I took a 30 euro taxi to my Airbnb where they were waiting up for me. I was scheduled to get in 4 hours earlier but because the first 2 trains I had wanted were full and then I skipped that train in Genoa, I was quite late. I couldn’t let them know, however, because there was no wifi and my phone and computer were both dead. They were not mad though.
Tania (the wife) offered me some dinner and showed me my room. It was a very small apartment. You walked in the front door to a small room (where my bed was on the floor). To the right was a bathroom and to the left was a door to a larger bachelor style room with the kitchen and their bed. Although not the Sheraton, it was very comfortable and felt quite homey. They gave me the wifi password and I dabbled a bit on the interwebs before going to sleep.
Nice to Monte Carlo
We had arranged (the Canadian girls and I) to meet at the train station at 11am. I left the airbnb place around 10 just to be sure I would not be late for my new friends. I got there in half an hour, as expected. To kill time I went to the market and picked up some yogurt (well… I got Yop since I did not have a spoon but they only came in packages of 6), Babybelle cheese, and a banana.
I went and stood by the front doors of the station to wait for them and ate my banana and yogurt. I was full after one. When the girls got there I shared my snacks and we boarded the train to Monte Carlo.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we decided to all dress up (or at least get as dressed up as you could get when backpacking). I was wearing my new pink shirt with a black collar, and shorts, but I had my new fancy dress in my purse. The girls both came in cute sun dresses. We were clearly ready for the rich city.
On the train we met a very nice Irish family. They were a little bit hard to understand but chatting with them made the time fly. We talked about meeting some rich bachelors in Monte Carlo and that I want to visit Ireland so I can experience ‘Ps: I love you’ for my own. The girl informed me that few Irish men are actually as portrayed in that movie. Heartbroken. But I guess that would be like assuming every American was like Channing Tatum… heartbroken again.
Strolling through riches
When we got off the train we had no idea where to go. We had not planned this trip at all and really just showed up to look around. We saw water in the distance and started to head downhill, always a good place to start.
We passed some beautiful buildings and started to see the fancy cars zooming past us. Yup, this was Neverland.
We made it down to the water and ended up right by the yacht
club. All around us were boats (if you can call them that) worth more than my… well… anything I could possibly list here. They were 3 and 4 stories tall with planks out to the dock and topiaries and a fancy mat at the entrance. One said ‘Happy birthday Samantha’. If there was a guest list I figured Sarah was a common enough name to maybe be on it… but then decided that might be weird… maybe.
We walked along most of the docks and looked up at these floating-buildings while quietly thinking of business plans to become instant billionaires. I came up with nothing.
We left the marina and headed up along the streets. We passed some of the public beaches – where we dipped our toes in – and along the street kiosks. We wondered how much a bathing suit was, in case we wanted to tan for the day. Oh. In Monte Carlo? Just 85 euros from a vendor… Tanning was out.
Food for cheapies
We looked at menu after menu along the board walk. My method of comparison is the Margarita pizza. If a Margarita pizza (which is on most menus in Europe) is more than 10 euros, it was out of my price range. All of these were up near the 20s.
We decided that if we wanted to be able to afford to eat after todays meal we should probably head away from the water.
We looked at a few more menus, climbed a few more stairs, looked at more menus, climbed stairs, looked at more menus, and then FINALLY found one sketchy place with single digit prices.
I got an egg and cheese bagel and a caesar salad for 18 euros. Honestly though. If you saw a $16 CAN caesar salad in Canada you would laugh… but here, in all of Europe… that was cheap.
We waited the usual 45 minutes for our bill and then decided to head back and find out what was on the other side of the yacht club.
On our way over we stumbled upon a beautiful garden. We roamed through it and on the other end found the infamous Monte Carlo Casino. We had wondered where that was.
When we came up to it we could see why it was such a big deal. The building it self was absolutely beautiful but it was what was in front that really caught our eyes. Every one of the most expensive cars in the whole world was parked out front of this thing. I mean… Lamborghini’s, Maserati’s, Ferrari’s, Rols Royce’s, and brands I had never even heard of but that looked like they were hand crafted by an army of tiny luxury elves. I mean really, this place was an auto show for the rich and famous.
We awkwardly took pictures of all of the cars (while trying not to give too much of the attention these people were clearly begging for) and then continued on our way, feeling only a LOT worse about ourselves.
We went around back and admired more of the building architecture when it started to rain. We had not planned to go into the Casino until the evening but I guess now would have to do.
I changed in a bathroom into my new dress (because one can only be so classy) and we paid the 10 euros it cost to get into the Casino. Inside was a hall full of slots (but not all smokey and crammed and noisy like the Vegas Casinos. No, this room was somehow classier. The second room had a few roulette and blackjack tables. But that was it! All of the other rooms you either paid more to see or they were private. We felt a little bit ripped off… but at least the inside of the building was just as jaw-dropping as the outside.
We each got a glass of wine and stood and watched some roulette, trying to get our moneys’ worth. We asked a man where the high stakes poker rooms were and he told us they were next door at the Fairmont. THAT’S where we should be if we want to see the high rollers. We each quickly put 5 euros into the slots so we could say we gambled at Monte Carlo. I hit it big and came back from 1.30 to 5.40 so I cashed out quick. The other girls were not so ‘lucky’.
World Champion Backgammon Tournment
To put it quickly… we checked out the Fairmont and found no such high stakes games. Only an even smaller casino. At least this one was free to enter.
We left and started to look around the hotel. It was nice, but not as nice as Banff’s. Around the corner we saw big windows with what looked like an amazing view of the ocean. We beelined.
Upon arriving near the windows we saw a banner overhead that read “World Champion Backgammon Tournament”. Really? That is a real thing? In the midst of laughing a man came out and told us not to be shy. He invited us to check out this riveting tournament. He then launched into the LONGEST story about his life I had ever heard. Maddy and Katlyn (the Canadian girls, since I realize I have not said their names until now) were much sweeter than I. I was looking everywhere but at him, in hopes that this long winded story about smuggling his hashish into Canada would end. Finally, he led us over to the leader board for the tournament and explained how it worked. But he could only explain for so long before he had to tell us another long winded story about himself. On and on he went about his backgammon history and poker life. Finally, again, he said he would show us the other leader board and promise not to talk about himself again. He looked at me for a laugh… but I just gave him a “yea… that would be GREATLY appreciated” kind of look. On our way over he launched into another story. I couldn’t even tell you what it was about. I was fuming. It was time to leave. I couldn’t stand this guy for another second.
JUST then a guy closer to our age came over and said “you guys have to see this. The number 1 and number 2 backgammon players in the world are facing off”. In all honestly, he could have told me to come watch him tap his finger on his forehead for 3 hours and I still would have followed him. We were free!
We came to two men playing very seriously over a board. He told us that he had noticed we looked bored and thought he would save us; he didn’t know anything about backgammon. We were so very appreciative. We were then hushed by the more serious spectators so we walked over to the snack bar to chat and meet his other friends. His name was Zane and he was there with his friends Alex and Jackie. They were on Vacation. What kind of vacation you ask? Well…
Dreams really do come true
After the introductions Zane asked us what our plans were for the evening. When we said we had just planned to walk around he invited us to… get this… the YACHT he was staying on. One of his friends from work was a billionaire and was sailing them around the south of France on his yacht for a week. They were stopped in Monte Carlo for a of couple days and wondered if we wanted to check it out.
Ummm… Let me think about it for a minute… YES!
Day #1: #Yachtlife
The owner of the boat walked over and we were introduced. He looked ecstatic we were joining them. He was a 70 something year old man and seemed to be a lot of fun with his blue shirt and bright yellow shorts. He led us out to his BMW (which doesn’t sound as impressive as a Lambo or something but this was the fanciest BMW I had ever seen. I have no idea what model it was).
Shortly we were back at the Yacht club and were lead over to a 3 story, 90 foot yacht. It was stunning. A royal blue with dark wood panels and cream and orange patio furniture. I couldn’t believe it.
We took off our shoes and went for a tour around the Yacht.
Let me paint you a picture in advance:
- Sub floor with 5 cabins.
- Main floor with kitchen living room, dining room, tv room, and patio.
- Second floor with captains area, living room number 2, and outdoor lounge area and dining area.
- Third floor with more lounge area and some couches.
- 5 ‘Colleagues’ worked on board: Captain, chef, 2 servers, and butler.
- Candy bowls and fresh fruit on every table.
- Gourmet meals (always 2 options) for every meal, prepared by the chef and served by the 2 servers.
- Desert after lunch and dinner.
- Continuous bottomless drinks brought out by the servers. They ask you every few minutes if you are ok and need anything from a blanket, to a drink, to food, to a music change, etc.
Evening 1: Living the good life
We simply couldn’t believe what we had stumbled into. Jackie, the girlfriend of one of the guys, told us that we had just hit the jackpot and to sit back and enjoy the ride.
All night we were served the most expensive Rose and champagne you can buy (or so I assume by the taste and fanciness of the bottle) as well as peanuts and berries for snacking. I only had 2 glasses of wine but was then kept ‘satisfied’ by tea and honey served in a full tea set with a real wooden honey scooper thing. You know the one?
It was then dinner time and it was quite the spread. The owner of the boat was out for dinner with friends but the chef made us 2 delicious salads and pasta with a few different kinds of bread. We were more than content.
Then came out a chocolate mousse cake with fresh raspberries and a raspberry drizzle. Adopt me.
The night went on and we had talked about leaving to go back to our Hostels in Nice. All of our stuff was there so we would have to leave before the last train. We were then invited by the owner to stay on the Yacht for the night. He had a spare cabin we could sleep in privately and he would have the servers lay out toothbrushes, razors, water, towels, and any other toiletries we felt we needed.
Was this really happening? Like… was this real life?
We decided to stay.
Day #2: As good as it gets
When I woke up the girls were gone. But don’t panic for me, they had just gone to get their bags.
I went upstairs and met Zane on the top floor to lay back and enjoy the views of the marina. One of the servers came and brought me a glass of water and we waited for breakfast to be laid out. After getting to know a little bit about each others lives, breakfast was served.
On the table were bowls of various fresh berries, two kinds of yogurt, 4 different kinds of breakfast rolls, freshly squeezed orange juice, cereal, granola, and the option of eggs to be cooked by the chef when ‘ordered’.
Just after breakfast the girls got back we all sat on the deck and tanned while the owner of the boat took care of some business. Jackie leant me her bathing suit top but I spent most of the time in the shade because of the heat.
We played Asshole (a fun card game they taught me), listened to music, and just did what people do on yachts – sprawl out say repeatedly “this is as good as it gets”.
Then it was lunch. The chef had prepared a marinated cod (probably the best fish I had ever had in my life), and some beef skewers that smelled amazing. With it was a delicious rice that you dropped a raw egg into and covered with more hot rice to let it cook inside. Very strange but very delicious. There was the usual spread of bread selection and vegetables, and 2 salads as well.
Later in the afternoon we went for a cruise to a nearby town where they dropped the anchor and we were going to swim. Unfortunately there were small Jellyfish all around us so only a few brave souls jumped in for 2 seconds before hurdling themselves back out.
When everyone was back on board we had a delicious apple crumble for our late dessert.
On the way back to Monte Carlo we played a ‘game’. Business men are always business men, even in their free time. The owner of the boat was a licensed insurance broker. He thought it would be funny to say what body part each everyone should have insured (such like J-Lo and her ass) and vote on it. I forgot to mention that a Russian model (no lie) had joined us on the yacht right before we took off). Her insurable body part was obviously her year long legs. Mine were my shoulders, ass, and feet. Strange combo, but I’ll take the compliment.
Evening #2: Time to pay
We soon made it home and docked. The game had been a little bit weird and I ended up feeling uncomfortable by all the attention being paid towards my body, the girls felt the same. Then the innuendoes started to come out and comments were made that made us feel like their fun was only just beginning.
People started to shower and get ready to go out for the night. The plan was to go gamble at the casino. I confided in one of the guests that we were feeling uncomfortable and the answer was “you had to have known what to expect”. We took that as our cue to leave.
We had an amazing time on the yacht, met some very nice people, and lived like the rich and famous just long enough to realize that normal life is actually not too bad. We were not about to pay for any of it with our bodies or be forced into ‘relationships’ that we did not agree with. So, we thanked everyone graciously and headed out, at 11pm, to catch the last train back to Nice and hope to find the girls a hostel (since they had intended to sleep on the yacht again).
Back to Nice
We caught the train and made it back in due time. When we arrived we wandered around looking for a hostel for a little while before finding McDonalds and using their wifi to get on hostel bookers (McDonalds can be life saver). In no time the girls had found a place to stay.
They were leaving the next day for Barcelona so I said goodbye, thanked them for being my partners in this adventure, and headed to catch my tram to the airbnb.
I had a great sleep back at my humble airbnb and headed out to find the beach the next morning. My only plan was to test my theory that I do not tan with sunscreen (Spoiler alert… I didn’t get any darker… Sorry mom! Debunked) and lay there all day.
I took the very convenient tram down to the beach and found a spot on the rocks (Yes… Nice is another rock beach… What is up with these places?). I lathered my body up in sunscreen, lay my towel out, and laid there. I was close enough to the showers where I could rinse the sweat off when I got close to passing out from the heat and still watch my bag, so that was nice.
I took my phone out of my purse to put some music on and saw that I had a text. The girls had slept through their train and were ‘stuck’ in Nice for another day. THIS WAS THE BEST NEWS EVER. Well for me… maybe not for them… but I was quite happy. I gave them my whereabouts and they came and met me. We all napped on the beach for a bit before finding a lovely little irish pub for some cheap food.
Water shows, dance shows, light shows, art shows, and more
After we ate we decided to really explore the city. We saw a waterfall and castle in the distance and headed that way. It was up a hill so we started to climb stairs. After a few wrong turns we found the gate. Closed for the day… Well at least we worked off all the rich food from Monte Carlo.
We strolled through the small streets, got a little bit lost, and then found the main street again. There was an adorable park with a dinosaur themed wooden playground. If it were not so full of kids we for sure would have been on it. There was also a water show with little jets of water spraying out of many fountains on the ground. Kids in bathing suits were running around trying to catch the sprays and making up their own games. I was actually so jealous. It looked awesome. It was getting darker and then the lights came on in unison with the water jets, making it 1000x cooler. We pulled ourselves away before we could jump in fully clothed and found ourselves mezmerized by some very attractive men doing a great breakdancing show. There were at least 50 people watching. We gave a few dollars at the end and headed back to the boardwalk.
I am not used to this, being from Alberta, but boardwalks are the place to be at night. So many shows and artists and lights and music. It is entertainment for all ages. We walked around for a good hour. We watched a guy doing some magical dance moves with a soccer ball, watched the spray paint artist that every major city has, took 100 pictures of the moon reflecting on the ocean, and listened to a man dressed in venetian theatre clothes play the ukulele.
I then walked with the girls back to the main strip and said goodbye again, for real this time.
It was fun! And I can’t wait to visit you guys in Ontario!
Nice to Geneva
When I got up Tania (the wife) invited me for breakfast with them. She had made eggs and toast and cut up some apple. It was a wonderful surprise.
I packed up, thanked them for their hospitality, and headed to catch my 12:00 train.
Everything went pretty smoothly. 2 trains and a bus later and I was in Geneva.