Huge Shout out to Rabbit for this amazing secret spy photos of the Riva Club. Oh, ya, spy stuff. If he was caught taking photos like a tourist he would be locked up in a “camp” in the country side. No really. Thankyou Rabbit for your service and risking your life for these images from the better side of life!
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Cannes Lions advertising festival. It’s a week of award shows, seminars, and general hob-knobbing with advertising types from around the world. It’s also a place where the rose flows like water and there’s some first class entertaining.
The organization that sponsored the panel I spoke on sponsored a dinner the first night of the event that I couldn’t refuse: A boat cruise to Monaco and dinner at the Monte Carlo Yacht Club. As I boarded I repeated the phrase in my head “I am not worthy.”
I thought I was blessed when I had the chance to visit Monaco several years ago when we filmed a round-the-world commercial and film series for my client at the time, Cadillac. We filmed during the Monaco Historics, a race held the weekend before the Monaco Grand Prix Formula One race, featuring historic Grand Prix cars from the 1920’s through the 1980’s. Being able to own a multi-million dollar car once driven by Jackie Stewart or Juan Miguel Fangio is one thing. Having the means to fly a crew of mechanics to Monte Carlo and risk going wheel to wheel with another $20 million car is yet another.
Because we were doing a semi documentary series along with the Cadillac commercial I was also able to fit in a short film about Riva, including a trip to the iconic Monaco Boat Works and a cruise along the Riviera with with Carlo Riva’s granddaughter, Carla. Pinch me.
But that was in the past. What I didn’t expect in this dinner cruise I was about to take part in was that the Monte Carlo Yacht Club would include yet another shrine to Riva.
“Yacht Club” conjures up certain images. But a yacht club in Monaco is on quite a different level. Designed by the famed architect Norman Foster, it’s a stunning new structure on the water, of course. Monaco/Monte Carlo is a tiny independent principality nestled between France and Italy. It’s a tax haven where the world’s billionaires come to play. The streets are filled with Ferraris and Bentleys, and the harbor is filled with mega yachts. (Although, it was pointed out, the Russians had largely left.) Riva Tritones and Aquaramas are as common as pontoons on my home lake of Balsam Lake, Wisconsin.
When we entered the yacht club I briefly regretted donning my dirty Nikes. But the first sight I saw in the lobby was a Riva unlike any I had ever seen. It looked like a Tritone, down to its signature Riva aqua upholstery. But it was only three meters long. (That’s about ten feet, fellow Americans.) A glance in the cockpit revealed two sets of very well crafted pedal assemblies. And on its side was the model name “Violetta.”
Some quick research on my phone revealed that it was, indeed, a pedal boat and not just for children. It appears that only around twenty were ever produced, so I can only imagine their value.
But the Riva goodness wasn’t over yet. As we waited to board an elevator to the rooftop deck where dinner would be served, I noticed Riva, Chris Craft Cobra, and Gold Cup models amongst the yachting cups and trophies. Once on the rooftop, dinner, champagne and rose awaited as looked over the gilded harbor. However, at the end of the roof deck was an indoor bar. And not any bar: It was the Aquarama Bar, a tribute to Riva and Carlo himself, down to the most minute detail. The floors seemed to be (and probably were) mahogany.
The bar was fashioned after the bow of an Aquarama, right down to the Riva bow light and burgee. A black and white photo of Carlo at the helm of one of his creations filled the back of the bar. Chromed Riva hardware was everywhere. Even the pillows on the mahogany chairs were finished in Riva aqua and embroidered with the hallowed name.
The other attendees knew they were someplace special. But only a Woody Boater knew just how special it really was.
Eventually the night had to end and we boarded coaches for the drive back to Cannes. I was seated next to a Swede, a Norwegian, and a Finn who had snuck out a couple of bottles of champagne for the ride home. I asked them, “did you see that bar?” Coming from three countries surrounded by water they, indeed got it. “Riva!” They toasted, and we all had another glass.