You’ll Need More Than a Bag of Euros To Join Monaco’s High Society (Spoiler: Fancy Shoes Help)

Drip, drip. Splish, splash. We light candles, turn the heat up (it’s a frigid 16 degrees outside [that’s about 60 degrees in American Freedom Units]), drink more wine, and generally laze about. Or I do anyway since Manchit has taken it upon herself to cook the day’s rations of oysters, jumbo shrimp, and salmon fillets in whatever manner she learned from last night’s Jamie Oliver YouTube video. It’s the first rainy overcast day in recent memory (Sample complaint from me the past days: “Can we walk in the shade? This sun is too hot, I may start sweating soon.”) so we’ll take advantage by staying mostly indoors and pumping up our blog numbers with another piece.

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Our time in France is nearly at its end. We’ve been here for about three weeks and after that much time I am confident in my opinion that French dogs poo much more than dogs of other nationalities. Clearly this must be the case because there is dog shit from end to end to end of the cities, towns, beaches, parks, etc. of the places we have been. (I will concede it is also possible French people simply refrain from picking up their dog’s debris, but judging from sheer QUANTITY I think the former opinion is quite a possibility.) India is certainly the winner in the “street-poo” category, but Manchit and I were both surprised to find France coming in at a solid (heh) number two (hehe!) My neighborhood in the Bronx when I first moved to NYC would land at number three.

Street in Maseille
Street in Marseille

It really is perplexing because Marseille aside (Marseille is a bit dirty, but still much, much cleaner than NYC), everywhere else in France is spotlessly clean of trash. There isn’t any garbage around – just little dollops of doggy doo. Those cute little brown pieces that smile gently in the breeze as you step over them on your way to the boulangerie to grab your morning baguette, morning coffee, and morning four packs of cigarettes. Kidding, of course. Manchit and I don’t eat baguettes before noon.

Anyyyyywaayyyyy… Last check-in was in the lovely city of Nice. We spent a week based in the town and checking out a number of other nearby cities, villages and TWO new countries. We also had the chance to meet up with two wonderful travelers whom I crossed paths with again and again while traveling in Laos about 2.5 years ago. Daniel and his girlfriend (sorry, can’t remember her name!) were on an expedition through S.E. Asia when I ran into them three or four separate times in the middle of nowhere Laos. (Pretty easy to recognize each other as we were the only foreigners walking around in these single-main-street towns.) After the last time, I exchanged contact info with Daniel and we cheerfully said our goodbyes, clearly expecting to run into each other again in the next town. The next meet-up took a few years, but it still happened! We enjoyed a great meal at an Italian place (Daniel is actually Italian and living in Nice) before heading to a bar for a drink. They flew out early the next morning for a holiday in Barcelona, but we followed their recommendations for the rest of our time in town.

Bus from airport to Nice center
Bus from airport to Nice center

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The next day we wake up at the early hour of 9am in order for us to catch the 10am bus to the nearby mountain-top village of Èze. Standing with about 15 other tourists at the bus stop, the bus comes right on time and zooms past without slowing down in the slightest. The befuddled mass stands around for a bit before everyone eventually wanders off in different directions. We make our way to the bus station to take an 11am bus that never appears and then are moments from calling an uber to the nearby town before an unscheduled bus arrives to take everyone at 11:30am. Okie dokie!IMG_6659
Our day doesn’t start exactly as planned, but all annoyances slip away as the bus sweeps us out of the city and up and around the first mountain. Blindingly blue skies, the sun sending shimmers of golden fire skipping across the sea, the mountains rising and falling and rising beneath us. The bus is on a regular route through the city and along the coast to Èze, but nearly everyone squashed inside is a tourist. With every new turn into a mountain tunnel and subsequent explosion of Mediterranean light at the exit, another collective gasp of glee emits from the bus’ occupants. The handful of locals sit mostly stone-faced, but even they can’t refrain their gaze from the winding mountain road, the sheer cliffs ending in gently lapping azure waves, the infinite sea…
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We reach the town and quickly head up into the walled city at the top. The place seems straight out of a fairytale – and for good reason. Walt Disney spent time here and incorporated these magical streets into his creations. At the very top of town is a lovely garden of exotic cacti and other climate specific foliage, but the real treat is the panoramic view.
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Finished at the top, we head down the mountain via Nietzsche’s Path, a trail named for the famous German philosopher who was said to have walked it daily when he lived on site.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetIMG_6661At the bottom we grab the next train and are forced to depart into the day’s second country before the sweat had even begun to dry from our backs. Monaco is absolutely tiny, jam-packed with high rises, and filled with the kind of fantastical opulence that isn’t even portrayed in film because it seems so unreachably bizarre for the 99%.

Train to Monaco
Train to Monaco

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Wealth reigns supreme up and down the French Riviera, but it comes to an entirely different level in Monaco when EVERYTHING around you seems to be dripping in money.    That’s not to say it’s a place full of ostentatious displays of gold adorning cars or mammoth diamond necklaces. (Or perhaps it has those too, but we weren’t dressed the part to get into those areas.) It’s the kind of place where you can sense someone has A LOT of money by the way they walk; the way their ultra-fine clothing doesn’t have any labels you may recognize; how you sometimes have to strain to find a car that isn’t a Bentley, Ferrari, Tesla, Porsche, etc.; the way their faces look too perfect and their butts too toned for someone who could either be a thirty-year-old gym teacher or a sixty-five-year-old real estate investor; and the way their eyes don’t ever seem to recognize your existence. You (the common tourist) are like a streetlamp, a garbage bin, a parked scooter. Just a piece of metal to walk around on the way to the yacht.

While I have no idea the value of the yachts that were docked in Monaco, a brief look at store-window advertisements for yacht rentals told us a bit about the market. Small yachts start for around $25,000 USD, large yachts go up to about $180,000. That’s the PER WEEK price. Start saving your pennies, people.

We wandered around a bit more, grabbed dinner (food seemed slightly less expensive than in Nice, suprisingly), then took the train back home. No yacht rentals for us on this trip, but we’ll see what happens in 2019.

Chat in a bit –

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