Travel: Give me a break: Monte Carlo on pounds 250

City to city: it's Friday, you're in central London with pounds 250 to spend for a weekend getaway. Cathy Packe prescribes a break in Europe's most ritzy destination
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Down payment

There are no international flights to Monte Carlo (although there is a helipad, in case you have friends with a helicopter who can give you a lift), so you have to fly to Nice and then get the bus along the coast. EasyJet (0990 292929) has a return

fare of pounds 110.70. The airline sends you a voucher for a return train fare to Luton for pounds 6.90, leaving London from any of the stations on the Thameslink line. From Nice airport there is a direct bus which leaves from outside the departure hall every hour on the hour. Buy your ticket at the desk marked "bus" in the arrivals hall; a single costs 80FF and the return fare is 140FF.

Instant briefing

If you want information before you go, contact the Monaco Tourist Office (0171-352 9962). When you get there, the main Office National de Tourisme is on the boulevard des Moulins, at the top of the place du Casino. It is open 10am-7pm Monday to Friday, and Sundays 10am-12. Bear in mind that although you are not on French soil, the Monegasques allow you to use French money.

Rest assured

Unless you have a big win in the casino, you won't be able to afford the astronomical prices of the Hotel de Paris (00 377 9216 3000). As a general rule of thumb, the nearer the hotel to the water, the higher the price. Anyone on a budget is far better off staying a short bus ride away in the more historic district of Monaco Ville. In general I would never recommend staying near a station, but here the station is incredibly salubrious. Try the Hotel Le Versailles (00 337 9350 7934), just down the Avenue Prince Pierre, where a single room costs 300FF a night, and a double 400FF.

Must see

Must buy

Chips. Not the sort you eat, but the ones you place on the gaming-tables. However, these don't open until midday, so if you really can't wait all morning before parting with your money, the Galerie-Sporting-Shopping mall offers you Lanvin, Chanel, Celine and other designer boutiques, and what you don't find there will probably be among Les Boutiques du Park Palace next door.

Must eat

Alain Ducasse, one of France's finest, is the chef at the Hotel de Paris. This presents you with a choice. You could eat mediocre and overpriced food in any number of small cafes, or you could lavish a large part of the weekend budget on the set menu: four courses (and there is a choice) including wine will cost you nearly pounds 50, but could be one of the best meals you will ever eat. If this would bust your budget, there are several little restaurants around the cathedral - Bar Express, in the

Piaceta da Pacchiero, has a particularly good value daily special.

Night moves

Sit yourself down at a roulette table in the ridiculously ostentatious Casino, with its marble pillars and gilded ceilings, perched in pride of place at the top of the cliffs. Anyone can wander in and play the fruit machines.

Otherwise, it will cost you 50FF to get inside the roulette rooms, but once you are there you can place a minimum bet of a franc, and there is always the chance that you will recoup the cost of your weekend. For another 50FF you can get into the Salons Prives, where they play baccarat and blackjack - but there the stakes are very much higher. If you are used to gambling in Las Vegas, where the drinks are often free, beware; the rules here don't allow drinking and gaming at the same time.

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