built in 1889 (40 years before the Monaco Grand Prix debuted) on land purchased from Pope Leo XIII. Although the Metropole hosted dignitaries such as King Farouk of Egypt and artist Marc Chagall in the ensuing decades, the hotel had lost some of its luster by the time Lebanese businessman Nabil Boustany acquired it in 1980. Boustany refurbished the hotel and rechristened it the Metropole Palace, but his lavish renovation did not suit the tastes of his sons, Fadi and Majid, who inherited control of the property in 2000.

Now the Boustany brothers, with the help of interior designer Jacques Garcia, have reinvented the Metropole once again. Garcia, designer of Paris’ Hôtel Costes and Geneva’s La Réserve, has recast the property as a chic Mediterranean palazzo with fabric-covered walls, Cordoba leather doors, exotic wood floors, and a touch of Lebanese stonework. The first floor, which formerly consisted of a single Baroque-style grand entrance, now is partitioned into four rooms, including the new Restaurant Joël Robuchon and the Princes’ Living Room, where an ornate crystal chandelier (one of the few items remaining from the Metropole Palace) illuminates ceremonial portraits of Monaco’s princes. Garcia also overhauled nearly all of the hotel’s 146 guest rooms, but the pièce de résistance is the Carré d’Or penthouse. Decorated with Louis XVI–period furnishings, the 1,300-square-foot suite opens onto a massive terrace with 180-degree views of Monte Carlo.

The Metropole will complete the final stages of its renovation in July with the opening of spa facilities managed by British treatment provider E’Spa. Before then, just in time for the Grand Prix’s return on May 19, the hotel plans to unveil a heated seawater pool and a new restaurant. However, lunch on the Joël Robuchon terrace, just one story above the action on Avenue des Spelugues, will be the preferred reservation during the race.

Hotel Metropole, +377.93.15.15.15, www.metropole.com

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Photo by Daniel Simon