Why not take the kids to a place where no one ever ages? This is not due to the wonderfully mild climate nor the delicious seafood on most restaurant menus, but because in Monte Carlo, to look youthful is everyone’s aim, by whatever method you can afford.
Monte Carlo is set in a huge arch around a bay, meaning you can walk everywhere and it’s impossible to get lost. In many ways, it’s just like another lovely Côte d’Azur town with 19th-century townhouses with elaborate wrought-iron balconies lining narrow, always sunny streets. There’s a small old covered market to buy fruit for your hotel room. There's a beach – a small public one – but most of the bay is occupied by luxury boats, very white and shiny, with hench young men in tight sleeveless T-shirts continually polishing their brass bits.
There is a lovely Jardin Exotique up on the hillside in the western part of town, but the whole principality is one gorgeous garden. To get from one side to the other – a half-an-hour stroll maximum – you have to follow a serious of paths lined with palm trees and cacti beds, interrupted by outdoor escalators. Riding on those was as good as a themepark.
There are few sights to tick off or must-do activities – and the town’s main attraction, the Casino, is not for families. So we were forced to engage in rather old-fashioned games instead: Spot the Extremely Small Dog (often travelling inside its own designer handbag and wearing a Burberry) is one that can keep the kids occupied for hours.
There are a few things to see listed in our travel guide. There’s a fabulous aquarium in an old oceanographic institute, with giant whales’ skeletons, mighty pearly shells and the world’s first submarine, made of wood. You can sit inside it and imagine what it’s like to go into the deep in something only a little bigger than a telephone box.
The new Monaco National Museum on the east side of town is also a treat. Its only objects are a huge collection of dolls from all ages, which they hand over to different artists to display in temporary exhibitions. When we were there, it was the turn of fashion collective on aura tout vu, who usually dress up Lady Gaga. They hung huge dolls from the ceiling in costumes even the pop diva might question wearing. We could dress up in copies of the designer’s outfits ourselves and have our pictures taken in them, made into a postcard. The image was too scary to send home to Granny.
It was the most fun and totally ridiculous museum exhibition I have ever seen. Monte Carlo – in my teenager’s language – is ‘seriously weird’. Even the supermarket chain is called Casino.
Check out more of our favourite short breaks with kids.