A tiny country that packs more genuine characters into a small space than you could ever imagine – French ski instructors, a yoga instructor from LA, and two Italian sisters – these characters made my trip to Monaco more memorable than Princess Grace ever could.
I met two ski coaches in their twenties going on holiday in Nice, a coastal city tucked into the far southeast corner of France, right on the border of minuscule Monaco. Instantly we became friends, and they invited me to share in their evening out. More than that, they offered me a place to stay. I, of course, accepted. After settling in to their luxurious residence, we went down to the coast where we sipped mojitos on a rooftop bar, sampled local olives and cheese, and met with their friends at an upscale restaurant. As it turns out, one of the guys is the son of winery owners whose bottles cost more than a week’s worth of spending. Instead of ordering the family wine, we were invited into the restaurant’s cellar to choose any other type of wine we liked. After dinner we returned home safely, and it was then that I was shown both the breathtaking view and the wine cave which was located directly underneath my bedroom. We quietly peeped downstairs and sampled fresh grappa and wine straight from the barrel. The next day, we awoke long into the morning hours and opened the electronically controlled shutters to see a turquoise pool, green grass, golden sun, and blue seas.
From Nice, I went to Monaco. There it is, country forty-eight! It was there I learned from an energetic yoga instructor originally hailing from Los Angeles all about the Adriatic Coast and of Monaco’s hush-hush motto. She told me the best places to go, the best walks to take. She told me how the Prince of Monaco’s relationships outside of his own marriage may or may not lead the masses to believe he has his eye on a sex other than that of his lovely Princess. She told me also that no one is allowed to speak of this, so instead locals make up alternative scenarios in defensive of their rulers.
She told me more than just Monacan trivia. She also told me how she’s been organizing various yoga events since her arrival in the south of France, including a weekly Saturday morning session on the beach of Nice – so that if you or I ever find ourselves once more in this spot we may attend. I truly hope so! Additionally, she inspired me to push forth and to grow – to not settle with being just another traveller or letting Miss Maps be just another blog. She was enthused and amused with this venture and encouraged me to get my name out there. (Are you in? Spread the word! Miss Maps is ready to take on the world! – But don’t spread the word about the Prince. We don’t know how that could end up.)
In the city, or country rather, the sea meets the mountains by way of luxurious cars and pristine streets unlike any other. The pavement smells of soap and glistens with small lustrous flecks dancing with the sun’s reflection. As you drive past, your senses are overwhelmed with riches. Its like every ounce of gold owned by the Monegasque has made its way to the streets to greet you.
Males in their teens and twenties lined the main road with cameras set to capture any sports car that whizzed by, and I noticed immediately that most cars were driven by Daddy’s Favorite Son: guys too young to have been able to earn the pretty pennies need to afford such an automobile.
On the far side of town (I mean, country) is the Monte Carlo Country Club. While I passed through town, tennis’s Greats were there competing in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and the sultry Novak Djokov were just meters away. To get in I would have to shell out 62 euro. That part was permissible I decided, as it was a once in a lifetime chance. But when the security guard told me she’d need to first check my bag? No thanks. I’m not hiding anything too secretive in here; but the process of unpacking and repacking my entire life on the lawns of a world class tennis court? In a country where residents must meet certain monetary expectations in order to live? Sorry, Roger. Maybe next time!
In Monaco I traveled like a turtle, walking around with my rucksack all day to avoid spending hundreds on a hotel stay. I chose to make it one of the few countries where it was acceptable to spend only a day, rather than a few. The entire country is the seconds smallest in the world, at only two square kilometers! Easily traversable by foot multiple times over, and that’s just what I did. From one side to the other, from the bottom to the highest top.
Leaving town, I met two sisters on holiday together. They’d gone to Monaco to visit friends and without heavy baggage, they were also able to hear the ‘pop-pop’ of tennis racket hitting neon green ball and watch the Monte Carlo match from the stands. They prepared me for the next part of my trip. Speaking, one in great English and the other in more shy whispers, of their native Italy, they encouraged me to visit Genoa, Pisa, Siena and more. Their lists were lengthy and full of proud remarks, eagerness to share their country with a visitor.
Monaco is lovely, truly. Like walking through a movie in real life. But more than the lawns manicured to a perfectly even height; more than the glistening streets and sparkling waters, I’ll remember the few spunky characters that met me along the way.
And it didn’t stop there!