Monaco - Rooms with a View (or Eyrie Experience)

It's not the hotel for anyone with a fear of heights. Just walking into your bedroom is to embrace a panorama. And though stepping onto the balcony is an act of courage, the most spectacular view in the world lures you time and again.

The Vista Palace Hotel is located on a rocky crag overlooking Monaco. Further up the peak is a popular launch site for hang gliders. "In summer, we sometimes have them poised motionless, riding the updraughts just a few metres from our guests," declares Patrice Glogg, the urbane manager. "We are considering putting up notices: 'Do Not Feed The Hang Gliders'."

More conventional visitors arrive at the Vista Palace by driving up the Grand Corniche east of Monaco. The Grand Corniche was not only the first road in the world to be sealed it was also where Princess Grace died. Despite that, many locals regard it as an extension of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit with dawdling tourists relegated to the role of mobile chicanes.

Even after winding your way up the cliff face, the vista of the Vista Palace is a surprise. Particularly when the lights of Monaco come on at dusk, it's as if the Cote d'Azur lies like a field of diamonds at your feet.

Dining at the hotel's Le Vistaero restaurant is as close as you can get to dinner in the sky. Under the guidance of chef Jean-Pierre Pestre, Le Vistaero mercifully breaks the old maxim "the better the view, the worse the food". The award winning 34-year old Pestre steers a sure course between classical French cuisine and the regional specialities of Provence. Meals cost from 200 francs for lunch and 300 francs for dinner, not including wine.

The Vista Palace is a true boutique hotel with only 68 rooms. Looking up from the Monte Carlo Casino, the hotel's balconies over 300 metres above look very angular and reminiscent of the sixties. In fact, there has been a hotel here for more than 120 years but the property of today was completely renovated and expanded in 1987.

Every room has a balcony with a superb view of the coast and at least two countries: Monaco and France, or France and Italy. Room appointments are very modern and new arrivals enter a steep learning curve as they come to terms with the electronic curtains and drapes and find their personal safes and televisions. There's a fitness centre (with sauna, Turkish bath and squash court) and a swimming pool built into the rocks.

Special rates for two nights and three days at the Vista Palace begin at 1940 francs per person and includes dinner at Le Vistaero both nights, breakfasts and a tour of Monaco. Three night packages cost from 6100 FF for a couple, including a rental car.

The most suitable way to arrive at the mountain eyrie is by helicopter. The Vista Palace can arrange transfers from Nice airport, overflying Nice and Monaco and landing at the hotel's helipad from 350 FF per person.

In Australia, for Vista Palace Hotel information or bookings call France Promotions on (02) 962-5549 or fax (043) 23-4322.

David McGonigal © David McGonigal Pty Ltd