Do we detect joyful laughter so exuberant that it might be fuelled by a little mulled wine or the warm glow from a delicious cup of hot chocolate? Or is that extra zing part of the New Orleans “joie de vivre” mingling with renowned Monegasque hospitality? A dash of New Orleans in the Christmas Village in Monaco – better get to the Christmas Village fast to experience it. Santa’s helpers are there already, of course. These little green elves with pointed ears are supposed to be working hard getting the toys ready for Santa. Instead the elves are distracted by the dazzling array of choices in the dozens of chalet-style cottages. And children are going to be dazzled with an extra treat this year with all the Mardi Gras characters as well as elves parading around in their glittering costumes.
Did you know that New Orleans was founded in 1718. That’s very old by American standards. Although, Monaco was already a mind-bending five hundred years old when Louisiana’s great port-city was born. This year is New Orleans 300th anniversary and Monaco is celebrating this mega-birthday by making New Orleans the theme of this year’s Christmas Village. All that jazz, dance, culture, gaiety and Creole cuisine are a perfect complement to the Principality’s own sizzle.
The port city of New Orleans, described as the most unique in the United States, has indeed much in common with Monaco with its French ambiance and architecture, festivals galore, including Mardi Gras, and music and, of course, cuisine to die for.
Hard to focus on Christmas shopping with the tasty arrays of choices of what to eat, whether savoury or sweet. There is artisanal everything here, but not just in food and drink. There are dozens of chalet-cottages full of Christmas ideas and gifts; you name it; whether it is candles, perfumes, apparel, jewellery, and all within reach of most budgets.
New Attractions for the Kids
Every year there is something new for the kids. This year there is a cool mini-train and a “pêche aux canards” where the kids excitedly try to hook toys ducks swimming past. And a few lucky children will hook a duck with a prize.
A Social Whirl of French, Italian, English, Russian and on and on …
But above all the Monaco Christmas village is a social experience and not just for the young — the only qualification here is to be young at heart. HelloMonaco was there to experience it. Even on the first full day at midday the market was teaming with people, enjoying themselves. The venue is perfect for promenading just as it is for sitting and chatting. The different cultures mix easily. French and Italian of course, more Brits than one would have guessed and an increasing number of Russians and a potpourri of other nationalities.
Congregating, socializing, so many places to sit and enjoy each other’s company and be cheerful. Social is the name of the game here; come with family or friends. Port Hercule is ideal, perched on the Mediterranean with its generous spaces and its boulevard design. People from New Orleans would feel very much at home in this international throng. We just need to add a touch more Spanish and they might dream they were actually at home.
Anais and Tanya Trill
HelloMonaco interviewed Anais smiling from a new Chalet that has sprouted up selling bio coffee. “We are part of Monaco’s new emphasis on being green”, she tells us. “We’re green too” yelled one of Santa’s elves wanting to be part of Monaco’s green tsunami. HelloMonaco also bumped into Tanya who lives in Monaco just a hop skip and a jump away from Santa’s Village.
“It makes me think of all the Christmas and especially Orthodox New Year goodies from back home”, she said. A New Orleans theme this year, why not Saint Petersburg next year, she mused. I could create a Russian chalet here, with herbal teas, blinis, caviar, chocolates and vodka.
A Dose of Virtual Reality
In deference to this high-tech world we live in there is a high-tech novelty this year. It’s called PLAYMAGIC. Just aim your smart phone at special places in the Village where there is a “magic coded symbol” on a totem – and your phone will light up with animated scenes.
The Monaco Christmas Village is still mainly a human experience, even as it makes moves to blend in “virtual reality” to see what role high-tech can play to enhance the fun. Though most of the children are running around happily playing and still having good old-fashioned non-digital fun.
You can sit and eat in many of the attractive bar and restaurant areas. The Mairie has provided lots of rustic picnic style benches and tables throughout. So it’s Christmas picnic-style for many, snacking together grouped around, people watching and Christmas shopping surrounded by Santa, and lots of Christmas trees!
Christmas is very much about children and this is a must visit for families. It’s an enchanted world full of sparkling lights, the countless lighted fir trees, sweets galore, ability to run around, rides, Christmas displays everywhere, a train ride, Ferris wheel and Carousel and the major attraction of the icing rink just below.
This is the 19th year of the Christmas Village. What about the next 19 years? Scientists tell us that within ten years astronauts will be landing on Mars. Monegasque astronauts perhaps? A Monaco Christmas Village and mulled wine on Mars in 20 years’ time? Those little green elves will feel perfectly at home!
The Christmas Village is worth several visits. Eat, drink, promenade, shop and just gather around to socialize and Be Merry.