The Kate Powers Foundation (KPF) became an official Monaco registered non-profit in June 2022 and their first event honoured the loss of one of Monaco’s most respected and loved personalities by inviting the community to celebrate her birthday on July 16. (Kate died on on August 30, 2021.)
“It was community that Kate was most passionate about. She was always bringing people together,” says KPF vice-president Karen Bond.
On Tuesday, March 28, the KPF hosted its inauguration party to introduce their first project, Kate’s Fountains, which aims to have filtered water fountains at schools, existing locations and portable fountains at events. “Everyone knows that Kate was passionate about two things in Monaco – community and the environment,” shares Karen. “The water fountain project brings these two interests together by reducing single-use plastic in the community and the Principality.”
According to a 2022 Earthday.org fact sheet, humans use in total about 1.2 million plastic bottles a minute – that’s 20,000 a second – and an estimated 91% of plastic is not recycled. And the Ellen Macarthur Foundation reports that the 150 metric million tons of plastic rubbish in the ocean is estimated to reach 600 million by 2040.
350 people attended the cocktail at Twiga, which was in the presence of the Foundation’s honorary president, HSH Prince Albert, who spoke a few words about Kate’s dedication to the planetary health and th environment. Mike Powers read a letter Kate wrote in 2007 about the urgency of Monaco’s community cleaning up our planet and Didier Rubiolo read the letter in French.
The KPF also launched their partnership on Tuesday with the Water Smart Foundation to provide fountains offering free filtered water throughout the community.
The inaugural event was sponsored by Twiga, Twiga World, Water Smart Foundation, Pure Ionic Water, Mind Your Waste Foundation, Mon Eau, WET Environmental, IBD Monaco, Cap Gin, Lily Bui Finest wines, Silver Gecko vodka, Blue Coast Beer, Mc Performers, ED Wright Images, Nitin Sachania Photography, Shimmer Walls, Burgess and MDV.
“We are excited to work with the Principality of Monaco, its schools and businesses,” enthuses Karen. “The KPF initiative is designed to drive awareness, educate the community, and engage everyone interested by taking action to reduce the consumption of plastics and protect the earth and oceans, by valuing water as a precious resource.” The Foundation is hoping to work with the Ministry of Education and invite schools to take the #BigBillionBottleBattle plastic challenge.
Karen emphasises that creating community involvement in the use of filtered water fountains requires a multifaceted approach. “By educating the community, providing incentives, involving local businesses, and hosting events, we hope to encourage people to use filtered water fountains and promote sustainability.”
Kate’s Fountain sponsorship starts at €8,500 but a donation of any amount toward Kate’s Fountains would be appreciated. “We are accepting donations on our website to sponsor fountains and future projects for the Kate Powers Foundation.” Emily and Keith Chapman, Mike and Paola Powers and Murat Vargi are a few of the first names behind fountain sponsorship.
Through Kate’s Fountains, Monaco’s school community, local businesses and event organisations have a chance to empower each other by uniting to make a difference. Kate would be proud.
“Kate was Love in Action. Love for the community and the common good. She was always there to listen and provide pastoral care for anyone who needed it. And as one of her true loves in life was for the earth, that is why we KPF choose the water project,” smiles Karen.
Kate Powers Foundation Board: (R-L): president Rhonda Hudson; vice president Karen Bond; treasurer Ina McLaughlin; secretary Marina Jahlan Matkova; public relations Martina Rukus; sponsorship & events Melinda Nelson; business relations Donatella Campioni; youth coordinator Cecilia Faggionato; and marketing & creative director Natasha Girardi pictured with Lilou Mace.
“I’ve known of Kate Powers for 40 years, ever since I arrived in the Principality, and personally for the past 25 years. What a delightful human being she was! My culinary and metaphysical experiences with her in Stars ‘n Bars are too numerous to note, but my memories of meditating with Kate, eating with Kate and playing games with her and so many others who loved and admired her are written in my heart. I will always miss her…”John McLaughlin
“Kate was an amazing lady and the Foundation is such a fantastic way to ensure everything she stood for and supported in Monaco lives on in her memory and continues to make a difference within the community.”Paula Radcliffe
This article was first published March 21, 2023 and updated on March 30, 2023.
UPDATE Sunday March 26: Yesterday’s event raised €3,565 (see images below). “Thank you to all who participated for your support,” says Igor Berezovsky. “It was a great event and amazing to support people in Kherson 🇺🇦. Together we can make a difference ❤️!”
Today from 2-5 pm, 32 young chess players of all levels will try beat champions Igor and Fiorina Berezovsky, former members of Monaco’s Olympic chess team. All in support of Ukraine.
Rising star Fiorina, 15, captured the heart of Principality back in 2017 at #Whitecard photo op with Prince Albert at the Monaco Yacht Club. She is now an ambassador for Peace and Sport. Igor holds a title of International Chess Master, with his current chess rating at 2389.
Igor and his wife Svetlana met at a chess tournament in Ukraine and relocated to Monaco in 2013 for business. “The Monaco chess club has become a second home for many Ukrainian refugees,” explains Igor. Svetlana, also a chess champion is teaching them.
Since February 2022, when Russia started a war with Ukraine, Monaco has become a temporary refuge to more than 200 Ukrainian families. And a group of enthusiasts in Monaco with and without Ukrainian roots is supporting various projects to help Ukraine and its people.
Chess Fundraiser for Ukraine March 25, 2023
Igor explains, “One of these projects is to support people in the Kherson area, which has been occupied for more than half a year and is now suffering under continued shelling by Russian forces. People of the Kherson area are in need of basically everything and our local volunteer Yuri Golubev is taking food, hygiene products and other things physically with a minibus from Odesa to Kherson.”
He adds, “Yuri’s daughter, Alina, and wife Kate are now part of the Monaco chess club!”
You can watch chess play, buy Ukrainian souvenirs and food and donate. All proceeds from today at the Maison des Associations (2 bis Promenade Honoré II, behind Starbucks) will go directly to help send supplies.
“This is one event showing the solidarity between one of the smallest of countries in Europe, Monaco, and the largest, Ukraine – the grain, Information Technology and chess powerhouse of our continent,” shares Igor. “Let’s make a smart chess move together!”
Article first published March 25, 2023. Photos courtesy of event organisers/Kate Golubeva.
On Wednesday, March 15, Prince Albert II met with five Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy (USNA) at the Monaco Yacht Club Library. The Midshipmen presented their USNA Challenge Coin to Prince Albert.
Prince Albert, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Palace Guards (the Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince) in which he actively served from 1986 to 2005, returned the gesture by offering the two female and three men Midshipmen his official coin. It is tradition when military and foreign leaders meet to exchange Challenge Coins as a symbol of respect for each other’s commitment to service at a high level.
Additionally, the Prince bestowed from Monaco to the Naval Academy a plaque of the country’s Coat of Arms, as well as a work of art from his private collection, the bronze sculpture “Oceans 11” by local artist Carol Burton, as a symbol of the importance of Ocean Sustainability.
On behalf of the USNA, the Mids had presents for 8-year-old twins Heredity Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella – USNA t-shirts and the USNA goat mascot. And, as Prince Albert celebrated turning 65 the day before, on March 14, he was surprised with a slice of cake as the group sang Happy Birthday. He was gifted a special Top Gun Maverick F-18 Lego to mark the occasion.
During their convivial hour together, the Mids shared stories about determination and dedication to service with His Serene Highness. The Prince recalled the time at age 17 when he took an admissions tour of the Naval Academy with his mother, Princess Grace. He chose instead to attend Amherst College in Massachusetts. (Grace Kelly’s first cousin John Lehman Jr was former Secretary of the US Navy from 1981 to 1987.)
The USNA was honourably represented by Jessica Bakken (Julian, California), Anthony Cervini (Vineland, New Jersey), Richard Kang (Columbus, Indiana), Arianna Lexie Ruiz (Greenville, Pennsylvania) and Nicholas Feaster (US residence, Arlington, Virginia).
Nicholas, 20, was educated in Monaco from a young age (Cours Saint Maur, FANB) and is the first graduate from Lycée Albert 1er to receive an appointment to the US Naval Academy. He was also a member of the choir, the Petits Chanteurs de Monaco, for five years and interned at the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO).
The Mids have been visiting the Principality for five days over spring break and are leaving Saturday. On Wednesday morning, they visited the IHO headquarters on quai Antoine 1er with IHO Director Admiral Luigi Sinapi. They also had the opportunity to meet Monaco resident Keith Chapman, the creator of two blockbuster animation series, Paw Patrol and Bob The Builder, and Bernard d’Alessandri, General Director of the Monaco Yacht Club.
The Challenge Coin event was organised by the US Ambassador for Yacht Club of Monaco President, Susan Feaster.
USNA and other military academies first accepted women in 1976. According to USNA’s website, of the 1,215 graduates in the Class of 2021, 27% were female (327) and 37% minority (451) midshipmen. It is worth noting that there were 16,299 total applications that year. Each USNA candidate must receive a nomination from a member of congress, who are limited to five constituents attending the Naval Academy at any time.
This article was first published on March 16, 2023.
Last Tuesday in the port of Nice, Fred Ghintran and his son were having an after-school snack near the plage de la Païole, between the war memorial and the dyke. Fred, an Ironman with swimming pool rescue training, was shocked when he spotted a man jump in the water. The sea swell was around a meter and rising, smashing into the rocks of Rauba Capeu. The 30-year-old swimmer was tossed around and soon lost consciousness, floating about ten meters from the rocks.
Fred, 43, knew the man was going to die if nothing was done. He called the firefighters and dove into the water, pulling the man away from the seawall about 40 meters. It was a close call. As he told Nice-Matin, he had calculated he could hang on for about five minutes before a rescue team arrived. Sure enough, the Commandant-Croizé soon arrived with four pompiers on board and the two swimmers were pulled out of the 14°C water. The firefighters managed to resuscitate the victim, who remained in critical condition at Pasteur 2 hospital.
“I tried to save him. I did what I could. We are lucky to have great firefighters who do an admirable job every day. They too put themselves in danger,” Fred said humbly but he warned: “You should not approach the edge when there is a wind like that, at the risk of being swept away by a wave.”
Fred and the firefighters had to risk their lives because of one man’s lack of judgement. It is not about getting in the water, but being able to get out. (By the way, Fred owns Le Felix restaurant in Nice. Go there – have a coffee, order a meal, anything to support this hero.)
Before you chime in, “That’s why I don’t swim in the sea”, remember that the conditions over the past week have been exceptionally dangerous, a combination of large swells and strong winds. One way to stay safe in the water is swimming with a group.
This is where Matteo Testa comes in. He launched SWIMRUN Monaco in December last year. “I was solicited by the newly founded Federation de Triathlon Monegasque, and with a small group of passionate people residing in Monaco, we decided to create the sport association.”
Matteo says the aim is to grow the local community, attract passionate and professional athletes from abroad and offer new sport experiences to people. “Through our SWIMRUN Monaco network, we approach swimrun paying attention to both water safety and developing the sport for the younger generation, as well as having a sustainable philosophy for all our activities.”
Matteo hails from Finale Ligure, in Liguria, about 100 km east of Monaco. “Finale Ligure is known as the ‘Mecca’ of outdoor activities – mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, trail running, surfing – with an incredible and unique playground. On my free time I was a mountain bike and outdoor guide there, but then I decided to move to Monaco and focus on family and my primary job.”
Sports have always played a role in Matteo’s life. At the age of 8, he was competing in swimming and alpine skiing. He started motocross at 13 and did his first triathlon at 19. “I have continued consistently with running, swimming, triathlon, mountain bike competitions, windsurfing, kitesurfing and exploring new places and new disciplines.”
Then he discovered swimrun, where you alternate between running and open water swimming over multiple stages outdoors without changing your clothes (so yes, you swim in your running shoes and run in a wetsuit). The sport ÖTILLÖ swimrun was founded in the Stockholm Archipelago in 2006 by Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott, who both stepped down from the organization in February 2023.
“I actually did my first swimrun race in Italy, near where I was born, and it was a solo competition and we were 40 participants at the start. Despite losing one of my paddles at the first swim and taking the wrong route three quarters into the race, I still won. I could not believe it. Since that race I continued training in swimming, running and swimrunning, which I do between three to four times a week.”
Matteo was so passionate about the sport he organised two editions of EPICBLUE Swimrun Finale Ligure in 2019 and 2020 and designed a series for Turkey and Indonesia, which unfortunately did not happen due to Covid. In April 2021, he ran a successful 3-day swimrun camp in Roquebrune-Cap Martin. “We offered a training program dedicated to swimming and running, with a swimrun outing each day on the most beautiful courses of our region – Cap Martin, Cap Ferrat and the Italian boarder. Nicolas Rimeres provided professional coaching and after-session analysis and there was yoga-relaxation around the resort pool.” The camp (photo above) was a hit. 25 participants from France, Switzerland and Sweden came together with a medium-to-good level in both swim and run disciplines. Expect more local camps and in Sardinia (dates to be determined). “Beginners are always also welcome in our future camps.”
And he means it. Matteo may be a high-performance endurance athlete, but he embraces sportsmanship, waiting for and encouraging others or slowing his pace to not leave anyone behind. Everyone knows him. “It is true, I know nearly everyone in the world of swimrun and especially in the endurance sport network, local and international. And this what it drives my enthusiasm. I love to connect to people and to share experiences with them.
“We recently heard news about changes to ÖTILLO management and there are new expectations within the community about how this brand will evolve and what changes this will bring to the discipline. I see swimrun growing in our area and strongly believe there will be a huge development in 2024/2025. Covid slowed down the forecasted exponential growth of this sport, but swimrun continues to make progress in France and the rest of the world, even if it still struggles to get established in Italy … but that will come.” (By the way, France is the first and only country to have an official Swimrun national team.)
Matteo, who is founder and manager of H20 Maritime, an independent consultancy firm in yachting, is focusing his energies and resources into a new platform dedicated to sport exploration and travel experiential, which will hopefully launch a new swimrun race and concept in Monaco. “Along with my team, we have conceptualised an eco-conscious MÖNACÖ SWIMRUN event that will explore zero-waste solutions. The Prince Albert II Foundation enthusiastically approved our idea and accepted to integrate our event into Monaco Ocean Week, the country’s leading event in spreading clean ocean awareness.” The project is currently pending approval from the government for 2024.
The MÖNACÖ SWIMRUN (Ö means Island in Swedish) event during Ocean Week is not to be confused with SWIMRUN Monaco, the new association that acts as a sports club building membership, organising regular training and swimrun outings in Monaco and neighbouring France and Italy. “We aim to bring the sport to a different level here in Monaco, where our community is predominately made up of CEOs, doctors and other professional individuals with a passion for adventure multisport in this area,” says Matteo.
They are off to a strong start with 15 founding members. “Our regular outings are set to begin this spring starting with a special experience in partnership with Waouh le Sud for France 3 TV Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. This media coverage opportunity takes place between March 20th-23rd, for anyone who would like to sponsor this initiative.”
SWIMRUN Monaco’s official website will go live later this year but you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram. “For fun” outings will start beginning of April. “Anyone can join. Beginners, those curious and new explorers are more than welcome,” says Matteo, who turns 49 this Sunday March 19th.
He adds, “I train everywhere I go, whether I travel for work or pleasure, to discover new coastlines and lakes. Undoubtedly my favourite playground is Monaco-Roquebrune-Cap Martin and Beaulieu-Cap Ferrat. I see swimrun growing in our area. We invite new people to join and experience the sport with us.”
The next SWIMRUN Monaco event is the convivial “OFF” Swimrun Finale Ligure on Sunday, March 26, with two distances Long (23.3k) and Short 13.3k. For more contact Matteo Testa: email@example.com or to become a member of SWIMRUN Monaco sign up here.
As a Remembrance Day tribute, Francis Wright shares his story about growing up in Monaco in the 1930s and when Italy declared war on France.
Born in Monaco in 1927 on what is today known as National Day (see “It’s A Date!” text below), Francis Wright’s childhood consisted of walking from his home at Rue de la Source to Lycée Albert 1er up on the Rock, every morning, lunch and evening.
“We had homework to do over lunch which he had to recite at 2 p.m. Punishment was having to go back to school on a Wednesday, our day off, for one to three hours. I was punished once and had to write what the teachers told me,” says 93-year-old Francis.
When the weather was warm, Francis and his older brother, Peter, would swim early in the morning in the Condamine harbour, where Ubaldi is now, and then walk up to the Rock for classes. “That was our joy. Before the war, there were no parks or reserved places for children to play in Monaco. We weren’t even allowed to walk around the Casino in shorts, you had to wear a tie and proper clothes,” he reminisces.
In those days, men went to work, women looked after the house and the children, who were left to their own devices to entertainment themselves, like playing football or marbles in the street. Shopping was a daily occurrence. “There were at least four épiceries along rue des Roses. There were no Frigidaires at the time, so butter would melt at times. I don’t remember milk.”
His father came to Monte Carlo in 1924 to set up a garage to service the cars of tourists who drove cars from England and through France to Monte Carlo on gravel roads. In the lead up to the war, his father’s garage, British Motors at 5 Rue de la Source, had fewer and fewer customers as there were no cars from either Great Britain or tourists and his business collapsed in the Thirties. “He took on a job as driver for Madame Westmacott, which took him all over France and other places. Mother looked after us alone, and that was hard.”
Francis says he will never forget June 10, 1940, the day Italy declared war on France and Great Britain. “My two brothers and I had already been badly treated by the Italian scholars because we were British, but the mood worsened, especially after Mussolini’s shouting speeches on the radio, and we weren’t welcome. The school closed that day and it was a frightening scene as the Monaco police – there was no military – rounded up all the fascists, including the baker, who were all taken to Fort Carré in Antibes.”
Francis describes, “It was the first day we had air raids. Sirens went off as a warning as Italian warplanes passed over Monaco flying to Cannes and elsewhere to do some bombing, I suppose. We would hide in the garage, others hid in their caves.”
Then came the phone call.
Fleeing France: 1 ship, 900 people, 2 toilets
On June 16, which happened to be Peter’s birthday, Francis’ father received a phone call from the British consulate advising the family leave the country as the Nazis had entered Paris. He explained that there were two ships leaving Cannes for England at 8 a.m. the following morning. “They had to make the decision then and there,” says Francis. “I remember mother and father sitting around the table and it must have been a hard decision for my father to make, to leave the garage, leave the home … we had to give away our Siamese cat.”
They were allowed one case each (the boys packed a few toys for the long journey) and the only clothes they took were the ones they wore. And so, the next morning, 12-year old Francis, Peter, 15, and their parents fled Monaco being driven by their neighbour in their old Citroën. (Francis’ oldest brother Alan had joined the Royal Air Force in 1938 and in 1940 escaped France via Cherbourg during the Dunkirk operation.)
“It was hot and we had a trunk full of sardines,” recollects Francis about the drive to Cannes that morning. “My father had thought of escaping the Italian invasion by driving into the middle of France somewhere and mother had said the best food to take would be cans of sardines, which were in the back of the car. And so we took with them on the ship, which was a good thing. The only rations on the ship were a couple of slices of corned beef, slices of bread, and biscuits.
On the ship Salterscate, there were only two toilets for 900 Brits and no washing facilities. “We didn’t wash until we got to Gibraltar. We were going to disembark at Oran, but the captain said we could not land there because ‘France had capitulated and we are now in French Algerian waters, enemy waters.’ Francis in fact saw the British fleet leave Gibraltar and later discovered they were, in fact, part of Operation Catapult, which helped defeat the French fleet in Oran so they ships would not fall into the hands of the Germans.
Historian Maureen Emerson comments: “Francis’ memories of the journey to freedom echo those of Somerset Maugham, who took the same journey on the same ship.”
In Gibraltar, they were able “to freshen up” the hospital served as accommodation and the passengers were served a meal of bacon and eggs. “It was the best meal I’ve ever had, I’ll always remember that. My father fell ill with the dysentery and we thought we’d have to leave him in Gibraltar. But he recovered and on the City of Cairo ship, we had a cabin for the four of us. We left the cabin to mom and father and Peter and I slept on the deck. We landed in Liverpool on July 14 or 15.”
“When we left Cannes, my mother had a lovely full head of brown hair. When we arrived in England three weeks later it was white.”
The family stayed briefly Liverpool, and then headed to Pinner in Middlesex outside of London where an aunt lived. “My mother took me to Lewis, the men’s shop for trousers, and it was the first pair I’d ever owned. I still remember that because I had always worn shorts in Monaco.”
Francis’ father found a job in Warrington, as a transport manager to an air drone base, which would become one of America’s biggest bases in England. “The airplanes would arrive in crates from the U.S. to be assembled at the Burtonwood air depot, like toys being put together.”
Peter went to night school and eventually joined the RAF and Francis attended grammar school in Farnworth. “I didn’t like it at all. I was nicknamed ‘Froggy’ because of my name. It was big change and I stayed until age 16.” He spent a month in hospital having contacted pneumonia and pleurisy, and at one point he was placed on the dangerously ill list for a week. “I remember my father came to see me every night and I appreciated that very much.”
Once he “got over that,” he began to work at an aviation company, working on Barracudas, where he gained great insight of airplanes and the air force.
Meanwhile Warrington was having air raids every night. “It was worse when the full moon lit up the Manchester ship canal which if German Luftwaffe followed would guide them to the Burtonwood air depot. Liverpool got a packet during the war.”
There were no restrictions on movement or curfew and “the rationing was just about adequate, we didn’t starve. But the worst thing was the blackouts in the winter, you couldn’t see anything, not even cars and buses. I remember a blackout so intense once that biking home from work after work, Peter ended up on the main railway station platform in Warrington.”
The return home, or what was left of in, in Monaco
Post-war, Francis moved back “home” early 1949. “There was nothing left of the apartment in Monaco, it was an absolute disaster.”
His dad had returned in 1947, alone, travelling by train all the way back to Monaco and found his garage business empty, the cars stolen by the Germans, who apparently “left a note saying something like ‘when the hostilities were finished we’ll hand them back to you.’” (Francis still has the note.)
“There was nothing left in the apartment, the cupboard with my toys had been emptied. We had to sleep on mattresses on the floors. And we stared work on the garage.”
Francis has lived through three reigning Prince’s in Monaco. “I was too young to remember Louis II but Rainier had a pretty good relationship with the people, and decided that buildings built during his reign were not to be more than 13 floors high, except the Millefiori.”
As Rainier had a Rolls Royce, Francis met him through the garage. He and Peter (who returned in 1948 after leaving the air force) were also the ones who collected Princess Grace’s Rover from Paris to Monte Carlo to check for any faults to sort out before Monte Carlo.”
“Princess Grace brought the Americans here and Monte Carlo changed completely, she put Monte Carlo on the map because the Americans loved her marrying a Prince. Americans wanted to come and see where was this place Monte Carlo.”
One of the first things Grace did was to stop the live pigeon shooting, which took place at a range above the train station, where the Fairmont is now. They substituted real pigeons for clay but ended up packing the whole thing in. “They turned the shooting range into an open-air cinema, but if two people in the film were talking quietly and a train went past, you couldn’t hear.”
Monaco then and now
For Francis, Monaco is just “a town like every other town” with commerce and workers commuting in. “It is the press, not the people, that created the image that Monaco s full of glamour, cocktail parties every night, champagne everywhere, and full of rich people. Monaco is a working town, there are lots of people that are poor, lots of people better off, and some are struggling more than others.”
Looking back on 93 years, Francis feels fortunate but admits that living in Monaco was a career choice, coming back after the war to work with his dad at the garage. Their customers were ordinary people (although Sean Connery did bring his Rolls Royce in for service. “It was successful but we made it successful because we worked damn hard. Peter and I would do all the paperwork on the weekends.”
General Motors was big seller in the 1950s and the American car company set up in Monaco, across from where the Marché U is now, on Boulevard Princesse Charlotte “Peter saw their showroom window and said that would be a dream to have. Then business slowed down because of space in Monte Carlo and GM went caput.”
For Francis, there are too many buildings in Monaco and not enough green spaces. “Everything is concrete now, which gives it too much heat in the summer. The Hotel de Paris had the Camembert garden/roundabout, then they got rid of it and it is just concrete. Why not have a little green space instead of a building?
The other standout memory for Francis is when the relationship soured between Prince Rainier and Charles de Gaulle (France celebrated the 50th anniversary of his death on November 9) because of French companies evading taxes by having offices in Monaco. “There were plaques of French businesses on buildings, like the Victoria, and they didn’t pay any income tax. De Gaulle came down and sorted it out with Rainier. Suddenly Monaco had frontiers. Margare, my sister-in-law, would look out the window and see the old women carrying their baskets up the public steps leading up from rue de la Source, where French gendarmes were checking to see if they had anything to declare.”
Remembering and Remembrance
For Remembrance Day commemorations, Francis and two brothers often laid wreaths on avenue Grande Bretagne or were flag bearers at the war memorial in the cemetery in Menton.
“For me, Remembrance Day is about the pilots during the Battle of Britain. If we had lost, that would have been the end of it all. The Germans would be in England, the Americans could never have come over to create a base in England and it would have changed the direction of the war in the German’s favour. There would never have been a D-Day.”
He always thinks back to getting on that ship in Cannes in 1940. “It was the biggest event in my life getting on that ship, crossing the Atlantic as a convoy, all night the horns would blow, which meant changing course in a zigzag formation to confuse any U boats.”
Francis says it’s “not really fair to compare” Covid to a war. “Covid is an illness that I don’t think will ever go away properly and it is unfortunate you can’t go home, or go to France, but you just have to accept it and live through it.
“It’s like during the war. We didn’t like it but we had to live through whatever they threw at us.”
A heartfelt thanks to Ed Wright for assisting in the interview of Francis Wright, which I couldn’t do in person due to Covid restrictions.
Article first published November 19, 2020.
It’s A Date! Monaco National Day
Since 1857, Sovereign Day in Monaco typically coincided with the day of the ruling Prince’s Patron Saint. Prince Louis II broke this tradition when he ascended, however, as Saint-Louis day was on August 25, during summer holidays. He instead chose January 17, the day of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the Patronal Feast of his granddaughter, Princess Antoinette.
When Rainier took over, the feast day of Patron Saint Rainier d’Arezzo fell on November 19, and so this date was consecrated National Day in 1952. Prince Albert decided to keep the same date as it also marked the second part of his investiture in 2005 when he was enthroned at Saint Nicholas Cathedral.
To add a little Christmas cheer this holiday season, I have been trying to launch a Secret Santa Monaco initiative that would both encourage people to support local businesses and add some festive community spirit in the year of ho-ho-hovid.
I was pointed in the direction of DouxVillage Monaco, a new Amazon-like online marketplace in Monaco offering same day delivery for only €5, cofounded by Monegasques Pierre Billon and Sébastien Lambla. The site is scheduled to go live December 8.
After high school, buddies Pierre and Sébastien went their separate professional ways for over 20 years. Sébastien is a senior software architect specialised in agile project management and software development, who lived in London for fifteen years working in Big Data (McKinsey, WhenFresh), banking (Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan) and delivery startups (Just-Eat).
Pierre, a corporate finance and business strategy expert, started his career at the dawn of 4G technologies with Clearwire/Sprint in Europe and was an independent consultant in Germany for some eight years, helping small and medium businesses adapt their corporate strategies to face new challenges. “From managing 8-figure budgets to meeting with customers, the open-mindedness I learned in business abroad is something I hope to bring back with me in Monaco.”
They two entrepreneurs, both impressively fluent in English and Anglophone culture, happened to move back to the Principality around the same time a few years ago. “It was during Covid lockdown in March when we realised that shops in Monaco needed our help,” relates Pierre, who was Customer Experience Director at Monaco Telecom until last year.
“In big European cites online shopping is available but here there is nothing, and local stores and companies need more than short-term relief through a boost in online sales during the Covid-19 crisis,” explains the 38-year-old .
Sébastien, 39, is ensuring that the IT and logistics behind DouxVillage Monaco create a homogenous vendor and customer experience. “We are creating an omnichannel to benefit smaller players who don’t have the tools, knowledge or time to get started online. For the end consumer, this is an online platform where they can order any products they want, from the participating Monaco stores, for quick and easy same-day delivery in or around Monaco or for in-store pickup.”
Pierre is quick to assure, “There is no monthly or entry fee for the shops, and customers get same day delivery in Monaco for €5, even if they buy from multiple shops on DouxVillage.”
When Pierre mentions the €5 delivery fee for Monaco, I fall silent. This is Monaco, no one offers this type of service for so little.
“DouxVillage Monaco is grounded on our years of professional experience and sound business models. However, this idea stems from our hearts and supporting the community where we born,” Pierre admits. “Monaco is unique and local businesses need help.”
Sébastien agrees. “Living in London is a life-changing experience for anyone, let alone when you have grown up on the Cote d’Azur. The mix of cultures, people and nationalities I encountered there have given me more sensitivity to what building an ethical business means – to be a good local player, to help the community and to be open-minded to others. The Brits are much more entrepreneurial, and creating a business is always seen positively, something that is not always the case down here.”
For the moment, DouxVillage Monaco has 15 commerce on board. “All except two came to us after our brief social media campaign,” says Sébastien. “As expected, our model of not charging anything for joining the platform is reassuring – they pay a small commission if they sell, nothing if not – and many of them also like that we focus on local delivery as they don’t want to compete in price with the French or international market.”
Pierre adds, “Interestingly, we have a split of about 50/50 in terms of shop profiles – half of them always wanted to go online but never did, so they like that we take care of everything, and the other half are experienced online sellers with an individual online store. For them, they like that through us they can add a new sales and communication channel and reach new customers.”
After its launch on December 8, an expansion of DouxVillage – the name reflects the movement of consumers wanting to get back to an idea of community – is planned for 2021 to other European markets. “Working abroad taught me that everything is possible if you’re ready to do the work, no matter how big or small,” Pierre says.
“People will still go to shops in person but this is a good initiative to offer an alternative to Amazon by putting local Monaco stores online,” he insists.
I’ll let you know whether Secret Santa Monaco takes off but regardless, Sébastien Lambla and Pierre Billon are delivering a real cadeau to both businesses and shoppers with DouxVillage Monaco. And you can win prizes if you shop before Christmas.
Can Anyone Stop Amazon? Amazon has announced that this year’s holiday shopping period has been the biggest in its history. Although the e-tail giant didn’t provide a hard figure, Adobe Analytics reported that on Black Friday online spending jumped 22% this year to a record $9 billion while, according to Sensormatic Solutions, the number of shoppers physically going to stores dropped 52% compared with last year. Truist Securities on Wall Street predicts 42 cents of every dollar spent in the US during this holiday season will end up in Amazon’s coffers (up from 36 cents last year).
Article first published December 1, 2020.
Let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎ MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco
“I’m a Dubliner who loves the rest of Ireland,” enthuses Paula Farquharson-Blengino, who grew up and went to an all-girls Dominican convent school. She picked up a Bachelors and Masters from Trinity College Dublin, famous for the Book of Kells medieval manuscript. “This education was a window to the world. My first stop after graduation was New York and having Trinity on my CV opened doors to interviews, landing me a prize starter marketing job at Christian Dior USA-LVMH headquarters.”
This was the start of Paula’s corporate world journey with companies, including L’Oréal and Pretty Polly, spanning the luxury industry and publishing with a stop in Australia and back to Ireland. “Then 20 years ago I followed my dream to base myself in France permanently and haven’t looked back.”
Moving to Nice, Paula changed everything – lifestyle, language and career. She leveraged her communications experience and landed a journalist/editor job at the English-language publication The Riviera Times (now Riviera Insider). “That honed my skills to tell a story although I guess being Irish it came quite naturally!” Writing across a wide range of topics, the job expanded her network in the region.
One ofthe Times partners was Top Marques Monaco so when the time came to leave the newspaper after eight years, she was hired there as Press Officer by the founder Lawrie Lewis. “I learnt a lot from him, like attention to detail and the importance of people to ensure an unforgettable event.”
When he retired, Paula moved back into the corporate world – “quite a change” with the oil, gas and renewable energy industry. “SBM Offshore is listed on the Dutch stock-exchange so that gained me a whole new tool box of skills around governance and compliance. Confidentiality was key in my role when talking to the media; I was a gatekeeper for non-financial information from the company,” she shares.
All the experience that I’ve gained during my varied career, led her to her current position as Director of the Princess Grace Irish Library. “I enjoy working in the non-profit sector now. The Library is under the aegis of the Fondation Princesse Grace, which does such good work helping sick children and assisting young people embark on training for careers in the cultural domains such as literature, music and dance. This is a way to put my corporate experience to work for the good of others,” Paula says.
The mom of two adds, “When I was new to the region, the Princess Grace Irish Library felt like a home from home. It is a lovely, intimate ambiance and over the years I met so many wonderful people at the regular talks – and not just Irish. It is nice to chat with people who ‘get’ your Irish humour and Irishisms!”
The Princess Grace Irish Library represents a loving tribute to Princess Grace’s attachment for Ireland by her husband Prince Rainier III, who inaugurated it in November 1984, and the Princess’ personal collection of books and music scores form the heart of the library. “My favourite is a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses published in 1922. But it goes much beyond its content. We organise our own events and we facilitate conferences, symposia bringing people and academics together, we host writers via the twice-yearly bursaries supported by The Ireland Funds of Monaco.”
This October the Library has a symposium planned with academics from Villanova University close to Philadelphia (Princess Grace’s hometown) and there is a desire to develop more collaboration with the schools in Monaco. Princess Grace supported the arts and culture and the Library continues her legacy, operating under the aegis of the Fondation Princesse Grace.
With Covid, the Library remains open but reservations are necessary to ensure limited numbers and everyone’s safety. “We have the Monaco Safe Label. The health crisis forced us to review how things have always been done and adapt – we have gone online with events and even when normal life resumes, the digital world will allow us to be creative and reach more people, beyond the cosy, intimate setting of the physical Library. There’s no doubt that people are craving face-to-face events but I see us benefitting from having a hybrid offering with both live and online events going forward.”
On St Patrick’s Day, the library was honoured to host a small event with Irish music and drama in the presence of Prince Albert and his children, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella. We filmed it as we could not invite Friends of the Library due to health measures.
“On the programme was traditional music by the pupils of the l’Académie de Musique Fondation Prince Rainier III and a semi-dramatized reading by actors from the Monaco-Ireland Arts Society. The pupils were so happy after a year void of performances.
On a personal level, Paula admits that with pandemic it has been hard not being able to travel to Ireland to see family and friends but “being at the Library allows me the luxury of engaging face-to-face with people safely.”
Paula Farquharson-Blengino has found a silver lining in the Covid cloud. “The past year underlines that people value culture. They also yearn for a physical place to enjoy it and by keeping our door open, the Library acts like an oasis, where you can get lost in books and meet other like-minded people here.”
Located at 9 Rue Princesse Marie de Lorraine in the old town, the Princes Grace Irish Library is open Monday to Thursday 9 am to 4 pm and Friday 9 am to 3:30 pm.
From a young age, David Rossi has been passionate about cooking and so it was no surprise that he studied four years at the Lycée Technique et Hôtelier de Monaco (where you can lunch at the Cordon d’Or restaurant for €21) to focus on becoming a chef. “My interest in food is thanks to my Italian grandmother for whom I have nothing but culinary memories.”
The Monegasque opened A Cantina on October 26, 2020, having spent 12 years working in kitchens across the Principality, including the now-demolished Piedra Del Sol Mexican restaurant on rue du Portier and Pasta Palace in Galerie Park Palace, which became Valentin in 2013 and is now A Cantina.
“We seized an opportunity and after a long battle we were successful in opening A Cantina,” David explains, adding that they have a different clientele than Valentin, ranging from those working in the area to friends he grew up with to tourists passing by.
The 38-year-old had been trying to open his own restaurant for 13 years, a dream he has shared with his wife Jeanne, whom he met when they worked together way back at Pasta Palace.
“My first day of work at Pasta Palace in 2007 I saw David working in the kitchen and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him,” reminisces Jeanne, who grew up in Vallée de la Roya. “Eight months later we were together and we have now been married nine years.”
Above and beyond offering great service and bringing together friends and family over a meal, Jeanne says they hope the passion David channels into his dishes will evoke a childhood memory for their customers, a link to a wonderful emotion or convivial moment of yesteryear.
A Cantina’s menu is seasonal so changes every three months. “Our menu is simple but all of our products are fresh and seasonal so you won’t find tomatoes in December,” David assures. In addition to the 8 or 9 rotating dishes for the weekly menu (they are closed weekends), there is a plat du jour for €16, including a non-alcoholic beverage and coffee, or €20 if you want dessert also.
They also prepare tasty Apèro boxes (€18) which include hot (say, barbajuans) and cold (charcuterie) dishes that you can order before 4 pm (+377 93 50 60 00) for pick-up before 6.
In normal times, A Cantina will be open Monday to Friday from 7 am to 5 pm, with tapas evenings and wine tastings on Thursday and Friday. Currently with Covid, they can only serve lunch only from 11 am to 3 pm but by the end of the month they will be offering takeaway and delivery.
As the restaurant industry has suffered immeasurably from Covid restrictions over the past year, David Rossi says “it was now or never” in taking the leap to open A Cantina. “Covid teaches us to question ourselves and to push ourselves beyond our limits. There are six of us working here – including Sophie and Claire who we worked together with when it was Pasta Palace – and we are a true family, same boat, same fight!”
A Cantina 27 ave de la Costa Galerie Park Palace
Food images courtesy of A Cantina.
Article first published February 16, 2021.
Let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎ MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco
Have you taken a walk up in Monaco Ville lately? The situation is heartbreaking. Streets typically filled with the bustle of tourists are at a standstill. Shops and restaurants, some having to pay out €6,000 a month in rent, are facing extinction. As one elderly Monegasque women made clear to me: “Monaco Ville est mort.”
Alexandra Rinaldi, who owns Les 5 Saveurs à Monaco on rue Basse, is trying to survive. No stranger to the Monaco business scene, the Monegasque took over her parent’s business, Rinaldi Ship Chandler, which opened in 1970 on Quai Antoine, and before that, in 2010, she ran Les Trésors de la Mer, a clothing and decoration shop on rue de Millo in La Condamine.
Having sold both businesses, she had the opportunity to open a boutique in Monaco Ville that could cater to both Monaco residents and tourists. “The community on the Rock is elderly but we have people who know our history and share their stories in the streets.”
In March 2019, Alexandra opened Les 5 Saveurs à Monaco with her dog Bella at her side, selling scents of Provence, food and cosmetics. But things were a bit tight. “I ended up having to add some souvenirs to make ends meet. Tourists love anything that says Monaco,” she says.
The first year for any business is never easy, but then Covid hit. “It has been very difficult. I closed on March 14 but had the right to deliver food—tapenade, artichokes, olive oil, jams, herbs de Provence—which wasn’t a huge amount but it helped to pay the rent.”
Alexandra, who has lived most of her life between La Condamine and Fontvieille, reopened post-confinement on May 4. “I was so surprised to see clients from Monaco come that first week to support us. They didn’t spend large amounts but it helped. But by July and August, locals stayed away from le Rocher as tourists slowly came back. From August, it became mandatory to wear a mask in all les ruelles of Monaco Ville. “You didn’t have to wear masks in other parts of Monaco so locals stopped coming altogether.”
Once again, Alexandra reverted to small deliveries to loyal clients. Then the French confinement Version 2.0 began on October 30.
Fortunately, a month ago, she had started to develop her business by selling Italian sweaters and vests—for €29 to €35—from a supplier she has worked with for 15 years. “I tried to find something that you can’t find elsewhere in Monaco so to not be in competition with other businesses here and although it’s not same turnover, it helps. I am going to expand with clothes and handbags that will appeal to passers-by and people from cruise ships.” (In 2019, there were 182,436 cruise passengers in Monaco. Since March 11 and until 2021 cruise ships are banned from stopovers in the Principality).
“In 2021, I’ll stop selling food because I’ve lost so much sales due to the best before dates.”
Alexandra is forthcoming. She admits she doesn’t have the means to buy items in advance and can only sell clothing because it is on consignment.
“As commerce, we are stuck. We can’t buy stock in advance that we don’t know if we are going to sell. This is a huge problem for businesses in Monaco but especially in Monaco Ville with souvenir shops. We already know it will be tough until 2024.”
Alexandra has resorted to putting her boutique up for sale — “I am a relatively optimistic person in life but it has become a hard battle” — but is continuing with business as usual.
Her line of Panier des Sens—natural cosmetics and scents of Provence hand creams, soaps and fragrances all made in Marseilles — is her top seller, for both clients in Monaco and tourists. “The products I love sell well, even with the complications from Covid health measures to wear a mask and using a test stick to try creams.” The Colline de Provence products also sell well.
There is a scent for every budget here. And for Christmas, Alexandra will make up gift boxes from €10 to €150.
Open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm or anytime by appointment on 06 40 61 80 28.
Les 5 Saveurs 6 bis rue Basse, Monaco Ville
Article first published November 2020.
Let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎ MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco
Before Covid took over headlines this year, it was announced that the Centre Commerical in Fontvieille would be expanded into a 4-storey glass building with a multiplex cinema, a 600-spot car park and state-owned housing on the top floor. The €300 million project is scheduled for delivery in 2027, and will see the shopping mall expand from 13,000 sqm to 14,000 sqm of retail space, growing from 38 to 70 stores.
The Centre Commerical first opened its doors in 1992 and nearly half of the original shops are still there. One of them is the independently owned perfumery Edith Harlay, created by Florence Pronzati and named as homage to her mother.
Energetic and welcoming, Florence was truly born for customer service. Not only does she have a natural ability to make people feel happy but, in her opinion, “A sale is not a sale unless you’ve spent one-on-one time with a client giving advice.”
As a child, the Monegasque was “always attracted to pretty things and makeup.” She studied to become an aesthetician and in 1987 opened the beauty institute Cristal Esthétique, which she operated for five years. She then launched Edith Harlay in 1992. “I ran the two business for a few years and then decided to concentrate on the perfumery and so I sold Cristal, which is still around today.”
It’s been a tough year for commerce having to close completely for two months during the first coronavirus confinement. “It has been hard but Christmas is coming and we are still here smiling even with a mask,” Florence assures.
And she has noticed a trend as a result of the pandemic. “Consumers are trying to shop intelligently. Before Covid, we’d have 80 people come into the store and 50 would buy something. Now we have fewer customers but out of the 50 who come in, 48 make a purchase because they need something.”
Florence emphasises, “Customers can’t touch anything in the store. We help the client and we disinfect all the time, from the debit card machine after every use to the store itself. For every one or two customers who turn around and leave because they don’t like the new measures we have in place, I have 8 others who say thank you. If one of my employees tests positive, I would have to close.”
Including Florence, the perfumery has a team of five, all aestheticians, who give lots of advice, whether a client wants to buy makeup – “we take the time to show them by example, doing one eye and then letting them do the other”– or perfume. “Whether you want to buy for yourself or as a gift, there are a number of questions we ask to match a perfume with a personality, such as are you an introvert or extrovert, do you live in a sunny climate, what is your work environment?”
The top selling perfume at the moment for women is Libre by Yves Saint Laurent. J’adore remains a hot item, as does any Chanel scent, and Idôle by Lancome, which came out last year. Florence also carries the niche perfume, Serge Lutens (€120), which is hard to find elsewhere.
I did not know this but Florence explains for many French women born in the Sixties and Seventies, Nina Ricci’s L’air du Temps, with its signature dove bottle stopper, was their first fragrance. “It was my first perfume,” says Florence, “and now Les Sorbets by Nina Ricci, part of her Les Belles collection,is what young girls often wear.”
For men, Terre d’Hermès is the biggest seller at the moment along with Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million cologne, sold in what looks like a bar of gold.
On the makeup side, Florence says, “I cannot say that one brand is better than the other. Chanel, YSL, Christian Dior, Lancôme … it all depends on what you are looking for but we can help you choose.”
The boutique also has a nail bar (€32 for a simple manicure with massage and scrub) and does eyebrow waxing on site.
There are lots of Christmas gift options “for all budgets,” including gift boxes with a focus on certain brands, fun themed gifts packages starting from €19.80, hand made Acqui de Parma candles and even advent calendars for couples.
“I know I’m repeating myself,” says Florence, “but our biggest strength is that we here to explain the products to the customers and it is really satisfying to hear them say ‘Thank you so much, I really appreciate your advice’ as they leave with a purchase in hand.”
Well, when Grace Kelly, who would have been 91 today, picked up the Oscar for The Country Girl in 1955, she said on the red carpet that wearing Chateau Krigler 12 perfume was her “lucky charm.” Maybe Florence Pronzati can help you discover yours.
Open Monday to Saturday, 9:30 to 7: 30 p.m.
Parfumerie Edith Harlay Centre Commercial Fontvieille
Article first published November 12, 2020.
Let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎ MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco