Manuel de Vasconcelos: “I would not have changed this life for anything”

For just over a decade, Manuel de Vasconcelos has headed Le Meridien Beach Plaza in Monaco, overseeing some of its most important changes and marking its 50th anniversary with staff, clients and Prince Albert this September.

Now, he is preparing to hand over his general manager badge because “the perfect time to retire is before you have to”.

Monaco Life caught up with the Portuguese native to talk about how Le Meridien has changed over the years, and what is in store for both their futures.

Monaco Life: The Larvotto district has seen an enormous amount of development over the years. How different is this area now compared to when you started at Le Meridien in 2012?

Manuel de Vasconcelos: The change is incredible. It was empty here, there was nothing. The Larvotto beach now looks fantastic, the new promenade, it’s all so much nicer. Before, we had absolutely no choice of restaurants, there really was nothing. Now there are plenty of things opening, and the new Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort Beach is lovely too.

What brought you to Monaco?

This was my first Le Meridien. Previously, I was the general manager at the Prince de Galles in Paris, a Luxury Collection Hotel. I was there for the €100 million renovation, and before that I was in San Sebastien at the Maria Christina, also in the Luxury Collection, so I had several years with Luxury Collection before coming here to Le Meridien.

One day, my boss asked me if I wanted to come to Monaco and I said “Would I!?”. I had had enough of the renovation works and a year and a half of hotel closure, so I told him that it was a great idea. Paris is a fantastic city, you can never get tired of Paris, but I was missing the sea and the sun. Monaco also has the auto-racing, and I love cars, so that’s how I came here.

In September, Le Meridien celebrated its 50th birthday, and you threw a wonderful party by the swimming pools attended by HSH Prince Albert…

Yes, it was a lovely party. Prince Albert was actually here when they opened the hotel in 1972, he was 14-years-old then, so he has very fond memories of this hotel.

How much change have you seen in this hotel during your time here?

Over the past 11 years, I have overseen the renovation of pretty much everything, from the lobby to the restaurant, every room, the restaurant terraces, we have done everything.

The walls of Le Meridien are owned by the State of Monaco, while the Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) is the tenant, and the brand is the property of Marriott International. What does the future look like for this hotel?

We have a contract with SBM until September 2023, which we are expecting to be renewed as it has been two times already, and we are waiting for the announcement any moment of an extension, which everyone has told me verbally would happen in around two to three years. So that is part of the hotel’s future.

Can you give us more detail about the extension? Will the hotel be renovated or demolished and rebuilt?

They are both options, but nothing has been decided yet. I have heard about a lot of projects, from the more conservative to some crazy ones presented to the Palace over the past years. This is not new, we have been talking about this for up to 10 years now, so everything has been presented, but so far nothing has been decided.

I know the contract with SBM will be extended, but I don’t know what will happen next. I think there will be a big renovation of the hotel, and I believe it deserves it. It is the only hotel in Monaco to have a private beach. It has such a unique location – the panorama, the scenery. I think it is one of the best places in town, so it deserves the attention.

I only know that the building will remain a hotel and that the government wants to keep it at four stars.

Le Meridien, photo by Monaco Life

What are some of the highlights of your years here as GM?

There have been so many. The life of a hotelier is never monotonous, things change every day. There are always funny stories and memories made. I remember working with the architect for all the renovation works that we have done, all the floors, the restaurant and the bar. The creation of the lobby where we do art exhibitions now has changed the feeling of this area immensely. Entering a hotel lobby can often feel very cold, but I think we managed to create a warm ambiance, and the fact that we regularly change the exhibitions helps to create an involvement with the city, it gives people something to talk about, but essentially it feels warmer. I was looking for something to put in the centre of the lobby since I arrived, and the sculpture of the big fist is just perfect.

I remember creating the revolving doors because every time you opened the door, the heat or the cold would come in.

We changed all the windows in the rooms because we were having complaints about street noise. So, it is something you don’t see but it was one of the most important things we changed at the beginning. Then we changed the elevators because they were stopping on every second floor.

We started Sunset on the Beach during the Monaco Grand Prix, from 11am to midnight, which became a huge event that was taken to other places in the world. We had the Amber Lounge here for many years.

And the various partnerships we have had for the summer restaurant, which is now L’Intempo by Sergi Arola, a great Spanish chef who embraces the concept of sharing.

It must be fun working in a hotel… There is always something changing, evolving, meeting new people…

It’s wonderful, I would not change this life for anything. When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be an ambassador, to work in diplomacy, because I always had this feeling of travelling and meeting people. Things didn’t work out because of the Portuguese revolution and universities went on strike at the time, so in the end I entered into hotels and it’s been fantastic.

What do you think has been the key to the success of Le Meridien?

The biggest thing we have is the people. People are the most important thing in this business. I spend most of my time with people, be it guests or staff. This hotel has had some staff stay for decades. Our room service waiter retired only after 42 years on the job. The head concierge Raymond Viano was here since the opening in 1972, we celebrated his 70th birthday in the lobby. Others have worked here for 30, 35 years, and these are the people that give this place soul. My job in this chair is to guide the hotel through the new trends that guests expect, but to make sure it keeps its soul, and I think we have managed to do that quite well. And we will continue to keep that homely feeling here at Le Meridien.

What’s next for you?

Well, I will be doing a soft handover in the new year to the new general manager. Then, for me personally I have plenty of things I want to do. I am very happy with my job, but it is important to do other things in life. That’s why I am retiring before I have to, it is the best time to do it. Now is the time to enjoy other things in life.

As a hotel manager, you don’t have time for a lot of things, so I want read a lot more, play golf, travel – there are so many things I want to do. I know that some people who retire feel depressed because they are missing the adrenaline or something from the job, but I don’t think I will have that problem. I have so many things that I want to do, I just want there to be enough time to do it all!

Photo above by Monaco Life



Robert Lewandowski wins Golden Foot Award

Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski won the Golden Foot Award during Wednesday’s ceremony at the Grimaldi Forum. He succeeds Mohamed Salah, who won the prestigious award last year.

Prior to the evening ceremony at the Grimaldi Forum, legends of the game were honoured in a press conference. Former Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón and Turkish manager Fatih Terim who has managed both the Turkey national team and Galatasaray on four separate occasions were honoured with Legends’ Awards.

Swedish player Kosovare Asllani was the recipient of the first-ever Golden Foot Award for a women’s player. Like the recipients of the Legends’ Award, and the Golden Foot Award itself, she printed her foot on the iconic Promenade des Champions.

Prolific Polish striker Lewandowski has enjoyed another standout year. Having won the Bundesliga with Bayer Munich, the 34-year-old earned a big-money move to Barcelona, where he has already scored 18 goals in 19 games for the La Liga side. He also scored twice in the recent World Cup in Qatar, including a goal against France in the Round of 16.

Reacting to the receipt of the award, Lewandowski said, “I am very happy and very proud and for me, it is a huge honour to win this Golden Foot award because I know hard I have had to work to achieve what I did and now I can be proud. Seeing the names of the previous winners, makes me even more proud.”

Lewandowski succeeds the likes of Salah, the 2021 winner and Cristiano Ronaldo, who won the award back in 2020. The Polish international has now quite literally followed in their footsteps and immortalised his legacy in Monaco concrete.


Monaco government encourages Covid tests before Christmas gatherings

In an effort to contain the circulation Covid-19 and to protect vulnerable people in the community, the Monaco government on Thursday encouraged everyone to get tested and follow health protocols.

“With the approach of the end-of-year celebrations conducive to family gatherings and moments of conviviality, the Prince’s Government recommends that everyone, vaccinated or not vaccinated, take a Covid test in order to protect their loved ones, in particular the most fragile,” said the government in a statement. “The strict application of barrier gestures during this period remains necessary to fight effectively against winter viruses and prevent a new epidemic wave.”

Citizens and residents can go to the Rainier III Auditorium Screening Centre anytime between 8.30am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, without an appointment. Employees and non-resident children attending school in the Principality need to present a medical prescription.

The Screening Centre will be open on Monday 26th December and Monday 2nd January 2023 from 8am to 12pm.

Online appointment booking is also available to all via the website www.monacosante. mc.


Photo by Monaco Life

Monaco run riot at Elland Road to finish mid-season break on a high

AS Monaco scored three goals in just nine minutes on Wednesday to beat Premier League side Leeds United 4-2 in the club’s final mid-season friendly before the return of Ligue 1. 

Deprived of their usual hectic Christmas football schedule, the Yorkshire locals descended in their droves on Elland Road to watch Leeds United face Monaco in a friendly. The Leeds faithful, all 20,978 of them, were in good voice throughout, especially in the minutes following Robin Koch’s opener. 

Jesse Marsch’s side were perhaps lucky to go ahead, and despite going behind, Philippe Clement’s men continued to push, and soon found an equaliser through Breel Embolo after some neat link-up play between Ruben Aguilar and Eliesse Ben Seghir. 

Nonetheless, the Principality side were lucky to go into half-time level. Leeds lay siege to the Monaco goal and worked multiple dangerous situations, one of which required Guillermo Maripán to clear off the line, with Rasmus Kristensen’s shot having already beaten Alexander Nübel. 

Monaco showed a completely different side on the return from the dressing rooms. In the nine minutes after half-time, three goals from Gelson Martins, Ismaïl Jakobs and Embolo took the game definitively away from the home side. A mixture of porous defending and impressive attacking fluidity ended the match as a contest by the 55th minute. 

Thereafter, the intensity of the match seeped away, and substitutions broke the rhythm of the encounter. It gave Clement the chance to give vital minutes to key players, such as Wissam Ben Yedder, Kevin Volland and Takumi Minamino, and an invaluable experience to Soungoutou Magassa and Félix Lemarechal. Leeds scored a late consolation through Joe Gelhardt, but the victory was already ensured, and Monaco finished their mid-season break on an overwhelmingly positive note.

Photo by Monaco Life

Post-match, Aguilar, who provided the assist for Monaco’s equaliser, reflected on the clash. “We were expecting a physical match, against a big team in a very competitive championship. We turned up and we’re happy because that’s a good omen for Auxerre,” he said.

The result marks a strong end to a successful break. Clement’s men began with a draw against Sevilla, before a win against Empoli and another draw against Fiorentina.

Aguilar believes that Monaco are ready for the return of Ligue 1 action next Wednesday against Auxerre. “We prepared well during the World Cup. It’s true that we haven’t stopped since we got back together, with this run of friendly matches, the camp in Spain, with all of these matches, so it has got us back in the swing of things,” he said.


Photo by AS Monaco

Photos: Christmas Parade of the Fiat 500 Brigade

Over the weekend, dozens of Fiat 500s drove through the streets of the Principality, delighting fans of this legendary little car. 

On Saturday 17th December, the Club Fiat 500 Monte-Carlo organised its annual Christmas Parade. Accompanied by Santa Claus and decorated in festive finery – from garlands and ribbons to lights and stuffed toys – the fleet of iconic vehicles toured the streets of Monaco, waving at spectators and passers-by.  

The procession came to a stop in the Place du Casino for photographs and Sant Claus handed out treats from the Chocolaterie de Monaco, who had prepared a special selection for the event.

“I can only thank all the members of the Fiat 500 Monte-Carlo Club,” said Massimo Peleson, President of the Club, with a smile. “Our members were exceptional. A big congratulations to them for their superb achievement and a big thank you to all the members of the Club.” 


Photo source: Club Fiat 500 Monte-Carlo 

“Honour, loyalty and dedication”: Les Carabiniers du Prince

Discover the rich history of Monaco’s Carabiniers, an elite and prestigious unit with a “very specific mission to serve the Princely family”, through a photographic exhibition at the Monte-Carlo station.

Open to the public until 16th February 2023 and found platform-level at the Monte-Carlo train station, the Les Carabiniers du Prince exhibition displays a dozen photographs taken between 1890 and 2022 in chronological order.

It offers a unique insight into this historic military unit; one with a close and intimate link to that of the Principality and its leading family.

The force’s motto, since its founding in 1817, has been “Honour, loyalty and dedication”, and in the words of Commander Martial Pied, the head of Monaco’s Palace Guards, the carabiniers hold a role enshrined in “commitment, sharing and community life, selflessness and zeal”.

“With a company of 124 men, the Palace Guards operate as an independent unit,” he says. “The rich diversity of our men and their numerous special skills mean that the Palace Guards are highly responsive and adaptable, carrying out many daily tasks, from protocol assignments to the protection of property and the [Princely] family.”

For further backstory on the guards and how Les Carabiniers du Prince came to hold their position, please visit the official website by clicking here.


Photo source: Monaco Communications Department