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The Full Monte; Have fun with the rich in Monaco but don't break the bank.

Byline: By ADRIAN MOURBY

IT'S less than a square mile, with two bays and a short stretch of shoreline that's home from home to the seriously rich.

Yet Monaco - playground of Grand Prix drivers and movie stars who don't want to be bothered with that irritating thing called income tax - is changing.

Boutique hotels are springing up in the shadow of the great hotels in the city of Monte Carlo, while direct trains connect with Eurostar to make this tiny principality more accessible.

On Boulevard des Moulins there are now shops slightly more affordable than the Comtesse du Barry's foiegras and truffle emporium.

But the coiffured ladies walking their poodles with diamond collars need not worry. Standards have not dropped.

This is still one of the most glamorous square miles on Ear th, although at least now you can buy a meal overlooking Port Hercule without taking out a bank loan.

For somewhere chic for the weekend try the Columbus Hotel on Avenue des Papalins (00 377 9205 9000), which is part-owned by Formula 1 driver David Coulthard. A room here usually costs about pounds 102pp per night when two share, but weekend specials cost a lot less.

And if you have lost almost everything at the fabled Monte Carlo Casino you can get a room for as little as pounds 20pp per night at the Hotel Diana (00 334 9378 4758) on Boulevard General-Leclerc.

The good news is that Monaco is so small that it's almost impossible for your hotel not to be central. You can walk from the eastern border to the west in an hour...and that includes a stop for a coffee on the way.

In every shop you'll find a portrait of Prince Albert II, the son of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier - and the majority of attractions are owned by the Grimaldi royal family.

You can gaze at Prince Rainier's private collection of 100 ant ique cars at Terrasses de Fontvielle (pounds 5 entry).

Treasures include a De Dion Bouton 1903, a Model T Ford from 1924, a swaggering 1953 Cadillac and an original 1986 Lamborghini Countach.

Nearby the Royal Zoo (pounds 3.30 entrance), also on Terrasses de Fontvielle, has a rare white tiger as well as a black panther.

Of the city's other attractions, the Napoleon Museum (www.palais.mc, entrance pounds 3.30) was founded by the present prince's grandfather.

The Oceanographic Museum (entrance pounds 9) is testament to his great-grandfather Albert I, a committed explorer and marine biologist. He devoted 11 years of his life to the project, and the basement aquarium has 4,000 species of fish.

There's also quite a lot you can do for nothing in Monaco.

There's no charge for the Princess Grace Rose Garden near Fontvieille Park - opened after movie star Grace's tragic death in a car accident in 1982.

It also costs nothing to see the daily changing of the palace guard. This takes place at 11.55am precisely in Place du Palais with carabiniers in bright blue helmets and white spats marching to the sound of a military side drum.

Britain's Lewis Hamilton stormed to victory in last Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, but you too can bomb around the most famous racing circuit in the world...on a scooter. Hire one from Monte Carlo Rent, Quaides Etats-Unis (00377 9999 9779) for pounds 16.60 an hour. You can find out information about the route and its famous harbour starting grid by visiting the Automobile Club de Monaco (00377 9315 2600, www.acm.mc).

Then of course there is the beach.

Down in the Larvotto district there is a crescent of private and public beaches. The free ones are pebbly.

However, for just a few euros you can upgrade to La Spiaggia (00 377 9350 5080) which is an unpretentious beach club with imported yellow sand.

An umbrella will cost you pounds 4 and you will feel like a millionaire sipping champagne at pounds 6.60 a glass.

What's the deal?

RA IL Europe (www.raileurope.co.uk, 0844 848 4070) have return tickets from St Pancras International to Monaco from pounds 92pp. Car hire is available in Monaco through Holiday Autos (www.holidayautos.co.uk) - three days' rental starts at pounds 72.

CAPTION(S):

High-rise apartments and the harbour front at Monaco; Splash out at Monte Carlo casino; Hamilton after his Monaco victory Pictures: THE TRAVEL LIBRARY/GETTY
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:735
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