It was the day after the Monaco Grand Prix in 1971. With time to kill before leaving for Nice airport, I decided to walk the circuit one last time, halting for occasional refreshment on the way. Walking out of Casino Square and down past the Tip-Top bar to Mirabeau, I noticed a great clamour outside Rampoldi's.
Time has changed the sculpture of Monte Carlo, elegance in skyline giving way to apartment blocks and ritzy, high-rise hotels. The influence of Reno is much to the fore. But some things comfortably stay, and Rampoldi's is one of them, an echo of Somerset Maugham's Cote d'Azur. Faded signwriting, crisp, white linen, polite waiters. Around the walls are yellowing photographs of bygone races through the streets outside the door.
On this day, however, there were no racing cars passing by. Instead, vans were parked there, much to the annoyance of languid workmen who were taking up yesterday's Armco. I ventured into the restaurant, found a small crowd around one of the tables, arc-lights everywhere, people with heavy, shoulder-supported, movie cameras, a spectacular blonde with a clapper board.