I had just written and lost a large passage of text on Monaco. Argh!!! As I was writing, I had planned a day trip for the baby girl and I, the grand city of Monte Carlo. The staff at our hotel recommended that we take the local bus that followed the coastline and stopped at ever small town on the way. All this potential for fantastic sight seeing for the price of one euro, you can’t beat that for a bargain. As we were stopping at the coastal towns of Beaulieu, Cap d’Ail and Eze, I couldn’t help but think that in recent years, all of the natural beauty has been taken away from the ordinary people and gobbled up by the wealthy. The ordinary worker has been pushed out of the coastal line and up into the mountains where it costs more for them to commute to their places of work because the wealthy have claimed all the local real estate for themselves. I remember traveling the same route twenty five years ago and you saw nature’s natural beauty in sharp relief against the small dots of man’s habitation. Now you see man’s dominance and the enormity of his footprint in direct competition of nature’s beauty and I fear that nature is being forced into a supporting role because now all you see are the mega villas everywhere. They are no longer dotting the countryside, they are eating it up gluttonously. It makes me sad and long for the clock to turn back to a less crowded time.
When we arrived at Monte Carlo, I took the baby girl to the Port de Hercule to see all the yachts and from there we walked up the steep hill to the Place de Casino. The Grand Casino de Monte Carlo doesn’t open its doors until two in the afternoon so we had some time to do other things. I thought visiting the lobby of the Hotel de Paris would be fun, in New York the luxurious hotels are open to the public, it is part of the tourist attraction of the city. That line of reasoning doesn’t exist in Monte Carlo. We were discreetly told that we could stay off the the side in the corner for two minutes to look and then we had to leave. That was two minutes quickly killed, afterwards we went to sit and have a drink to people watch, in a city like Monte Carlo it is actually entertaining, between the luxury cars and sports cars and deep tans, extravagant jewelry and smartly cut business suits, there are tons of stories that you can weave about your subjects and it is free.
I found us a little restaurant that wasn’t too expensive and we had a great lunch. The baby girl had her latest favorite, steak tartare, which she ate very quickly, sign that it was yummy and I had Moules a la sauce Poulette. My mussels were some of the best that I had ever had, they were small and sweet and the cream sauce was perfectly seasoned. Both dishes came with hand cut shoestring French fries, to die for fantastic, we were dunking them in the sauce, what a combination oh my goodness, lick your fingers delicious. For dessert, we went to the gelateria and the baby girl had a scoop of caramel ice cream and I had mango. By now it was two and time for the games to begin!
Gambling is dangerous and seductive. The casinos have you just where they want you, they have replaced the coins spilling out of the machine with a white paper voucher. Very cunning if you ask me, the voucher loses all aspect of money and you forget that you have wagered fifty euros and how quickly the euros are being siphoned off the voucher at a speed that makes your head spin. The machines even accept credit cards, I made sure to only play with cash and that made our stay fairly short. We both found out that we don’t like to risk our money and we don’t have Lady Luck on our side. The rate of speed that a fifty euro note can disappear is mind blowing. Nevertheless we had a lot of fun making the Grand Casino of Monte Carlo richer, you are very welcome Monaco!
My mother’s best friend tracked us down via cell phone Sunday evening and proposed that we dine with her and her companion Monday night. I said yes but I explained that Monday we were spending the day at Monaco. She said that our day trip wouldn’t interfere with us seeing her because all we had to do was take the train from Monaco to Cannes and then hop onto the local bus to Mandelieu. Easy enough and I’m glad that we did it because it is another way of seeing how the average French person conducts his daily life. She picked us up from the bus ride and took us for a small scenic drive up the coast and then up the hills to her home that she shares with her companion who was lovely as well, he spoke both French and English to liven the conversation up and keep the baby girl included. She understands French but more complex conversations are still easier in English. The food was very good, we started off with a luscious tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil salad followed by a seafood medley cooked on the Plancha. The large prawns came from Madagascar where they were raised in a bio sustainable farms that are innovative in their practices of farm raising. We also had scallops and tuna served with white rice and a Thai sauce. The food was lovely, the conversation was extremely interesting and the setting was quiet and simply beautiful in its silence and solitude. We were surrounded yet felt alone on the terrace. I suppose it was the closeness of the vast mountainous backdrop that gave us that impression. Either way, it was amazing. They graciously drove us back to Nice from their small town of Mandelieu and so we got home at 1:00 in the morning.
Needless to say that we are exhausted, yesterday was a fully packed day and today we are on the road again, this time to Arles.