Anissa Mediouni

Anissa Mediouni. Photo: Carin Verbruggen

Anissa Mediouni began her career with Engel & Völkers Residential in 2007, where she played a crucial role in developing the franchising system and supported the expansion of over 20 offices. In 2013, she was approached to develop the yachting division in Monaco, and together with an expert with experience in the top five yachting brokerage houses, they developed a network of “unparalleled synergies to provide an extensive portfolio of luxury services all under one brand name.” Three years later, she was appointed CEO Engel & Völkers Yachting, located on boulevard Albert 1er.

“Engel & Völkers has been extremely successful for over 40 years and has built not only a wonderful brand reputation but an extensive database of international clients,” says Anissa Mediouni, who speaks English, French, Italian and Lithuanian. “And thanks to the opening of our head office opening, I had the opportunity to move to Monaco. There is no better place in the world to offer yachting services to clients than Monaco, the Yachting Capital, and we see that there is a lot of interest in yachting services coming from within our network.”

Yachting is the fourth largest sector in Monaco, according to the national statistics office, IMSEE, with 1,561 offshore employees and 252 companies generating 5% of revenue – €753 million. In fact, a quarter of the world’s 100 largest superyachts fly the Monaco Yacht Club flag. 

For Anissa, Monaco is not only the capital of yachting but represents an international community in the heart of the Côte d’Azur, with the Monaco Yacht Show – aka “the event of the year” – bringing together all of the industry’s high-end players, clients, shipyards, and brokerage houses to the Principality.

“Many superyacht owners worldwide have memberships to the Yacht Club de Monaco and enjoy the social climate the Principality has to offer. Unfortunately, the pandemic has put a hold on things. However, it has not taken away the optimistic spirit of the lively capital and the feeling of security.”

Photo and feature photo: Arsi Sebastien.

Despite Covid, the yachting industry remains resilient. “It has affected primarily the charter sector,” explains Anissa. “At the start of the pandemic, we received many charter requests as clients were eager to spend their holidays onboard a private yacht in complete security rather than a busy hotel or resort. However, as the situation developed, most of the ports closed and, due to the travel restrictions put in place, we saw clients postponing their charter escapes and then, unfortunately, cancelling.”

On the sales side, Anissa relays that buyers postponed their purchase projects as their businesses were affected by the pandemic and, without a clear picture of when things would get back to normal, they were more reluctant to jump into sizeable financial commitments. “On a positive note,” she adds, “we have continued to close sales transactions throughout the year, even with the challenge of dealing with travel restrictions for visits, surveys and sea trials.”

Looking to the future, she sees that clients are already planning their next holiday onboard a yacht. “Chartering a yacht is for many clients a safe way to spend their holidays in the current situation. Those looking to buy might speed up the buying process to have the yacht ready for summer 2021 and spend their holidays on board.”

On the personal side, Anissa admits that she misses “the travelling side of the job” but Covid has allowed her to spend more time with her family, as well as to discover that virtual meetings could be as efficient as meetings in person. “I believe that a good balance for the future will be essential,” she remarks.

Anissa, who has a 4-year Language Interpretation and Translation degree from the VLEKHO Business School in Brussels, agrees that the yachting industry is “still known as a male-driven industry” but she believes in “a good balance between male and female presence,” as both have an added value to bring in personal and professional relationships.

“Men and women tend to view things from different angles. I also believe we still attach too much attention to gender and age – if somebody is good at their job, neither age or gender should matter. I have always focused on the added value I can bring to a company and always stay true to my values, which has brought me where I am today. I hope this will encourage more women to take a leading role in the Yachting industry,” encourages Anissa Mediouni.

Riva in the Movie 

The top floor lounge at the Yacht Club de Monaco – Riva Aquarama – is named after one of its original members, the inimitable Lia Riva. When the Monaco resident first joined the yacht club, it was a tiny unassuming cubbyhole along Quai Antoine 1er, just down from Monaco Boat Service, the business her father Carlo Riva opened in 1959.

Carlo was a pioneer in the development of Monaco’s boating and yachting industry. He helped transform Port Hercules with pontoons and it was his idea to build a 100-meter tunnel under the palace to store his iconic mahogany motorboats, like one would store wine in a temperature-appropriate cellar. He shared his vision with his friend Prince Rainier and when workers started blowing up the rock, “the palace windows trembled.”

Stars like Bardot, Loren and Clooney fell in love with the iconic motorboats with white and turquoise interiors while directors used Riva boats in over 60 films, from Nikita to Men in Black and from franchises like James Bond to Agatha Christie.

A new coffee table book, Riva in the Movie, gives behind-the-scene snapshots of the classic boats acting out their roles, along with photos, original film posters and stories told by the starts who drove them.

Alicia Sedgwick

Communications Coach Alicia Sedgwick. Photos: Nancy Heslin

You may know her as a host of TEDxMonteCarlo, a third of the Lib Day Darlings, a Public Speaking teacher at the International University of Monaco or even Alicia Sedgwick Communications Coach. 

Now Alicia can add published author to her list of achievements, as her book Communicating Through Change is due to be released on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format on January 19, the same day as she is throwing a Covid-safe ZOOM launch party.

“My book provides an insight into my life, and shares with the reader what I have learned through the experiences of change. I write in a way that whoever reads the book can deal with their experiences and come through them with strength and courage,” Alicia explains.

Having had a sneak peek of a few chapters in Communicating Through Change, Alicia powerfully puts herself out there without playing the victim or preacher. From trying to maintain a heterosexual lifestyle to coping with health uncertainties, she writes in a concise and effectively formatted style, written for real people who want to make real changes.

“We all go through change in our life and anyone at any age can relate to the experiences I write about in this book. Also, the practical guidance and applicable exercises enable the reader to communicate their way through the variety of different changes,” Alicia emphasises.

It is hard to imagine Alicia in her former life. Originally from Leigh on Sea in Essex – “I was actually born in the room in my mum and dad’s house, that was my bedroom!” – the professional blues singer and stage performer originally studied Law and Sociology at Warwick University “because I had more chance of getting a job at the end of my degree.” 

She became a solicitor, eventually specialising in Family Law, and having her own practice. “I loved being able to help people through very difficult times for them but I hated injustice. And I did not like being undermined by my male Partners!”

She adds, “When I came to the South of France, I knew I wanted to be totally true to myself, and that meant not being a lawyer and having to tolerate all the restrictions and regulations imposed that inhibited one’s ability to serve my clients.”

In the process of a major life transition Alicia “took strength and comfort in the good that I had in my life, as I always do. Making the most of life.”

Through two South African ladies living here, Alicia was introduced “to my beloved” Annette Anderson. She travelled back and forth from the UK to see her, until she finally moved here full-time and began living a more authentic life. “Having the incredible love and support of Annette helps me beyond words to believe in myself. Finding a love that is completely balanced, equal, and where each person can be themselves and independent gives tremendous strength and peace.”

Alicia, who is a Communications Expert for the Vitruvius Partners Group, continues to meet change head on. “I learned during the health pandemic that as long as we can stay well, and are able to work, I can be very much in the present, and see this change as an opportunity.” And, more than ever, people are needing her services to help them communicate effectively, and with impact, on camera and online.

Hard to imagine but she admits, “I have been without confidence for a lot of my life, especially as a lawyer. Only in recent years have I felt fulfilled – through teaching, training and coaching in public speaking, presentation and communication skills, all of which help people, give them confidence, empower, motivate and inspire – and come into my own.”

Communicating Through Change by Alicia Sedgwick is available in paperback and for kindle on Amazon from January 19. There are only a few more spots open for her release party here – sign up here.

APEM

Martine Ackermann, President of APEM, the Parent-Teacher Association of Monaco. Photo: Nancy Heslin

Founded in 1965, the Parent-Teacher Association of Monaco (Association des parents d’élèves de Monaco, APEM) represents the majority of 6,000 families who have children attending one of the country’s 10 French public schools and 2 private Catholic schools (see list below).

APEM is non-political association made up of volunteer parents of different nationalities and religions, residents and non-residents, acting as the link between parents and the schools with the Board of Education and government. Martine Ackermann has been president since 2018, voted in three consecutive years at the AGM held every October. 

While the association has its challenges every year – from increasing visibility so that parents understand that APEM is about more than book fairs and school snacks to finically helping families in difficulty for school trips – it goes without saying that the year 2020 presented a whole new ballgame.

“With the health pandemic last year, we have been approached massively by parents who have expressed their concerns,” explains Martine. “For example, we had to answer questions about wearing masks in class, online courses and the 2020 end of year Bac, which confinement completely derailed.” 

Martine reveals that concerns over the health protocol in place at schools has also been a big issue for parents. “We have discussed this with the Department of National Education as well as the government. And even though the situation is being handled very well, parents have legitimate fears. We are here to help them and make their voices heard.”

In a bid to drive membership and help local businesses during this difficult time, Martine has organised a project under the motto “APEM is committed to supporting local businesses.”

As she says, “The Covid crisis is a disaster for commerce, so APEM is partnering for free with local businesses and offering a 10% to 15% discount to our members when they present their valid membership card. This benefits both shops and our members, who very often are running a business themselves in Monaco.”

As president, Martine heads the Steering Committee, which includes two vice-presidents (Raffaella Olivieri and Penda Gebel), a treasurer, (Maria Contaldo), general secretary (Vanessa Erbaggio) and six additional members representing different schools for checks and balances. At the start of each school year, parents can volunteer as part of the General Committee.

“These branches of each school are key,” she states. “It’s the way they represent parents and manage activities in their schools that can give good visibility for the wider APEM.”

JOB ALERT
APEM is looking for a secretary who speaks French and some English
for a part-time CDI contract, Monday to Friday, from 9:30 am-1:30 pm. Flexible hours, minimum wage. Contact: martine007@libello.com

In a “normal” year, APEM attends various committees, like the National Education Committee and Scholarship Commission, where they participate in the allocation of grants for students. They also organise conferences, like the annual Language Travel Forum for parents looking to send their children on an internship at a school abroad (the forum has been postponed to February 2022.)

Up until Covid, one of the big issues APEM was quite involved with was the Catering Committee, discussing organic canteen options and less food waste (especially bread) with the National Education and caterers of the various menus offered to students.

They also work with a commission for children with learning difficulties, the DYS commission, the administrative commissions for the Pavillon Bosio Visual Arts School and the Rainier III Music Academy, the Energy Pact commission and others. 

“The commissions are used to transmit all the parents’ concerns and to offer solutions. We group together recurring questions and then work with the Department of National Education to get results – like reducing the weight of school bag and cutting down on homework during the holidays,” Martine asserts. “All information is confidential. We never give the names of parents who trust in us completely. We are here to defend the interests of students and parents, as well as represent them.”

Martine points out APEM measures progress by the number of new members from one year to the next. “The message to parents is that APEM is all of us – we are all one! Even if parents don’t have the time to get involved, they can join and we’ll represent them.”

During Covid and confinement, 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

Merrily Lustig-Tornatore

Merrily Lustig-Tornatore with friends Debbie and Mary Lynn at No Finish Line.

I first met American Merrily Lustig-Tornatore at Stars’n’Bars on November 3, 2016. It was election night in the US and MonacoUSA was hosting a party in the days when it was normal to have a room full of mask-free people sitting on top of each other, drinking from the bar and cheering on a country that was once synonymous with democracy.

“I decided that the only way Europeans and the rest of the world could know who Americans were was to be exemplary and bright and funny so they would not get the wrong idea by seeing Trump,” says the long-time Monaco resident.

Born in New York, Merrily moved in 1964 to Killington, Vermont – via boarding school in Switzerland with a couple of months in Karachi and also in Paris – to be a ski bum. “I got my Vermont real estate licence in 1971 … I think!” 

What a unique name. “When my parents were married, in the Forties, there was a cartoon in the Sunday paper with a little girl named Merrily who had long reddish-blond braids. My father liked her so much that I ended up being Merrily and having to live up to her reputation.”

Merrily comes from a line of accomplished women. In the Thirties, her mom started Airlines, the first in-flight aviation magazine, and was a speechwriter at NASA for the associate administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight for the Apollo program.

In 1983, she had just received a “hard-earned” Emergency Medical Technicians accreditation in Vermont when she got a call from a family member in need. “My mother’s sister who ran Society Magazine for Société des Bains de Mer needed help so away I went to Monaco. It was really an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Working alongside her aunt, creative genius June Quin, and her financial guru husband Mark, Merrily replaced her cousin Vally who had left for London. “You name it, I did it. Having been brought up in the publishing business, it seemed second nature. I think I learned to read by helping the family proofread.”

In 1986, she met Rémy, her first aid instructor at the Monaco Red Cross and “after a long engagement” they wed in 2009. “You can never be too sure you have made the right choice,” Merrily laughs. (Rémy retired two years ago as director of First Aid for the Monaco Red Cross.)

Merrily has been a member of MonacoUSA for over 20 years and also serves on its Board. She has laid the memorial wreath for association to commemorate when the  517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team led the liberation of Monaco from German occupation on September 3, 1944.

She was also vice-president of the American Aid Association of the French Riviera, founded in 1948 “to assist American citizens who find themselves hospitalised, jailed, resident in retirement homes or facing other temporary financial difficulties.” For years, Princess Grace worked personally both with the association and with the former American Consulate in Nice, assisting Americans living in the region. The association, which shut down in 2019, had strong ties with the Monaco Red Cross and its social work and youth outreach.

Following the Bastille attacks in Nice in 2016, Merrily spent ten days in Nice as a First Aid volunteer with the Monaco Red Cross. “We were helping the psychologically wounded and sat with people until a professional could see them. There was an American woman who came in with an aura of pain, and I just sat apart offering to translate if necessary. If I ran into Americans, I would help them liaise with the consulate in Marseilles if they so desired.”

Merrily’s current claim to fame is to have received the Covid vaccine yesterday in Monaco. “It is absolutely fantastic, considering the world population, to be one of the first people to have the honour to live in a place where I am so well treated.”

Merrily getting Covid vaccination at Espace Leo Ferré on Wednesday.

She was contacted by letter from the Ministry of State (see letter), signed both by minister of state Pierre Dartout and minister of health and social affairs Didier Gamerdinger, explaining who, when, how and why to get vaccinated. The letter invited her to make an appointment if she wanted to get the vaccine. Additionally, there was a full page of information addressing “Les Vaccins à ARNm” – how it differs from a traditional vaccination, benefits, possible side-effects and so forth. It states that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna (EU-approved this week) are the vaccines that will be used in Monaco.

“The organisation of the campaign is fantastic. I phoned, it took ages to get through, and said YES. They called Monday and asked if I could come in Wednesday. I was so excited, I could hardly get the words out.”

Merrily says she becomes livid when people don’t wear masks. “Being really short and OLD, I occasionally walk into a grocery store and what not saying loudly, ‘SVP, mettez vos masques sur vos nez!’ It feels great. I’m too small to hit so they usually obey.”

Her vaccination appointment was for 9:20 am and she arrived 10 minutes in advance to check in and be interviewed by the doctor with the usual questions.

“I told Rémy after I got the Covid shot Wednesday morning that if I passed out during the day, don’t blame it on the vaccine. It could very well be because of the on-going election debacle in the US.”

2016 US Election Night at Stars’n’Bars.

Bertrand Petyt

Bertrand Petyt comes from a long line of scientists. The Monaco resident was expected to follow suit, as well as manage the family business, but after completing a Master of Science in Paris he moved to New York on a whim. “In 1996, I graduated from Long Island University with an MBA in Managerial Finance and that was the beginning of my career in hospitality.”

With persistence, and after a few years of learning the ropes in the American hotel industry (where he found a mentor in his general manager), Bertrand had his first opportunity to pursue his passion in the cruise line industry. “Don’t ask me why, but even as a little boy I can remember looking at cruise ship catalogues and I have collected more than 35,000 cruise brochures from all over the world, from all cruise lines, past and present.”

He says he will always remember joining his first cruise ship, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ flagship Seven Seas Mariner in Vancouver as a junior officer. “Stepping on the gangway, I cried. The HR manager thought I needed comforting but I told him they were tears of joy as I was living my dream.”

He worked for two cruise lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea Cruises (formerly owned by Monegasque Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio), both at sea and on land, in various positions, including corporate HR manager and hotel director. “Cruising the world was amazing and I believe that travelling is the most precious learning experience. I left the industry in 2014 but I still carry that passion and, who knows, maybe one day the sea will beckon me again.”

Bertrand returned to Monaco and became Chief Executive Officer managing the professional assets of a prominent Chinese family established in the Principality. “The family’s wealth came from real estate development but by then Parkview World had become an operator of luxury sites and assets, including hotels, restaurants, yachts, luxury shopping malls, luxury residences and museums.”

In September 2020, Bertrand transformed his knowledge of the hospitality and luxury sectors into Vitruvius Partners Group, a business he launched with his friend Lilian Bougy, first in Paris and, later this year, in Monaco. This game-changing advisory firm with 12 expert advisors and six Business Ambassadors specialises in an externalised Change Management Office solution.

“In short, we offer small- and medium-companies in corporate hospitality the benefit of change management, leadership development and corporate eco-system redesign services, a business format similar to the one of a family-office or a legal firm providing a specific service at a cost-effective price,” explains Bertrand.

Vitruvius Partners Group advises leading organisations on the four dimensions of business change — people, processes, technology and risk control — identifying problem areas and making organisations more responsive to change in their industries and markets, equipping them to take maximum advantage of emerging opportunities.

“Our business model is highly relevant and also innovative in its approach to change but we are not consultants,” he emphasises. “We are expert advisors that bring a wealth of strategic and operational experience, as opposed to only the ability to audit and sell ‘off-the-shelf’ systems like most consulting companies.”

Although the idea of this venture had been brewing for a while, the first Covid lockdown gave Bertrand that final now-or-never push. He decided to leave his secure CEO position and jump into entrepreneurship with the launch of Vitruvius Partners Group.

In the same year, the academic’s Iconic In The Midst Of Chaos was published. “This book was written as an attempt to provide guidance to those who understand that chaos – like what we are experiencing today – can be an opportunity to become iconic. The approach is a very holistic one, albeit based on proven techniques to install great leadership skills in every manager.”

On a personal level, Bertrand reflects that 2020 was a year of empathy as he witnessed most of his friends in the cruise industry affected on so many levels – losing their jobs, stuck on ships for months, separated from families, and a few suicides as well.

“I felt powerless yet during this crisis, I witnessed such kindness, community cohesion and incredible support from colleagues and friends. It produced my motto, “to enable people to tell their true stories so they may inspire greatness in their lives and for others.”

Bertrand admits that when he left Europe in 1994 for the US he never thought he would return to the continent and relocating to Monaco in 2007 was with reluctance based on his experiences as a teenager. “When I was young, Monaco did not have much to offer except for glamour and tourist-oriented activities and it was difficult for a teenager to grow with a sense of what the world had to offer. I would often spend free days in Nice, where I felt more challenged intellectually. Monaco has evolved in a much more dynamic and open way. It is a place of innovation, creativity and education – the International University of Monaco is, in my opinion, a great success story for the country. Monaco is still a village but a vibrant village,” he comments.

Bertrand, whose surname evolved from its Dutch origins Petïjt, is not a natural networker and in a large group you’ll most likely find him in the corner of the room with the people he knows and trusts. “I network for business, mostly online through LinkedIn as it offers access to a wider array of interesting people.” In Monaco, he’s been involved with various associations like Skal Monaco, the Propeller Club and Global Business Owners.

While Bertrand would chalk 2020 up as a success professionally, over the past two months an autoimmune disease has been causing him debilitating inflammation. “Nothing to worry about long term but I could not even open a laptop let alone have the energy to think. I am an extremely positive person but I can tell you that when faced with such pain, your positivity disappears and you discover a darker side of yourself, one that does not allow you to see the future as bright as you should. For the time being, I have had to slow down all my activities and focus on fully recovering my health and energy. I talk about this in my book, how our abilities rely on four pillars – our health, spirit, mental and emotional state.”

Bertrand Petyt adds, “Sometimes life has a way of reminding us how important it is to take care of our bodies. Health is the cornerstone of everything.”

Madeleine Karlsson

Madeleine Karlsson. Photo: Nancy Heslin

Madeleine Karlsson and I met in October 2016 on the Run For Laura, in memory of the 13-year-old Bastille Day victim and daughter of SBM employee Jacques Borla. We instantly hit it off, especially as we share a passion for Sweden (she is part-Swedish and I write for ÖTILLÖ Swimrun). Gorgeous on the inside and out, she is the real deal.

At the time, Maddy had been living in Monaco for about seven years and teaching Pilates privately. “I had been doing this for years and was often asked to provide clients with workout videos for when they were travelling or when I wasn’t around,” she says.

She also started training as a Nutrition & Health Coach online, working with people from all around the globe, who were also asking for workouts. “My clients in Monaco started asking for recipes and my clients online asked for workouts so the idea came to put it all in one program online,” she explains. She started Fit Body Fresh Mind at the beginning of 2019. 

Maddy confesses: “I’d always loved the idea of having an online business but it wasn’t something I ever thought I could do since the tech part really scared me. The early days definitely involved a steep learning curve and a lot of cursing at my computer but somehow I ended up with an online program that is now followed by several hundred people from over all corners of the Earth.”

In 2019, she partnered with Monaco resident and fellow Swede Janni Deler Olsson (wife of influencer Jon) and they added a pregnancy program for women expecting. Maddy also added group coaching programs and a mini-program in French, as well as (pre-Covid) Pilates, Yoga and Surf retreats.

In October 2019, she packed up a decade of her life in Monaco and moved to Costa Rica. “It had been my dream to live here since I first set foot in the country in 2008 but somehow the time didn’t feel right until now. I think having an online business definitely helped in taking the leap.”

Life in Costa Rica couldn’t be more different than life in Monaco. “I live in a jungle town on the Pacific Coast, around a five-hour drive from the capital. The roads here are pretty crazy, although they did get paved recently, and I replaced my Mini with a 4WD that I only just manage to squeeze my surfboard into. I haven’t seen or heard a sports car since I left Monaco and I can’t say I miss it.”

A fixture in Monaco’s social scene, Maddy says, “I don’t remember the last time I wore makeup or heals or that I dressed up for that matter. There is no real occasion here so I spend most of my life in swimwear, Yoga wear and flip flops.”

With the rain, she sometimes wears rubber boots (especially with Hurricane Eta) and she recently bought a horse. “So yeah, life is pretty different and I can’t really think of anything that is the same as my life in Monaco, but I am loving every minute of it. I really needed the change.”

Madeleine Karlsson Facebook

She admits Covid was challenging and the drastic lockdowns prevented her from going to the beach, the main attraction where she lives. “I did miss Monaco at times, especially during the first confinement when I watched on Facebook my old neighbourhood being entertained by Martine Ackermann and Didier Casnati of the Gypsy Queens on their balconies. It would have been a lonely time regardless of where I was living so I am grateful I decided to stay here even though it means I am far from my family in Belgium and friends in Monaco.”

As we kick off the New Year, Maddy encourages women to forget the pressure of resolutions but rather aim to make 2021 a healthy one mentally and physically, despite Covid and all its excuses. “The biggest hurdle a woman needs to overcome in her body and mind is to stop being so critical of herself. This will only backfire when you try to get in shape and feel you are not living up to perfection, which leads to ongoing cycles of being ‘really good’ followed by periods of being ‘really bad.’ This produces feelings of guilt, which serves no purpose other than keeping you stuck in that vicious cycle.”

A large part of her work is about teaching women to be less critical and kinder to themselves by working with their bodies, not against them. “Not only does it make us feel better mentally but our bodies thank us for it by responding really well physically, too,” Madeleine Karlsson reassures.

Madeleine Karlsson is starting a free 10-day New Year challenge tomorrow. Here’s the Fit Body Fresh Mind link to register.

Run For Laura. Photo: Nancy Heslin

Before

Fred Bouazis of Before. Photos: Nancy Heslin

With ski lifts and restaurants on the slopes closed, Fred Bouazis has “brought the mountains to Monaco.”

The owner of Before in Port Hercules has teamed up with Le Coin Fromager to put on Raclette Wednesdays. “Raclette is an amicable meal you share with a group of friends and we have created a very cosy terrace with heaters and blankets to recreate that après-ski vibe,” says Fred.

The first two Raclette soirées have been completely booked – there’s a 70 person limit and it’s reservation only – and the New Year’s fête on Wednesday, December 30, only has a few tables left.

No surprise. Le Coin du Fromager at Marché de la Condamine needs no introduction and if Michel Poma’s extraordinary cheeses and charcuterie (he’s also providing all the material to Fred) don’t tempt you, the €35 price for all-you-can-eat, not including drinks, surely will.

A year ago, Fred Bouazis would never have imagined he’d be a restaurateur serving melted cheese dishes. Named one of “Les 100 qui font Monaco” in 2020 by l’Observateur de Monaco, the niçois has built his reputation in after-work bars. He opened Before in Nice and Isola (both are closed) before bringing the concept to Monaco in June 2010.

He’s been in the industry for 25 years – including as artistic director at Sea Lounge, Director at Blue Gin Bar at Monte Carlo Bay and a stint promoting events at Twiga. “I had the opportunity to bring the concept of a place to meet after work to Monaco. And a decade later, we have become part of daily life here,” says Fred.

Prior to Covid, Before functioned as a bar open from 6 pm to 2 am with live music, DJs, finger food and drinks – wine was the top seller, but lots of cocktails and champagne in winter– and had anywhere from 150 to 200 people a night.

While the bar in Nice was popular with 30 year olds, in Monaco the clientele is local and active, mostly in their 40s with disposable income. “It is very international, people working in yachting, property and banking. Year round we have a local base, residents and those working in Monaco, but in the summer we also have lots of tourists.”

Not last summer. With bars closed by decree, Fred decided to transform his after-work hotspot into a restaurant. “This year has been special. We were closed completely the first confinement like everyone else. It has been a physiologically difficult transition but you have to make an effort,” he explains.

“It was a huge adjustment for our chef and for our kitchen but our team has been terrific. We have had to invest in restaurant tables and chairs, among other things. The government played its role well, quickly offering financial aid for employees and assistance for a loan to refinance, and even rent relief. We have six employees now, we had to let a few go, but we are super satisfied and grateful with the government’s assistance.”

Before started by opening only at lunch – €15 plat du jour, a €19 daily suggestion with glass of wine and coffee – between noon and 3 pm. “Our loyal after-work regulars started coming for lunch and we have new clients. With each lunch we got better and better at serving Mediterranean dishes beyond finger food – daube with ravioli, curry, and even the new trend of kangaroo. For €25, you can eat very well.”

The restaurant added dinner service, averaging about 60 diners per service. For Fred, respecting the current Covid measures – hand sanitizing, wearing masks, mandatory distance between tables, among a list of other protocol – is taken very seriously as the eatery is subject to random inspections, like those over the past week that shut down Beef Bar, Planet Sushi in Port Hercules, Huit et demi and Brasserie de Monaco and Cantinetta Antinori.

“I don’t know if things will remain the same after Covid but there are certain work methods and opening hours that I will keep, like lunch service during the Yacht Show or Jumping.” One thing he does know is that restaurants in Monaco “are lucky” to be able to remain open during the epidemic while neighbours in France are closed. (In a bid to reduce the rising number of Covid cases in the Alpes-Maritimes, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi is trying to have the France-Monaco borders closed except to those French with work attestations.)

“The misfortune of Covid, which has confined us and deprived us of going to a bar to have a drink with friends, has made us question our lives and open new horizons that are good,” Fred reflects.

“We are running businesses with la bonne franquette and trying to make money by welcoming as many people as possible within the health protocol. And all I know is that, for now, I have a new profession.”

Open noon to 3 pm and 7 to 9:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday lunch.

Before
6 Route de la Piscine

During Covid and confinement, 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

How Santa changed my life

I was never a fan of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a household full of love and festivities during the holiday season – a steady stream of family, friends and neighbours gathering over for food and drink, mixed with traditional choir carolling at church. I just never understood the consumerism, this idea of having to buy gifts for people because it’s Christmas.

From a very young age, I decided that December 25th would be more rewarding volunteering at nursing homes, soup kitchens, a suicide hotline … anything to focus on something other than gifts.

My bah-humbug came to end in 2008 when I was invited to interview Santa at his workshop in Lapland. At the end of November that year, I flew to Helsinki and then, along with a plane full of tiny tots in Santa hats, took the 90-minute flight to Rovaniemi to be there for the official opening of Christmas Village.

Standing in the middle of a crowd (remember those?), I was surrounded by hundreds of screaming children, many perched on their parents’ shoulders, excitedly waiting for the real Santa Claus to come onto the stage as a lightshow and carols on the loudspeakers entertained. And then, the Jolly Man in Red appeared to deafening cheers. I didn’t get it.

The next day, questions in hand, I went to interview Santa. An Elf gave me a press vest to put on before being escorted up to his office. The winding walkway is lined with photos of Santa with politicians, comedians and actors – all of them beaming with joy.

I sat, nonchalantly, next to Santa’s throne and waited. And then a giant of a man appeared – magnificently, majestically and merrily. I remained unaffected, asking him my first question. He looked at me, with a twinkle in his eye and he didn’t answer my question but talked about Mrs Claus and downhill skiing. And as he spoke, something magical transpired. I began to feel hope – that pure non-jaded hope of a child that anything was possible if I believed in it enough.

By the time my visit with Santa ended, I was a giddy kid. I literally ran down to his post office and sent dozens of letters on behalf of friends and family. I jumped on a sleigh ride as reindeer pulled me across the Article Circle (it runs through Santa Claus Village). Huge flakes of snow fell upon me and I whispered out loud, “I believe! I believe.”

When I flew back to Nice, I bought a ticket to Toronto for December 25 to surprise my family by showing up for Christmas dinner. I hadn’t spent Christmas with them in over a decade and the time together was so extraordinary I was convinced that I could carry on the hopeful spirit to make anything possible in the New Year.

In 2009, I reconnected with the love of my life whose proposal I turned down in 1992 because I was too young. In 2009, I said yes. A fellow lover of all things Christmas, we married on December 24 the following year.  Every year, we begin to listen to all-Christmas radio on November 1 and dance around the kitchen. It has nothing to do with gifts.

Even this year, as Covid continues to try and bring us to our knees, the past few days have reminded me that nothing, not even an epidemic, can take away our hope and kindness at Christmas. And in that spirit, I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to reach out this year, with supportive and encouraging comments, especially when delivering the news during coronavirus is not done with joy.

So Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Santa & Covid

Sanna Kärkkäinen, managing director at Christmas Village in Rovaniemi, tells me that this year there are health measures in place to ensure safety to visitors, Elves and staff working at Santa’s Village and Santa’s Office.

This includes Santa, too,. “Santa is sitting behind Plexiglas and so not wearing a mask but all visitors are advised to wear a mask in the Office and Village,” says Sanna. “The playful Elves show a good example of this.”

Sanna says Covid is impacting tourism in Lapland. “We estimate a loss of around €700 million in tourism revenue with 5000 less people working in Lapland.” (These figures are for the period covering mid-March 2020-mid-March 2021).

“Even though this is dramatic time for local livelihoods, up here in the Arctic we look positively towards this winter,” Sanna shares. “We may be able to still welcome individual travellers to enjoy a beautiful and snowy winter season when the travel restrictions ease – and hopefully, in the end, the Covid-19 vaccination will save tourism.”

The Good News Prince

Prince Albert makes a surprise visit to Alexandre Rinaldi at Les 5 Saveurs yesterday. Photo: Les 5 Saveurs Facebook.

Yesterday, I came across Peter Allen’s article “EXCLUSIVE: Prince Albert of Monaco to appear in court in new year to fight claims he fathered a THIRD love child before marrying wife Charlene.”

It is hardly surprising that a “bombshell” piece would follow the recent photos of Princess Charlene with her partly shaved head. Clearly her unspoken words are manifesting and sending tongues wagging.

In the mid-2000s, I was a stringer for People Magazine (which, I confess led to a life-long habit of reading the Daily Mail as it was available in print along the Riviera while People was not) and part of my stint was being a liaison with the Palace.

In fact, in 2006, I contributed to “Who’s Your Daddy?” – a piece on the Prince and the recognition of his daughter Jazmin Grace. I spoke to his attorney, Thierry Lacoste, who was very down to earth and forthcoming about the situation.

While I am grateful to People and the by-lines, I have never been comfortable trying to get “sources” to diss on friends or employees, and the pressure of being asked to find palace insiders gave me nothing but diarrhoea.

By the way, 2006 was also the year Prince Albert started a more serious relationship with Charlene Wittstock, five years after their first date.

Fourteen years later, I certainly have a deeper understanding of all things Monaco. Sure, even with the cafés closed, gossip is an active sport in the Principality with people carefully whispering and texting in code, but what the outside world will never understand is that the loyalty between the people and the Prince can never be broken – not by headlines, not by illegitimate offspring or by supposed marriage woes. This is not to say that residents are always happy with the quality of life or decisions made by his government, but the Prince’s personal life is his business.

What does matter, especially during trying times of a pandemic, is how Prince Albert supports the community, like making a surprise visit under the radar to a local business, one that has been working non-stop trying to survive and to help others on the Rock survive during the Covid crisis.

Un grand merci a Monseigneur qui est venu au magasin,” Alexandre Rinaldi of Les 5 Saveurs posted on Facebook last night. Alexandre tells me, “The Prince surprised me and I was extremely moved and happy.”

And that is Good News. Just not a headline that sells papers.

Anne De Hauw

Anne de Hauw has always loved discovering new places. “To me, travelling is like oxygen – absolutely liberating, inspiring and eye-opening. And aviation is the preeminent enabler for travel, a key driver in economic development and, pre-Covid, generating 13.5 million direct and indirect jobs.”

Born and bred in Belgium, Anne studied fashion marketing in Paris and Florence before moving to the Principality in 2004 to work for Misaki, a Monaco-based pearl jewellery company mainly providing travel retail and duty-free markets.

“After a few years, I was hired by a global airline catering and retail company, where I was in charge of innovation. Even though I became a mom to two boys during this time, I totally enjoyed the travelling this job enabled me to do, meeting new people and discovering new places in all continents across the globe,” says Anne.

And she always loved coming back home to Monaco. “I have been to many places, but none of them is comparable to here, a perfect mix of a cosmopolitan city and a charming village that offers a wealth of opportunities in business, culture and leisure.”

In 2018, Anne decided to quit the corporate world and follow her dream to create her own venture – IN Air Travel Experience, the very first boutique consultancy focusing on customer experience, innovation and sustainability for air travel. (IN stands for Innovation, Inspiration, Influence and In-flight.)

“During my corporate life, I noticed there was a significant shift in the decision-making power within commercial airlines towards customer experience,” Anne explains. “Historically financially and operationally driven, airlines started to increasingly put the passenger in a central position within their strategy. And this is where I saw an opportunity for them to externalise passenger journey analysis and get unbiased strategic advice on how to improve certain touch points.”

With her extensive network and passion for improving passenger experience, combined with an expertise in transformational innovation, in-flight catering and retail, it was an obvious choice for Anne to create a niche consulting agency supporting airlines to ultimately increase passenger satisfaction.

But it is hard to gauge passenger satisfaction on board when there are no flights, as the global pandemic caused unparalleled disruption in many sectors, travel and hospitality being in pole position. “Even if the Covid crisis isn’t over and although the immediate future will continue to be tough, it also presents a unique opportunity to rethink the future travel experience, accelerate business transformation and embed purpose and sustainability into business strategies and day-to-day operations,” Anne explains.

“As airlines recover, restructure and re-evaluate, they must seize this moment to unlearn old habits and embrace new behaviours and new ways of working, rewriting the rules of business that are fit for the future the aviation industry needs. More than ever, it is important for businesses to truly commit to a purpose and ensure they use it to guide their thinking, planning and decision making.”

The travel consultant says that the pandemic has accelerated consumer desire to seek out organisations that aren’t just talking the talk when it comes to supporting social and environmental progress. “People want to engage with companies that are contributing to a positive impact on society and the planet.”

For IN Air Travel Experience, the announcement of lockdown in the spring meant “literally” all of its customer related airline projects came to a halt in just one week. Anne used “the unique opportunity” to accelerate a focus on innovation and sustainability. “To give you an example of one of our ideas, we developed the IN.bowl, a revolutionary in-flight dining concept that positively impacts the passenger experience. Unusual for airline food, this delicious and nutritionally-balanced dish that combats the negative effects of air travel is ultra-efficient in cost, space and handling. It is also environmentally sustainable in material use, weight and waste reduction. A triple win for the people, planet and the airline,” Anne describes.

Anne champions and defends waste reduction for air travel in order to support the industry in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. IN Air Travel Experience is a founding member of the International Aviation Waste Management Association, a non-profit organisation providing airlines and airports with a base of research and expert knowledge and aiming to advance circular economy knowledge and adoption in global aviation.

“In summary, 2020 was very different than initially expected,” she reflects. On the home front, Anne and her family went into lockdown in Monaco in March. “It was quite a radical change from our usual busy schedules, but I was grateful we were home together, safe, healthy and had food in the fridge.” Over the year, face-to-face business meetings, presentations and industry events have been replaced by endless video calls. “Despite the imposed social distancing and the seemingly people-less world out there, I believe an increased ‘togetherness’ matters more than ever and we stay connected with our customers all over the world through video conferencing.”

She admits that in terms of her bottom line, the year has not been brilliant, but her company is well advanced on purpose-driven projects and continues to build a solid foundation for the future. “As for 2021, I sincerely hope governments will cease to block travel – closing borders, quarantine measures, lockdowns – and people will be confident to fly again.”

Anne de Hauw pauses. “You know, I am still amazed how humans have managed to build a vehicle that can go up in the air and move! And I would love to learn to fly myself, one day, in a post-Covid world.”

According to Business Wire, this year’s passenger numbers are expected to drop to around 2.26 billion (similar to 2006) with passenger revenues tumbling from $612 billion in 2019 to $241 billion in 2020. Additionally, the ResearchAndMarkets.com report released yesterday states that total revenues for the industry look to fall from $830 billion to $418 billion over 2019-2020. “Despite generating around $590 billion in 2021, the industry is forecast to bear a significant loss of $15.8 billion. Restrictions on international travel and lockdowns evaporated passenger demand, with total passenger traffic estimated to decline by 52.7%.”