Listening to the radio in the taxi from Nice airport, through town and into Monaco, you come to realise how much is laid on for the English speaking ex-pat worried that they may sound foolish while trying to speak French.
Riviera Radio (106.5 FM) is one such service, perfect for expats wanting the score in the Test Match or details of when the next British Society car boot sale is taking place (this weekend).
Then there are the commercials, chief among which is that promising to help locals “make the most of their wealth”. I’ve thought about it hard and cannot find a better sentence that best sums up the ethos of Monaco.
There’s a difference between the locals (Monegasques and Monacoians – depending on whether you were born here or simply moved here) and their neighbours (the French) to the foreign raiders from across the English Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean; one of insouciance and disregard for balance of payments that cannot be imitated.
Beautiful people walk the streets, never further than a few yards from the sports cars they leave parked on the street, most of which are made by Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes and Porsche. You’re never more than 20 feet from a €200,000 super car in Monaco, or 20 feet from a baguette costing €20 in the other direction. In fact, so rare is it to see anything else that the sight of a 10-year-old Ford Fiesta with a dent in the front left wing was enough to turn our heads last night as we went in search of affordable food.
The beach in Monaco
Younger types ride motor scooters everywhere, mainly in the gap between your taxi and the car 18 inches away in the next lane. So brave are the motorcycle riders of the sunny end of Europe that it’s a wonder they bother with helmets. It’s something only the Italians, Spanish and French pull off with any élan.
At the PCA an American or British player will hire a moped for $25, hoping to look like Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless. Instead, they look like a drunkard trying to ride a pig, the carcasses of rented bikes squealing along the pot-holed side roads from one end of the island to another. Here the bike is sold with an all-over tan, Capri pants and an attitude of complete indefatigability.
It’s the wealth that is the biggest divider, people (usually walking a dog) who know where the supermarkets are. Monaco is expensive because the locals want to keep out the riff raff, and if you balk at paying €8 for a can of coke, that means you.
It’s with this in mind that those staying at the Meridian hotel next door to Le Sporting, where all this is taking place, have a decision to make, one relating to housekeeping and how prepared they are to exchange comfort for a can of beer.
The hotel offers any guest €5 per day if they choose not to have their room made up during their stay; that €5 can be spent anywhere in the hotel, €30 over the week to spend at the bar perhaps. The downside to living in filth however is that this amounts to about three beers. That’s a dry week, particularly in a room full of dust.