Though I’m by no means fluent but rather just barely conversational in Italian, I can count on my survival knowledge of the language in most situations. Before departing for Monaco, I didn’t even muse over the potential struggle of visiting a French-speaking country without the pre-departure preparation of my travel-savvy parents with whom I normally travel. Even if I had pondered this, I would have undoubtedly been confident that my 7 years of French could at the very least get me through a weekend, right? WRONG.
Upon exiting the Monte Carlo train station I endeavored on an arduous mental journey to remember how to say ‘yes,’ ‘please,’ and ‘thank you.’ How frustrating… I took 7 years of French yet couldn’t remember those rudimentary words? The only aspect of my long-term relationship with the language that I had forgotten was its conclusion 9 years ago. Nonetheless, the word ‘taxi’ seems to be pretty universal, thank God. Since I couldn’t pull a single word of French from my aged, 21-year-old brain, I showed the driver the address of our hotel on my phone. As soon as he saw the address, he said ‘no’ and then rattled off in what may have been angry French but I’m not certain because I’m no French connoisseur! (I’ve now officially exceeded the acceptable number of puns to use in a blog because that number is zero.)
Confused, we got out of the cab and hailed another. After the third repetition of the whole get-in-cab, get-told-no, get-out-of-cab thing, I deduced that something wasn’t right. How shrewd of me! Turns out Monaco cabs often ‘politely refuse’ to take passengers to France, and our hotel was just across the Monaco-France border. Though I had failed to take note of the country’s language, I did do some research on its size prior to the trip- the whole principality is only 2 square kilometers. With that short of a distance and with the hotel residing directly on the border, it was almost senseless to take a cab anyway, right? WRONG AGAIN. 60 minutes, 30 flights of stairs, and $300 worth of data later we found our hotel. My friends optimistically remarked that we had arrived safely. Easy for them to say, not having seen my mother’s wrath at last month’s $20 data overage charge…
After our difficult arrival, our weekend in Monaco was très magnifique! Monaco is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and is particularly striking for me because it simultaneously boasts mountain, sea, and architecture. The water is deep, piercing blue, and so salty that you can float upright without any effort. We rented a captained boat with a tour guide for the day to explore the French Riviera. Our souped-up-dinghy juxtaposed quite interestingly with the super yachts we beheld. Our captain and guide, both extremely cultured and learned, provided us with extensive information regarding these vessels, all bearing stories just as captivating as the properties and estates surrounding them. I asked if they had ever been on a yacht like one we passed, only to find out that they typically command vessels of that variety and were only onboard our boat because the normal crew was on holiday. They told us stories of famous people they’d escorted in the past- one ending in P. Diddy (Puff Daddy? Diddy?) leaving a $10,000 tab unpaid.
Seeing such stately and ornate architecture makes me curious about the lives of the people involved in its establishment. The Prince’s Palace of Monaco was originally constructed as a Genoese fortress, but later became the residence of the Grimaldi family. The history of this Palace is fascinating because the same ruling family has resided within it for over seven centuries. While many European ruling families have constructed new palaces and relocated in times of prosperity, the condensed nature Monaco has mandated palace renovation and minor expansion instead. Therefore the Palace is a symbol of both Monaco and the family that has ruled from within its walls for over 700 years
Monaco’s history is both antique and modern, as it is rich in unique culture and lavish glamor and wealth. We traveled to the famous staircase where the scenes of “To Catch a Thief” were filmed, and later visited places that Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier frequented. History is most digestible for me when I can place it in a context I’m already familiar with, thus Monaco’s connection with entertainment culture is enthralling.
Monaco- I came in to your casino with only 10€ and left with 0. Hopefully some day I’ll return with more adequate funds so you can rob me blind again! Just kidding, you’re magnificent.
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<p>I'm Madison Qualy- a swimmer at the University of Miami. Saint Louis bred me; Miami deals with me. I am a junior, double majoring in Ecosystem Science and Policy and Marine Affairs, and minoring in Spanish. I hope to attend law school and practice environmental law. I love sports, animals, and wine. Follow all the tomfoolery I get into in Milan via my posts!</p>