There is no way that I could have been confused with a VIP when I checked into the Fairmont Monte Carlo prior to the Monaco Yacht Show kickoff last September. I was sweaty. I was tired. I was wearing spandex bike shorts. And I’d just arrived in Monaco after riding my bicycle from Lyon and over Mont Ventoux (550 miles in six days!) with a passionate group of cyclists to raise money for the Blue Marine Foundation, an ocean advocacy charity near to my heart.

The Fairmont Monte Carlo is built over the water. Every room has a balcony and guests can choose from several amazing restaurant.

But looks didn’t matter. I was treated like royalty from the moment I entered the lobby. Then things got serious. In spite of getting ready for one of their busiest weekends of the year (only the Monaco Grand Prix weekend is busier), the Fairmont staff did more than just roll out the red carpet for me—they scheduled a 90-minute massage to begin as soon as I arrived.

Now, I’ve had way more than my fair share of massages as a cyclist and travel writer (more than most people), so I don’t say this lightly: this was the best massage I’ve ever had. It was simply, and honestly, the best. Then all I needed to do was pour myself into my well-appointed room and get ready to celebrate the end of the ride and the beginning of the yacht show in style.

So what’s better than getting the best massage of your life after six hard days spent riding across France? Sleeping in a king bed with high-thread-count sheets after six hard days spent riding across France, and one late night at the nearby Buddha Bar.

The next morning came quickly, but it was easy to take in stride once I stepped out into the sun and experienced the view from the Horizon Deck and Champagne Bar on the seventh floor. Eating breakfast with a full view of most of the world’s largest and most expensive yachts (in Port Hercule for the yacht show) in addition to nearly all of Monaco’s famous landmarks—the Prince’s Palace, the Opera House and Casino—is not to be missed. Neither is the four-course gourmet “Market 45” lunch capped with a fantastic dessert.

The food was spectacular in all of the hotel restaurants, including, of course, Nobu Monte Carlo, famous for its new-style sushi. The service—from the spa team to the friendly staff I encountered all over the hotel—was amazing. And my room, with its airy balcony, comfortable bed, and large bathroom, was extremely comfortable. But after spending three days (and nights), I have to say, Fairmont’s many views always stole the show.

The Fairmont Spa’s balcony is one of the best places to watch 900-horsepower Formula 1 cars rip around the famous “Fairmont Hairpin” (and to get a pedicure) during the Monaco Grand Prix. If that’s not close enough, the Fairmont also has four special suites (named for famous Monaco GP drivers) positioned right over the tunnel that the cars enter shortly after navigating the turn. Each of these unique suites has a balcony overlooking the hairpin on one side and the ocean on the other.

The Nobu Terrace

The Monaco Grand Prix’s famous hair pin curve

In truth, the Fairmont is way more than just another building. As you can see in the aerial photo on page 72, this large hotel’s 602 rooms and suites, multiple restaurants, spa, and many meeting rooms are built right into the cliff (and over part of the Grand Prix race course) on pillars over the ocean. First opened in 1975, it is also remarkable in that it is heated and air-conditioned by a sophisticated system that uses water drawn from deep in the Mediterranean.

The hotel offers many rooms, while the restaurants and treatments at the Fairmont Spa are legendary.

When it comes to views, no other hotel in Monaco can compare to the Fairmont’s hundreds of waterfront rooms with balconies. And the scenery (of the guests and the sunset) from the rooftop pool at the Nikki Beach club is off the hook. But the breakfast-time view from the Horizon Deck will always be my favorite. I can still smell the coffee and feel the pleasant greasiness of a buttery croissant on my fingers. Most of all, I’ll always remember looking out over all that Monaco has to offer and actually feeling like a VIP.