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Visiting Monaco

The ASI Association of Sommeliers General Assembly 2024 convened at Le Meriden, Monte-Carlo, courtesy of the Monaco Sommelier Association. Across three days, attendees participated in conferences, debates, and strategy sessions, while also networking and socialising with representatives from over 60 member countries of ASI.

View from the marina


ASI General Assembly


Chefs at ASI opening


Prince Albert is an active member of the Association Monegasque des Sommeliers and we were excited to have him join the reception.

Prince Albert alongside the board of ASI and guests.

Monaco stands out with its unique charm. It thrives on hospitality, a cornerstone of its economy, attracting over 7 million tourists annually. Despite its small size, Monaco is well-connected, with its population mainly residing in nearby France—Nice a mere 13 km away, and the Italian border just 16 km distant.

Early morning view along the bay


Our host's intrinsic sense of hospitality ensured attendees enjoyed gastronomic meals paired with outstanding wines, sake and spirits, refined tastes and sensibilities. Alongside this, were cultural excursions like a trip to Monte-Carlo's renowned casino which added excitement to the itinerary, promising a memorable experience for all.

Monte Carlo Casino


Monaco is approximately 2.02 km2 and is the world’s second smallest state after the Vatican. It has a population of around 40,000 people and they pay no tax.

In recent decades, Monaco has managed to grow its land area through strategic reclamations and the use of multi-layer systems of stairs, roads, and tunnels, often cantilevered over the rugged coast.

Reclamation along the foreshore. Through land reclamation, the Principality’s area has expanded by 20%.

View from our hotel of Mediterranean


The Prince’s Palace is located on high on a rock above the city and visitors can walk along the esplanade and up the hill to the Palace entrance. I was impressed by the distinctive Pinea pine trees, source of pine nuts, pruned and looking elegant along the foreshore.

Palace of the Prince with Pinea pines

Nearby are gardens as well as the highly regarded Oceanographic Museum. 

Oceanographic Museum


Monaco became a full member of the United Nations in 1993 and of the Council of Europe in 2004 but is not a member of the European Union although they use Euros. Monaco is a de facto member of the Schengen area as its borders and customs territory are considered part of France. 22% of the population live in the Monte-Carlo district.

For the non-gamblers like me, the trip to the Monte-Carlo Casino, at midnight, was an adventure.

Monte Carlo Casino reception


We were all issued with a complementary chip to get us on our gambling way and fortunately, my ASI colleague Howard Hao-Chun Hsia from Taiwan, provided expertise on what to do. So, a small group of us invested in him, giving Howard our chips. He looked around tables and opted for CRAPS. Within 30 minutes, Howard had won our syndicate E1600! 

From the Palace entrance looking toward the heart of Monte Carlo


Running a non-profit organisation with volunteers, across multiple countries, languages and time zones is not easy. We are however, united in our shared sense of hospitality and conviviality. Once the conference doors closed, warmth and generosity, underpinned by a shared inclination to taste fine wines and eat fabulous food triumphed!

Celia with ASI President William Wouters

Many thanks to our hosts in Monaco and ASI for a superb few days in a breath-taking location.

Celia Hay

February 2024

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Celia Hay

Celia is a qualified chef and holds the WSET (London) Diploma of Wine. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History, Master of Education (Distinction) and MBA Master of Business Administration from the University of Canterbury.

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Founded by Celia Hay, the New Zealand School of Food and Wine opened its first campus in Christchurch in 1995.

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