Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chez Princess Grace

I am so in love!

With Monaco, that is.

You see, sometime last week I was hanging out with my girls A and R, who I’d just had class with, because their next class was two and a half hours away. I was complaining about how I must be the only person here that I know who hasn’t seen Monaco yet, and A suggested that we make a day trip out of it on Friday – so we did.

I couldn’t ask for better tour guides, because they’re game for anything, and they’re just so much fun to be around – I remember being instantly intrigued when I first saw them in translation class, these two pieces of cuteness huddled together, giggling away. I’m so, so glad I went out on a limb and took that class when no one else in my program did at first, just because I got to meet them.

Anyway, so I met up with R on campus and we took the bus out to meet A at the Nice Port (last picture), where the two of them live. Then, we took a different bus out to Monaco, and the beauty of it is, it only costs a euro each way, because the public transportation system services all of the Côte d’Azur. The same goes for Cannes, but I like Monaco way better.

The drive there was unbelievably gorgeous. I mean, Canada has beautiful scenery too, but it’s so different, especially since we’re right by the Mediterranean here. I was twisting around in my seat during the entire trip with my mouth hanging open and my jaw on the floor, because there I was, right in the midst of the kind of breathtaking beauty that inspires art. I tried to snap pictures of the scenery as we drove past, but it was hard because the car was moving, and I ended up getting mostly shots of headrests and some guy’s head.

We passed the city of Villefranche, the girls told me, and Beaulieu, which literally translates to “beautiful place” – and let me tell you, it was very aptly named. I almost broke a rib laughing when they told me that there are a lot of people who live in Beaulieu and commute to work in Nice, because Beaulieu is much mellower, and Nice is too fast-paced.

Fast-paced? Nice?! That’s crazytalk! The slow, slow pace of life here just about slammed me over the head with culture shock when I first got here. But I digress.

So we went to Monaco, and it was absolutely gorgeous. It’s a beautifully designed city, and the opulence makes the Material Girl in me quiver. There are fancy pavilions everywhere, as well as plenty of public gardens filled with plants that I’ve never seen before. What I especially love about the city is that the streets are super clear, unlike Nice, which is literally covered in (dog) sh!t - and dog pee. Okay, maybe “covered” is a strong word...let’s say it’s “liberally sprinkled.”

The restaurants right by the port aren’t too expensive, but the prices spike when you step into the downtown area. According to A, we absolutely have to have coffee at the café just outside of the Monte Carlo and the Hôtel de Paris (where all the celebs stay - 1st & 2nd pictures) even if it’s super expensive, because it’s what all chic people do and you get a great view of the Ferraris rolling by on the street, so we did. I had a ginger ale that cost 6 € and was half the size of a bottle of Coke, which was the same price. I know, right?

We got carded at the Monte Carlo, which was a little annoying, but nothing I’m not used to of, because I get carded even when I’m all dressed up and wearing a full face of makeup. But I'm not going to complain, because I'm sure I'll appreciate this when I'm older. I was disappointed that you’re not allowed to take pictures in there though, because it is absolutely divine inside. There’s this arcade-like side room with all kinds of gambling machines inside, where you don’t have to pay to get in. If you want to actually play and rub elbows with ballers, however, it costs like 10 € for a single entry, and like bus fare, you can get entry packages that are slightly discounted, for say, a certain number of entries or even season passes. I wonder how much money some people can afford to lose...judging by the Rolls Royces parked outside though, probably more than I can fathom. But I didn’t go in because I’m a poor student and I’m not into gambling anyway. Maybe on a dull weekend, I’ll go and try my luck.

Then, we went to the incredibly beautiful Hôtel de Paris. R has a friend that works as a server on the fancier main floor restaurant there who’s served Eva Longoria and Tony Parker! I’m really glad that you’re allowed to take pictures of the interior because it’s so glam it’s ridiculous. It is opulence, epitomized. The only unfortunate thing that kind of screws with the effect is the fact that it stinks outside the washroom, but as long as you don’t go down that wing, you’ll be fine. There are glass cases of all kinds of luxury products on display – Ciribelli pearls the size of marbles, diamond-encrusted cell phones by Vertu, diamond-encrusted Rolexes... And there’s a little stretch of a hallway of shops where you can buy these things.

But what I was most interested in was the fancy restaurant. There’s a sort of café at the left of the entrance and the expensive restaurant is on the right. You can only see inside through the opening/closing door when people walk in and out of there, but besides that, it’s completely closed off. The split-second glimpses I caught were unbelievable. It looks like the set of a historical movie about royalty. There are huge, luxe chandeliers, elegant centerpieces, gorgeous silverware, smartly-uniformed services milling about with perfect posture... The menu is posted outside, and a set lunch costs ONLY 130 €.

Then, we went to see the Monaco Palace, home of the House of Grimaldi, which actually isn’t that impressive, but the view from up there sure is. The steps leading up there are numerous, however, and I was saying the most unladylike things by the time I got there. Then we went to the St. Nicholas Cathedral, where I was hoping to see where Grace Kelly is buried, but I couldn’t find her. What was interesting to me is that there are still people who place fresh flowers on the tombstones of some of the deceased royalty. Also, judging by the flags pasted on the outside of the confession boxes, the priests are polyglots – you can confess your sins in four or five different languages!

Afterwards, we did a teensy bit of shopping, had some dinner as well as some Mövenpick ice cream and then headed home. I was pooped from all the walking. So was A. But R looked like she could’ve kept going! A announced that we’re going to go back to the posh outdoor café before I leave to have champagne – I’m going to have to start saving up. I hope I won’t be a crying, emotional wreck by that point!

Next stop: Germany for a week. Then the Friday after I get back, I’m heading to San Remo, Italy with A and R, where they tell me the pasta is much better quality and much cheaper, so I’ll have to stock up. EEE!


Anonymous said...

Grace is buried right near the end of the half circle. She's the one with the most flowers. They have her full name engraved and it took me a while to realize it was her.

Jadie said...

WOW, Monaco sounds stunning. Trust me babe, I'm totally living vicariously through you. FEED ME, make me whole.