A bronze statue rubbed for good luck, a newspaper dug up from 1909 and a bottle of brandy more than 200 years old. These are just a few of the greatest secrets uncovered in the Hôtel Hermitage and Hôtel de Paris, owned by the Société des Bains de Mer in Monaco.
For around 20 years now, Charlotte Lubert has spent her days searching nooks and crannies in the buildings owned by the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer. In charge of cultural heritage, every day it is her mission to try and uncover new hidden treasures.
“During the recent renovation of the Hôtel de Paris, we found a newspaper dating back to 1909, hidden underneath the roof of the building.”Charlotte Lubert, in charge of cultural heritage at Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer
Have you ever wanted to talk to “your ancestors”? Well, now you can! “Our idea of what these hotels used to be like is based on what our employees have told us,” explains this Monégasque. As her great-grandfather is none other than Louis Notari, one of the engineers who worked on Monaco’s famous Exotic Gardens, she is particularly interested in the Principality’s history.
“During the recent renovation of the Hôtel de Paris, we found a newspaper dating back to 1909, hidden under the roof of the building,” enthuses Charlotte Lubert, as she explains that it has become a tradition for some employees to leave behind a trace of their work. “In 2018, we asked the builders to put one of the daily papers and a 2 euro coin underneath one of the building’s domes.”
High above Le Grill restaurant, a cosmic decor of constellations adorns this open ceiling: a feature that has allowed guests to stargaze at the real Milky Way since 1957. It was “one of Aristote Onassis’ ideas, head of the company at the time,” explains Charlotte Lubert. However, in 1976, Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace preferred to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in a different setting: the wine cellars. Here, bottles of brandy line the shelves, distilled as long ago as 1800.
Asked to fill a bath full of champagne or cook crayfish in Nantua sauce at 5am, hotel staff here have heard it all. For over a century they have encountered all types of extravagant requests from guests, including cleaning up the aftermath of 60 broken magnum bottles, each smashed against marble columns in the dining room of the Hôtel de Paris: an enthusiastic toast to say the least!
As a result of so many superstitious gamblers rubbing it, the horse’s hoof has started turning green over the yearsCharlotte Lubert, in charge of cultural heritage at Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer
A surprising superstition
Saddled on his bronze horse, Louis XIV has been welcoming visitors at the entrance to the Hôtel de Paris since 1910. “As a result of so many superstitious gamblers rubbing it, the horse’s hoof has started turning green over the years,” says Charlotte Lubert. “People say the statue brings them good luck…”
“Before 1906, guests would arrive to the Belle Époque dining room at the Hôtel Hermitage in a horse-drawn carriage, which would later take them to the aile du Midi where they were to sleep. Now, the Galerie des Princes connects the two together,” says Joël Ricard, a member of the hotel management. Along this lavishly decorated corridor, the arched openings of the old stables are still visible.
Walking just a few metres further and guests come to the Jardin d’Hiver. Here, an iron structure, created in the style of Gustave Eiffel, complete with a glass roof decorated with sunflowers, provides incredible acoustics. “Lots of musicians come here to play the piano, double bass or the harp,” explains Joël Ricard. As they enjoy a breakfast in the Jardin d’Hiver, below a magnificent chandelier, embellished with gold flowers and glass petals, soft musical melodies will often accompany guests’ start to the day.