A few months ago I was commissioned by L’Express Styles to photograph Monaco for an article on the true Monaco of the locals. Straying away from the place’s luxury and Bling, I set out to photograph scenes of every day life, local eateries and places of enjoyment.
It was really nice to walk around the principality, canon 5D mk IV in hand, people watching and checking out quaint little places, away from the Yachts, Yacht Shows, Grand Prix and all the places to be.
My first photographic mission was the lively Place des Armes, a square where the Monaco locals hang out. Sat at one of the many café terraces I enjoyed the buzing sight of this lively square. Kids run around and play, parents chit chat with a glass of wine while the older generation watches on benches. People eat Culatello ham at the Truffle Gourmet, cheese from the alpes at Ceneri or a socca from the Market.
In the morning I came back to enjoy the lovely market filled with freshly produced courgettes from the South of France, lemons from Menton and the typical chickpea crepe like snack called socca.
Then I set out to find the Pétanque Club of Monaco. It was only a short walk along the Sea later that I found it, perched on the Port Hercule side of the Rocher, the hill on which the old town and the palais sit.
Pétanque, the official sport of the South of France, is to be enjoyed in the sun by all generations. When I got there the old boys were playing cards and they let me photograph them. I guess this place is so emblematic that it attracts a lot of photographers. It is with a thick Southern French accent that they told me where to find hidden pathways in the old town and where to photograph small coves by the Oceanographic Museum before returning to their game banter.
The locals do not just come here for the boules and the cheerful atmosphere. It is also a very good restaurant « du pays », rustic, serving big portions of southern french and northern italian dishes like my favorite, daube (see picture), typical Provencale beef stew. You’ll also find the monegasque round up: barbagiuan, stockfish and pissaladière, all made with the freshest ingredients.
Camera in hand, I make a quick detour Quai Rainier III where I see something moving quite far out in the water. I automatically think this could be interesting…. I wait…. wait… it looked human but it is not resurfacing. It finally bolts out of the water, it - he is a freediver, and quite a good one I may say. He comes back to shore and I ask him if I can take a portrait. He tells me of his passion for the sea and the underwater world and gives me the contact of his dive club, Nice CIPA. He tells me he enjoys an underwater break every day at lunch time!
My next photo stop is a hidden gem! I find myself walking on the end of the port of Fontvieille, the other side of the Rocher of Monaco, to come accross a small oyster and seafood eatery, so I thought.
Les Perles de Monte-Carlo is not just a place to have fresh seafood in a great atmosphere, it is also an oyster and lobster farm. Brice Cachia and Fred Rouxeville are former biologists who decided to do something different. On the inside les Perles de Monte-Carlo is full of tanks, growing oysters, lobsters, shrimp and various shells and on the inside a sunny terrace with a few tables where the locals laugh, drink and eat fresh seafood.
I’ve never been a fan of oysters but photographing this place and chatting with Brice Cachia as I’m making him smile for the portrait make me want to come back to this place… often!
As the customers of Les Perles de Monaco enjoy the last rays of the southern French summer sun, I start making my way to the top of the Rocher, the Monaco old town.
I cross the port of Fontvieille, much quainter than Port Hercule on the other side of the hill, go up the Mall elevator and end up at the bottom of the hill. I walk up. My Canon 5D, flashs and various lenses seem much heavier than at the beginning of the day.
I arrive to my last assignment, taking pictures of Prince Albert and Charlene’s eatery, Pinocchio. The Food is delicious and the setting lovely. A few tables make up the terrace in the middle of beautiful and colorful XVIth century buildings.
The day ends and I feel happy I have discovered all these places far from the Monaco Yacht Show, the Hotel de Paris and the Monte Carlo Casino. Places where actual people go to enjoy walking, eating, meeting up with friends and having a nice time.