Monaco’s Christmas Village pays homage to Prince Albert I

The iconic Christmas Village in Monaco will be welcoming visitors at the end of this week with the theme “Christmas in Spitsbergen”, the Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle that was first properly mapped by Prince Albert I between 1898 and 1907. 

In a fitting tribute to the 100th anniversary of the death of the Principality’s “Explorer Prince”, this year’s Christmas Village in Monaco will be themed “Christmas in Spitsbergen” after the polar island he so meticulously mapped at the turn of the last century.

Several scenes in the village will be inspired by his journeys, making the locale not only fun but informative as well.  

“Through animated scenes, certain animal species from the Arctic will be highlighted: the walrus, the polar bear and the penguin,” the Monaco townhall said in a press release. “The explorer’s daily life will have no more secrets thanks to the reconstruction of a base camp including tent, skis and sled. Finally, a colossal representation of Prince Albert I at the helm of his ship will overlook the Village in his honour: five meters in diameter and six meters high.” 

Everyone’s favourite attractions are back too, from the tree merry-go-round and the carousel to the toboggan luge and the Caribou ride. Also returning is the much-anticipated Ferris wheel. Scrapbooking and colouring workshops are also being organised on the weekends as are Friday evening concerts during the school holidays. Add to this the 21 food stalls and 21 gift chalets as well as picnic tables and an eight-metre-high Christmas tree that will tower above the 800 firs adorning the village.  

The ice rink has been replaced this year by the Roller Station in line with the government’s efforts to keep energy costs down while still offering maximum fun for all.   

Real-time cameras to gauge how busy the village is at any given time can be found on the townhall’s website and it is recommended that visitors check out the scene before making the trip down as space is limited.  

“Christmas in Spitsbergen” is open from 2nd December to 2nd January. The full schedule of times and events are available here



Photo source: Mairie de Monaco

Travel the world from Nice this winter

Nice Côte d’Azur Airport has unveiled a 2022 winter schedule featuring an expanded list of international destinations that marks a strong recovery for travel in the region.  

After a busy summer season, Nice’s airport isn’t resting on its laurels this winter. France’s second airport is offering a busy schedule that includes 67 destinations to 30 countries, 22 of which are new. 

This expansion is in line with the region’s push to make the area more of a year-round destination, especially to foreign travellers.  

“This flight schedule reflects the vitality of a region that aims to capitalise on year-round tourism rather than that of just a few months [and] on quality tourism rather than mass tourism,” says the chairman of the board of Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur, Franck Goldnadel, “[all] while offering Côte d’Azur residents the destinations they require for leisure, business or family trips.”  

Some of the new routes were plucked directly from the summer schedule and others have been re-established after being stopped during the pandemic. 

“Since 2019, we have seen growth in the number of annualised routes, which is a very strong indicator for the region,” continues Goldnadel. “This means that routes established over the summer season are being extended throughout the year, and that the Côte d’Azur is succeeding in its goal of spreading the economic contribution of tourism across the entire year, particularly to medium-haul destinations with high-contributing travellers. This evolution clearly shows the vital role of the airport, through a network of quality destinations, in the continued development of the Côte d’Azur.”  

The nine new winter flights that were once only available in summer are to London Heathrow on Air France, Stockholm on Eurowings, Chișinău on FlyOne, Oslo on Flyr, Eindhoven on Transavia, and Cluj, Tirana, Warsaw and Belgrade on Wizz Air.  

The 10 routes that are returning since the end of closures due to the pandemic are to Algiers and Constantine on Air Algérie, London Gatwick on British Airways, Manchester and Marrakech on Easy Jet, Cologne/Bonn and Hamburg on Eurowings, Warsaw on LOT, Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc, and Krakow on Wizz Air.  

Finally, the three brand new routes are Venice and Bordeaux on Volotea, and Tunis on Transavia France. 

Click here for the full flight schedule. 



Photo source: Nice Côte d’Azur Airport/Facebook

Covid season is here: how will it compare to last year?

The number of new Covid cases has risen sharply in Monaco, with the incident rate almost doubling in a week, signalling the onset of Covid season. To see what Covid season this winter will look like, we go back to 2021.

November always marks the onset of flu season, so it is not surprising that it also now marks the onset of Covid season.

Two and a half years into the Covid-19 epidemic, and following a widespread vaccination campaign, enough time has passed for us to track its performance and potentially predict its progress.

The latest figures from the Monaco government show that, in the week ending Sunday 27th November, Monaco had registered 157 new cases of Covid-19 compared to 90 the previous week, and 64 in the first week of November.

The incident rate, identifying the level of virus circulation throughout the Principality, now sits at 401, up significantly from 240 just seven days earlier, and 161 at the start of the month.

This rise in circulation is identical to what we witnessed with Covid last year.

In the week ending 28th November 2021, the incidence rate also more than doubled – from 129 to 450. This was essentially the tipping point last year, when circulation continued to climb at a rapid rate, jumping around 300 points every week to hit its peak of 2,157 in the third week of January. The incidence rate then began a slow descent as flu season loosened its grip on the Principality.

The same situation is likely to happen this year. But the difference is demand for Covid testing is falling.

During its 2021/22 winter peak, upwards of 10,000 people were being tested each week in Monaco. Even at the onset in November 2021, 5,450 people had a PCR or antigen test. Last week in Monaco, there were 1,463 screenings conducted, a quarter of the amount seen at the same time last year. Yet screening is still considered the best way to tackle the virus.

The drop in testing may have something to do with the fact vaccinations and infections have potentially reduced the severity of Covid, while death rates in Monaco have also dropped considerably, altering people’s perception of the virus.

 The Princess Grace Hospital Centre in Monaco is currently caring for 10 Covid patients, five of whom are residents. No one is in ICU.

Health authorities are still encouraging people to receive a Covid booster vaccine, which targets the dominant Omicron BA.4-5 variants, from Pfizer and BioNTech, particularly vulnerable members of the community.



Energy crisis: Monaco to finance resident support package

Monaco’s government is enacting two new financial assistance schemes to help people lower their energy costs, offering help to pay for more energy-efficient appliances in people’s homes as well as subsidising the replacement of outdated collective systems. 

The Monaco government is going beyond asking people to turn off lights and turn down thermostats to lower energy bills over the winter, and has instead put in place concrete funds to help people live more energy-conscious lifestyles.   

Minister of State Pierre Dartout presented the Prince’s Government’s Energy Management Plan on 16th November, laying out a number of sensible ways to lower bills, including switching to LED lights, replacing old radiators with NF-certified equipment, and making sure joinery and insulation were up to snuff.   

But as well as offering advice, the government also announced they will be reactivating an old plan led by the Mission for Energy Transition (MTE) that helps residents purchase high-efficiency small appliances with a generous cap of up to €3000. 

Additionally, the government said they will assist with the installation of collective heat pumps to replace old boiler room heating and cooling systems. The deal gives homeowners a subsidy of up to 30% of the price of the new equipment, which in turn will cost less to operate, be more energy-efficient and emit less greenhouse gases.  

“It’s common sense,” said Dartout. “We are all concerned.”  

To find out more about the small appliances scheme, please click here.

For more information on the collective heating plan assistance, please click here. 



Photo source: Stefano Manzini for Unsplash


“A Great of Tomorrow”: Elsa’s Mélanie Serre receives top accolade

Mélanie Serre, the talent behind Elsa – Monaco’s fully organic haute cuisine eatery – has been crowned Tomorrow’s Great Chef by the renowned French restaurant guide Gault & Millau.  

At 36 years of age, Mélanie Serre is Head Chef at one of Monaco’s most innovative restaurants. She won the Gault & Millau Young Talent prize in 2020, and that of La Liste in 2022, having trained at some of the world’s most prestigious establishments, such as Eden Roc in Saint Barts, the Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo under Christophe Cussac, and the two-Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile in Paris. Most recently, in 2020, she worked at Louis Vins in Paris, before a collaboration with Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) enticed her back to Monaco. 

Now she has been given the accolade of Grande de Demain – or “Tomorrow’s Great Chef” – by Gault & Millau.  

In an interview with Monaco Life earlier this year, the Ardèche native spoke of her transition to a 100% organic kitchen, the signature attribute of SBM’s Elsa, which is located in the Monte-Carlo Beach purlieu. 

“It is something that we have to do for our future, but it is a real challenge, the taste of everything is so different. I have had to adjust all the recipes I wrote in Paris,” she revealed. “It is also very difficult to find all-organic produce, so I have had to make my own products like spices, etc. I never imagined that I would be doing this one day, but I am glad that I did. In Paris, it is much more difficult to cook organically, so this is a real opportunity for me.” 

Speaking of Serre’s appointment to Elsa, Monte-Carlo Beach’s General Director Danièle Garcelon said, “I am happy to have a young woman amongst stars like Alain Ducasse, Yannick Alléno and Marcel Ravin. I like her savoir-faire and her experience, and I am sure she will meet our client’s high expectations.”



Photo source: Société des Bains de Mer

Alpes-Maritimes: sensitive stolen data published on dark web

The worrying extent of damage caused by a cyberattack on the Départment des Alpes-Maritimes in early November has been revealed by a ransomware group on the dark web.  

Back on Thursday 10th November, when the cyberattack took place, the Département des Alpes-Maritimes cut all its IT networks in an attempt to “protect sensitive data”. Despite hopeful statements made at the time by the local authorities – namely that the “responsiveness of the action taken could well have assured no pirating of community data” – it now seems certain that vast quantities of public information was stolen.  

Over last weekend, reports began to surface that a ransomware group called Play was planning on going public with the data it had taken. On the morning of Tuesday 29th November, 13GB of pirated data out an alleged 290GB that the hackers have in their control was published on the dark web.  

Screenshots shared by the Journal du Net (JDN) suggest that Play has gained access to a wide range of sensitive data, from PAIE and URSSAF files to work-from-home and Covid-related information. Even files on the Christmas voucher scheme for children in the Alpes-Maritimes appear to have been compromised.  

Play is a relatively new player in the murky world of ransomware and hacking, although experts say it leaves behind signatures similar to better-known groups like Hive and Nokayawa. Its goal for the attack on the Alpes-Maritimes is not yet clear, but this recent assault on a French local authority is somewhat unusual for Play, who typically targets South America, according to the JDN. The media outlet reported that Play’s latest major “hit” was on a courthouse in Cordoba, Argentina, earlier this year.  



Photo source: Markus Spiske for Unsplash