Dreaming of Monaco
Saturday, August 28th, 2004: Nice, France
Nice is nice but Monaco beckons. We met Claudia and her husband Marco when we were in Mykonos and they have asked us to lunch aboard their yacht which happens to be anchored in Monaco. This is a complete and total surprise to us but also a bit of luck because: a) we had not planned to be in France this early, b) we had not expected them to be here and c) they have a yacht! We ring them on their mobile and sure enough, they are expecting us. We spend an hour deciding what to wear and head off in the car by 10:30 this morning for our 40 minute drive to Monaco and Monte Carlo. We retrace our steps from yesterday and climb the rocky hills up to the autostrada and we are quickly there. We wind our way down the curvy roads into the harbour, thinking of Princess Grace the whole time, past the casino and expensive apartments and luckily find a parking spot within a short walking distance of where the boats are moored. Now, how do we find their yacht?? There are so many, and we have but a vague description of it and where it is moored, but neither one of us is really sure what we are looking for. The sun is beating down on us even at 11:30 but it is Cote d’Azur sun and we are hanging with the beautiful people. And there are a lot of beautiful people here with beautiful clothes and beautiful cars and beautiful yachts and beautiful lives. We are just a couple of semi-tanned white boys from Canada, our eyes and our jaws dropped wide open.
After some walking and practicing our directional French, we find their boat. It is tucked in among the other huge boats lining the harbour. John and I look at each other and smile. Claudia greets us grandly in the European way, big wide air kisses to either side of our heads. Marco does the same but with less gesture and shakes our hands at the same time. There is a bottle of white wine chilling on the table and olives and bread sticks are artfully laid out. Some cool jazz is playing in the background. The blue waters of the Cote d’Azur gently lap the side of the yacht. It can’t get any better than this. I remove my sun glasses but quickly put them back on, taking my cue from our hosts, who as I remember, never took them off while they were in Mykonos. I sit down in the beautiful rattan deck chairs with a silly grin from ear to ear, thinking that I must be in some fever-induced dream or even more foolishly that I could get used to this kind of life!
We have a glass of wine which turns into two, which turns into three. All of a sudden I am aware of two other people on board: The help! A young man and woman, in white Lacoste shirts and pants, their sunglasses on, start to lay out our lunch, bringing place settings and glasses and replenishing the wine. All done quietly and discreetly, never interrupting our conversation. Meanwhile the pace of the Monaco harbour is picking up. People are coming and going. Some stop to look at us and our little oasis of luxury. Keep on looking, I say. I’m enjoying this!
Lunch is traditional Salade Nicoise, big heaping plates of it and fresh baguette and more wine to accompany the salads. Bottles of acqua minerale and coffee and chocolates are offered an hour an a half later. I have that “drunk on the sun feeling” but also am drunk on the wine and the heady atmosphere of the rich and famous. Who knew that Claudia and Marco were so fabulous? Who knew that they were so rich? I guess it pays to be open to meeting new people. The chat and the wine flow easily and we have lots of fun, mostly gossiping about travelling and the people we have met.
Suddenly we realize that it is after 5 pm and John is going to have to navigate the windy corniche road home, heading west directly into the sun. We are obviously hesitant about starting the boozy drive back to Nice when Claudia asks what hotel we are staying at in Nice. I look at John hoping that he will answer and see that he expects the same of me and I casually mention the ‘Hotel du Centre’ (a two star hotel at best). Claudia smiles at Marco, who nods his head in approval and she immediately insists that we spend the night as their guests aboard the yacht. They would even provide the tooth brushes and the robes! We could go out for a late dinner and continue the party, no worries about driving home until tomorrow. We are both speechless at this offer and…………………………I lurch from my sweaty, drooling nap, slightly disoriented from this fever-dream, the sound of the garbage truck loudly collecting late on a Saturday afternoon. The raucous siren sounds of the street and the low afternoon sun filter in through the green shuttered windows of the humid rooms in the Hotel du Centre, here in Nice. Sheesh, what a dream I had! Must have been something in the Salade Nicoise I had for lunch earlier today in Monaco. Some weird dream about a yacht in Monaco and too much wine. Her name was Claudine or something, Marco…
We are in the car by 10:30 this morning for our 30 minute drive to Monaco and Monte Carlo. We retrace our steps from yesterday and climb the rocky hills up to the autostrada and we are quickly there. We wind our way down the curvy roads into the harbour, thinking of Princess Grace the whole time, past the casino and expensive apartments and luckily find a parking spot within a short walking distance of where the boats are moored…..
Really and truly Monaco: Not a Dream!