Monday, June 15, 2009

European Vacation Part 2, Day Two

After a sumptuous breakfast in the aforementioned terrace/garden restaurant, I figured (rightly, as it turns out) that this would be my best and only chance to do some sight-seeing. So I set off into the beautiful sunshine to explore the postage-stamp-sized principality. The Hotel de Paris is located more easterly, while the old town of Monaco is located in a more westerly direction. The bus was an excellent way to get there and only cost 1 euro (taxis are wickedly expensive). I wandered around the palace/cathedral area while waiting for the changing of the guard at 11:55. The cathedral is lovely and comparatively small, and of course was where the wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly took place. The cult of Princess Grace is alive and well: her grave has many floral tributes, and everywhere throughout the principality there are sandwich boards with “Parcours de Princesse Grace” on them, displaying pictures of her (my God, she really was lovely) at ceremonial functions during her reign. After the changing of the guard, which was really not such a big deal, I toured the public rooms of the royal palace. The audio guide is excellent, although it has the typical breathless narrative about family history and damask wallpaper. The rooms are quite beautifully decorated in various French styles, but again the scale is vastly different in its smallness—I know that is rather unfelicitously phrased—from all the other palaces one sees in Europe. I found myself wondering if Grace Kelly found it pretty small potatoes, in some way, after Hollywood.

After a delicious lunch (where the earthy and delightful waitress was very complimentary of my French) of tagliatelle carbonara, I checked out the collection (which is not to say museum) of the classic cars of the Princes of Monaco. It’s a clever setup, because I suspect that they can take them out of the building whenever they want and yet are able to charge a few euros for you to see them, which helps maintain them. Although I’m not a car nut, I enjoy a good automobile as much as the next guy, so it was fun to see all the beautiful old Jaguars, Rolly Royces, Citroëns, and Fords. My ramble then took me to one of the marinas where some incredibly beautiful, sleek yachts were berthed. Not a bad life for those folks! The area beyond the marina was not worth the wander, although I happened upon the (you guessed it) Princesse Grace rose garden, which was a pretty and fragrant place to relax for a little bit. Overall, Monaco is lovely, charming, and highly manicured—rather like Palm Beach in some ways. Blades of grass are not allowed to be out of place.

Went down to pool to try and get some color for the ball, but instead ran into Brent and Adam so we chatted for a good while before taking a dip in the salt water swimming pool of the Société des Bains de Mer (which is the umbrella organization for the Hotel de Paris and its sister hotels). There was just enough time for a short nap and a change of clothes before meeting in the bar for drinks, where I had the good fortune to run into Gabrielle and Grayson, two folks I had known slightly in New York and had met at the Morgan Library Christmas party. They were to join us and several others for a dinner at Mandarin organized by Prince Rudolf Kniase Melikoff, whom I had met about 3 years ago at the opening of the opera in San Francisco and who is a veteran of the ball. The German Casanova was there as well in a, shall we say, gutsy sartorial choice of a black brocade suit. I asked him where he got it, and was astonished when he said Prada because he’s an even bigger guy than I am, although apparently in Germany they make things on bigger lines. On the walk to the restaurant, I started chatting with Sarah, an attractive and charming woman who had lived in many of the same places I had. Completely platonic. However, it seems Herr Brocade is one of those guys who views interaction between the sexes as a zero-sum game: as soon as we got to the restaurant, he took her hand and stage whispered, “I want you to set next to me.” God bless, buddy. He then proceeded to put the moves on Gabrielle who had done nothing more than be her warm and gracious self, but that he took as a come-on. My dinner partner was Robin, a charming gal from Australia; our end of the table was definitely the lively one. Despite that, though, the crazy schedule and travel began to catch up with me and I was starting to fall asleep during the conversation. Note to self: must train for the ball if I ever go again. More sleep. Maybe an exercise regimen so I have more energy. After a delicious, if pricey, dinner, we moved on to Velos, which was a decidedly marginal venue. The waitress was surly at best, and once again I started to fall asleep—yikes.

Our last stop was the famous Jimmy’z, which Jennifer—another of our dinner companions—insisted she knew how to get to. Not so much, as our meanderings took us at one point to a car park. Industrial lighting and exposed ductwork is probably not consonant with a glitzy nightclub. Inside I didn’t think Jimmy’z was all that, frankly. Lots of Euro-techno; one song in particular had a lyric that was “Yes I am your punching bag.” Huh? We did at least get a table. It came my turn to buy a “round,” which was magnums of champagne. I followed suit and got one of Mumm’s that could be had for the bargain price of…540 euros. Mumm’s, people. Mumm’s!!!! The taste of the champagne was not quite enough to overpower the bile. We ended the night over (frankly delicious) pizza and lasagna at Tip Top. The walk home was lovely in the indigo pre-dawn, and at 5:30 it was definitely time for bed.


Blogger Robynne Berg said...

Hello Charlie, this is Robynne, the 'charming' Iranian - sorry - Australian gal. Amazing what one finds when searching 'Mandarin Restaurante' on Google. I trust you enjoyed the rest of the Bal de l'ete... Was great to meet you a few weeks back - many of the characters from that night are still peppering my 'Histoires of France' conversations now I'm back in Oz.
Are you still galavanting globe or back in SF?

8:35 PM  

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