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Riviera Roulette

"I wouldn't trade places with Albert or William. Anyway, I have to marry a true princess." With that, Prince Gucci goes back to his Game Boy. I head for the high dive, telling Tim to start a conversation (he has a convenient lack of pride).

By the time I get back, he has learned the indiscretions of every royal in Europe—the prince loves to gossip about what he calls "the family." (Buy me a drink someday, and I'll spill it all.) I tell him we're staying at the hotel. "How is it?" he asks halfheartedly. He doesn't care; it is, as they say, not about us.

For the record, then, our room—one of 54, all of which are the same, save for a suite—is nice. And that's not faint praise. Pinks, greens, terra-cotta tiles, a yellow dresser painted with red flourishes—who needs more?It's what you think you're going to get at a high-end Caribbean resort but so often don't. The terrace is small but has enough space for a table and two chairs, and with the doors open we can hear the waves crashing outside (as can the people we call back home). The towels are the biggest I've seen anywhere. I wrap one around my waist, and it's so long I have to walk as if wearing high heels. Which I do for longer than I care to admit.

As at the Hôtel de Paris, the rooms at the Beach Hotel have automatic blinds that hermetically seal out all the light (and the paparazzi?). We sleep for 10 hours, and I wake depressed. I haven't come to Monte Carlo to rest. Then again, maybe this is the nineties version of debauchery.

Monte Carlo Beach Hotel, Ave. Princesse Grace, Roquebrune Cap-Martin, France; 800/221-4708 or 33-4/93-28-66-66, fax 33-4/93-78-14-18; doubles from $233.

HÔTEL HERMITAGE
Built in the early 1900's, the Hermitage sits quite literally in the shadow of the Hôtel de Paris (in fact, we could see it from our beautiful terrace there). It has an air of discretion about it, with none of the flash of its sister across the street. "People who want to show their money go to the Hôtel de Paris," the prince had said. "People who want to enjoy their money stay at the Hermitage."

Now, I've always thought quiet money equals boring money; nothing's worse than those ungrateful souls who inherit a gazillion dollars, then don't have any real fun with it. Then again, the poolside activity at the Beach Club was a bit much. Maybe the Hermitage is what we crave.

The hotel had a makeover a few months ago, which is both easy and hard to believe. Parts are gorgeous. There's a stunning ballroom, and certain exquisite hallways have coffered ceilings, intricate molding, and mosaic floors. The vaguely tropical secondary lobby, called the Jardin d'Hiver, has a stained-glass dome designed by Gustave Eiffel. We turn a corner, and there's a delicate yellow courtyard with a palm tree or two. Then we turn another corner, and the hallway is pure Hilton, circa 1977. The main lobby, Beaumarchais, has a low ceiling and horrendous green, white, and brown floral carpet (and vitrines advertising Gianfranco Ferré, Christian Dior, Valentino). The lapses in taste only intensify the too-rich-to-care vibe.

Meanwhile, we keep passing people in robes, coming from Les Thermes Marins de Monte Carlo, a.k.a. the spa. A massage is a good idea; investigating luxury hotels is work.

Les Thermes consists of five floors of chrome, glass, and mirror. I half expect Catherine Deneuve to show up in a white coat to lead us to her laboratoire de beauté. For my algae wrap, I am made to get naked, slathered with wet fish food, wrapped in Saran Wrap, and left to bake for 20 minutes. "It is for la circulation, le skin, and le slimming," says the attendant when she comes back to hose me down. I have to apologize for the stink when I go for my massage.

Tim and I recover in our room, which is done in a soothing range of blues. There's blue-and-white floral fabric on one wall, a blue carpet with a subtle white floral pattern, blue-and-white-striped curtains. It works, until we focus on the clashing lilac sconces. Yuck. Elegant white wooden headboards repair some of the damage, as do the two small terraces. The gray, blue, and white bathroom is cold, clean, and very masculine. I like the separate shower stall, with its floor-to-ceiling glass door (HH is etched onto it). Tim prefers the tub; in fact, he steeps himself in a Bulgari tea-bag bath.

At Vistamar, the hotel's new restaurant, the waiters can't remember who is having what, even though I've ordered the set menu. Tim's dessert comes out five minutes before mine. I tell him to start without me: I'm not eating it anyway, not once I see a waiter sneeze onto the dessert cart.

Time for bed. I lie down and gaze at the wall across the room. My eyes rest on what I realize is a monstrous dirt spot. Grand hotels are often called grandes dames, and any grande dame will tell you that glamour takes upkeep. "Looking good is the prerogative of every woman," wrote Joan Collins in Health, Youth and Happiness: My Secrets, "if she cares enough to make the effort."

On a dare from Tim, I hurl my turndown cookie at the dirt spot. Bull's-eye!

Hôtel Hermitage, Beaumarchais Square, Monte Carlo, Monaco; 800/221-4708 or 377/92-16-40-00, fax 377/92-16-38-52; doubles from $354.

Erik Torkells is a senior editor at Travel & Leisure.

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