Coming from a country that has been ruined by aggressive and stupid wars that only resulted in ruined generations without any possibility to travel – I admit I missed a lot of things other people my age consider a given. One of them was touring France – and seeing Monte Carlo.
Few days ago I promised on Instagram that I would chronicle this trip – and I will do good on my word!
As those of you who follow me there might know, it has been a tough few months and I remember only one more time when I needed a vacation this badly. So I gathered courage, took my motorbike, packed few of my favorite outfits and hit the road. Destination: France.
Yes, I’ve always had a secret love for that country, it’s history, charm, music, culture. And most of all, I’ve seen way too many movies from the 50-s and 60-s – which would prove to be not so good for me – read along and you’ll understand why.
I am 34 and I come from ex Yugoslavia, with a passport that until a few years ago meant “no way in hell you can travel unless you prove you’re a billionaire and you won’t stay in our country, and even then we might not grant you a visa” 😀
Add to the mix the fact that one of my favorite movies ever is “How to catch a thief”, and that I’ve always admired (as millions of others, I guess) that unreachable icon of grace (nomen omen) that was Grace Kelly Grimaldi.
So imagine my ingenue self that opens her eyes in disbelief when I arrived today in Monte Carlo!
I must admit that the coastal road to it gets pretty scenographic in some moments, and the wonderful perfume of pines and salty air gets me every time, but if anyone should expect to find that kind of atmosphere that existed in Grace’s movie… just forget about it. The Monte Carlo that use to make me dream when I was a little girl died probably decades and decades ago, making space for this:
A huge, insatiable, unbelievable, horrifying, never-ending waterfall of cement and glass. How in God’s name can anyone find that beautiful is beyond me. How was all that building ever allowed? More than a paradise on Earth people dream of, it was an equally well-known fiscal paradise. I know that money dictates everything and that Monte Carlo’s particular fiscal regime has attracted wealthy people from all over the globe – but this just felt suffocating to me. The glamour you think it has? It’s all in extremely fancy restaurants and clubs, obviously accessible to the equally wealthy clientele. The vulgarity is everywhere: the new rich who flaunt their wealth, Russian and Arab billionaires who make Monaco into a whole new creation, the embodiment of what today’s world thinks glamour is. Mind you, to me vulgarity means lack of manners, class and that je ne sais quoi that the ’50s held: I am aware that the world is changed – but change doesn’t always mean for the better, unluckily.
Anyhow, I did not let that dampen my mood. Traveling opens minds, allows you to breath another air, another reality, and this is an impressive example of organization and well-being as a lifestyle.
Who knows what the Prince Rainier thought of the direction taken by his Principate?
Today’s Prince and his siblings do provide an insane amount of gossip to the magazines, and it’s frankly hard to connect them to their mythical parents. I paid a visit to the Palace, obviously, and unluckily it is forbidden to take pictures (I found this peculiar and frankly useless: it is true that it’s also a home, but history is more important than a single member of a family or a family itself: let people take mementos, no?). It was a curious building from the outside yet lovely and classy inside, with a nice art collection. Still I couldn’t but laugh with my husband while thinking of the operetta “La Vedova allegra” (The Merry Widow): the whole Principauté reminded me of Pontevedro! It also reminded me of my own home country Montenegro, whose coastal area is somehow aiming to be the next Monte Carlo, and in terms of savage building, it’s coming true.
A short walk up the hill, and there it was, the palace that saw so much history and good society:
The heat was unbelievable! I ended up looking like a truck driver today courtesy of my tshirt’s sleeves 😀 . I’m beginning to think that I should carry a lace umbrella like the Japanese tourists do 😀
One thing I have to mention is the absolute kindness and never-ending smiles that the locals give, from the waiter in the bar to the people working in the Palace. I’ve seen enough of the world to know that that isn’t a given: my vanity will tell you that I was complimented on my French too – which is a bit rusty now as I have no occasion to use it back home, but somehow when I’m in French-speaking areas, I am naturally compelled to use it, even when it doesn’t come naturally as English or Italian.
One of my IG followers today remarked funnily that while the Grimaldi drama can be entertaining, the palace was “the ugliest thing ever”. Well, it sure is a curious mashup of styles, but I did enjoy it. The art collection and the objects received by the family during centuries were truly remarkable, and the Palace visit is of course a must-do. For the whole time I was inside, I got a weird feeling of walking through a movie stage, but those rooms are indeed a living and working part of the palace, including the throne room. This little commoner wonders how that looks when it’s used, in 2015! 😀
On a positive note, I had a lovely walk in the port and an even better Mojito to toast 30K on Instagram, and I did dream about the old movies and things those Monaco walls saw. The motorbike ride was panoramic and romance was in the air, so I do feel blessed I got to fulfill some of my childhood dreams! Monaco is a place to see, definitely, at least once in your life, just take my advice and don’t go too heavy on the movies-induced imagination! 🙂
The visit was short, just one day, and the heat made it impossible for us to walk for anything longer than 15 minutes at a time, but I can still tell that the seaside does it’s magic on me. When you grow up breathing that salty air and smelling the pines – you’re ruined for life. So thank you Monaco, it was brief, intense, and unforgettable!