Monaco is a really weird place – let’s face it, as weird in its way as Lost Wages. The tiny principality, huddled under steep cliffs, seems to have a higher proportion of showrooms for expensive cars than anywhere else in the world. The food and booze is much more expensive here because it is under the wing of the French government, which defends it. The Italians invaded it in 1943 and then the Nazis did when Mussolini's government "fell". Why didn't the Fascists invade Switzerland? That is an irrelevant question.
There are high rise apartments everywhere here, presumably occupied by legions of millionaires and billionaires who can afford to pay the exorbitant rents. There’s an overpreponderance of extremely well dressed women trailing after tiny little dogs who wee and poo anywhere they can. In Monaco Port there are some whopping great yachts. Then there’s the Monaco Grand Prix. Except that everyone who drives on the roads when the F1 event isn’t on appears to think they are racing car drivers.
This morning I looked in vain for any signs of washing on the balconies of the myriad of the apartments with absolutely no success at all. Do the rich just throw out old clothes when they get dirty and then buy new ones when they need to?
Don’t get a headache after 8PM if you’re staying in a hotel. A concierge explained to someone who is big in the channel in my hearing that after 8PM at night, you must go to a police station, and get a letter from them explaining that the pharmacy must be opened to dispense aspirins. The hotel won’t sell them for health and safety reasons, and it’s difficult to find a convenience store or indeed anything resembling an ordinary shop unless you brave the heights by taking the public lifts that will shunt you towards the heights that back the country.
I’ve been here several times and there are still a couple of questions that I haven’t found the answer to yet. Where do the ordinary people live? In France? And what happens to the sewage that cannot be pumped up the cliffs to end up in France. I think it’s inadvisable to swim in the few beaches there are, although I have seen several people taking the plunge.
According to the Europa World Year Book, Monaco is highly dependant on migrants to fill jobs – the majority come from Italy and France. There’s a severe labour shortage.
I haven’t been in the casino in the hotel I’m staying yet – they want me to wear appropriate dress. Somehow I think a leather jacket and jeans doesn’t fit that bill. It would be nice if it said what appropriate dress was. Is it wearing shorts and toting a great big bag full of five litre bottles of Diet Pepsi, like Charlie Demerjian does. Is it a kilt? And if a kilt is not infra dig, do I have to wear underpants? Would carrying a dirk be OK? Would it be alright if I wore my sporran? There is a long list of things you’re not allowed inside the casino, the icons dazzled my brain a bit – these days we have so many icons for so many things that they’re hard to master, no-one has produced a definitive guide to the icons of the 21st Century yet. Perhaps there’s room for one. We need a modern Samuel Johnson. He is not me.
Les chiens sont interdit on the beaches, and balls and skate boards on the promenade too. But the beaches and the promenades are full of kids on skateboards, of les chiens, mostly tiny, and dogs with balls, as well as bitches too. Monaco, apparently, has a very high proportion of cops to the population - which rhymes with copulation - but you hardly ever see them, and when you do they seem to be chatting each other up or chatting other people up. We wonder where the jail is, you certainly don’t feel unsafe walking about at night except for the natural hazards like the drivers and....
...the posh hotels have trails of dog wee and number two stuff too on their posh pillars outside, which the authorities make an attempt to clean up, but the task of doing so is just too great for the authorities despite the use of what seem like water cannons to keep the pavements clean. And there’s marble everywhere, marble everywhere, so if you’re wearing shoes with leather soles beware, it’s slippery. Not just outside but on the inside of hotels too.
The Grimaldi Forum is the conference centre midway between where I’m staying and the Fairmont. There’s not much to say about it. In fact that’s all I’m going to say about it. I’m not going to say much about the Fairmont either, except the dress code there seems a bit more relaxed than here at the Monte Carlo Bay. Quite a bit more relaxed. Some of the girls seemed to be wearing very little indeed, but buzzing you couldn't call it. Opposite Grimaldi, bah I mentioned it again, are shops selling high end Rolls Royces, Ferraris, Bentleys, Mercs and the rest. Lambhorgini seems to have shut up shop. Shame.
A very big man in the channel told me that he actually found a Spar supermercado in a very posh shopping centre near the Casino. He took me there. Brown sauce cost about seven euro, tomato sauce cost about seven euro. A bottle of William Peel Scotch cost about the price of those two put together. The very big man in the channel didn’t buy the whisky, he bought Sprites in a brown paper bag because he didn’t want the Fairmont authorities to confiscate the lot. A Sprite here costs a fortune. A spirit costs even more. My advice to him was to remove the existing Sprints in the minibar and replace them with the Spar Sprites. He showed some fear at this radical idea.
Here’s some photographs we took along the Princess Grace Boulevard and in other places... we particularly like the Mexican restaurant built underneath the overpass....