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Year Abroad. Part 4: In for a penne, in for a pound

It rained on the way to Monaco. Our dreams of touching down dressed to impress were gone and instead, having checked the weather forecast before I left that morning (Nan would be proud), I rocked vaguely waterproof trainers and a rain mac with an ambitiously small hood. Any preconceptions you have however, do not warn you of the cliff Monaco clings to. Excluding the harbour which is maintained at sea-level for practical reasons, the rest of the town climbs upwards at a rate which, to an encumbered pedestrian, can only be described as alarming.

Undeterred, you type your AirBnB address into google maps and are given the quickest route. You follow. You find a staircase. You climb. You encounter a second staircase. You climb. There is a lift. You take the lift, you are the only male in the group, no one is challenging your masculinity. You walk, another staircase. Oh, by the way, I should mention that when I say staircase, I don’t mean a mere “I’m just going to pop upstairs” staircase. You remember in the third Lord of the Rings when Sam and Frodo climb that staircase up to the giant spider? Yeah? Well, they were like that. Finally, exhausted and still damp we arrived at our apartment. Marble floors and worktops, queen sized beds and a terrace with a sea view were all that was needed to start the weekend in earnest.

As it was still raining, we whiled away the afternoon playing poker. A pack of cards and a Monegasque postcode the only ingredients needed to turn our kitchen-diner into Casino Royale. However, we had to improvise. You see, to the shock horror of no one, nobody had packed poker chips. Consequently, the boiled sweets that we hoped were complimentary became chips, as did the penne and the fruity tea bags left by our host.

Monaco by night has London prices, albeit not the vibe I look for. White leather sofas where middle-aged millionaires lounge, around a dance floor, occupied by girls and the more eccentric millionaire who dances too enthusiastically in his overly Hawaiian shirt. I haven’t got much to say about the people there, whether Monegasque or holidaymakers, only that their innate sense of natural ownership is only intensified by the drink they can’t hold.

Speaking for the palace, a friend described it as “Playmobil”, which couldn’t be more correct. The surrounding streets were beautiful, but lacked the authenticity of Nice for example, and the cathedral had the same feeling as the palace. Maybe I’m just too cynical.

Good company makes fun, not nice places. And dolled up to the nines, pres over, road beers in hand, on the night bus to Monte Carlo Casino, we had fun. Yeah we were laughed at in the casino, but we were laughing at them too.  And walking away from a blackjack table with €170 as my neighbour laid down in cash his sixth grand in the last twenty minutes, my weekend was paid for.

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