The next morning we left for Nice, France where we would take a train the 11 miles over to Monaco.  But before we left, we had to take our return-to-the-US COVID PCR tests.  We did this at the airport in Barcelona.  It was quick, not painless, but a minor nuisance given the situation and our great fortune to be traveling.

We had opted to take a 45-minute flight from Barcelona to Nice rather than driving, which would have taken us 12 hours.  The flight itself was 27 euros, so totally worth it.  It was in Barcelona that we departed ways with Lucy and she went back to Czechia.

There was supposedly a train that went straight from the airport to Monaco, so we opted for that instead of going to our AirBNB first.  This did mean, though, that we would be carrying our bags with us for the day.

Supposedly a train did not turn out to be a train.  It turned out to be two trains with a hefty walk in between them.  And a 60-minute wait at the second train where there was no booking agent and the self-serve kiosks were broken.  Fortunately, we were able to buy tickets from our phone, but it was not a fun wait.  We should’ve gone to the AirBNB first…

We arrived in Monaco mid-afternoon.  The sun was shining and it appeared to be a perfect day.  That is, until we started walking.  It was hilly!  We couldn’t find a restaurant to sit (they were all closed for the mid-day European break) and the casinos wouldn’t let us in with our bags.  Finally, we found a little café nestled in the back of an alley with a woman who made our day.  I will never forget her smiling eyes; I couldn’t see her smile behind her pink mask, but I know it was there.  She ran a small café and let us order pizza, and wine, and water.  And man, it was exactly what we needed.  We all called her our ‘Angel of the Day.’

By this point, we had walked from the top of Monaco where the train station is to the bottom of Monaco where the bay is.  And when I mean top to bottom, I mean the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill.  Our Angel was ever so kind to call us a taxi that brought us the six minutes up the hill to the Monte Carlo casino.  They also wouldn’t let us in with our bags but we were able to find a restaurant just outside that was now open.  Natalie watched our bags while Tony, Julie, and I went up the fancy steps and passed the suited guardsmen.  The lobby was fancy and overdone, as expected, and we approached the ticket area where Julie asked how much it was to enter the casino.  As soon as they said ’17 euros,’ Julie snapped back, ‘Oh no, I’m not paying that much for a casino…’  And our time in the Monte Carlo came to end.

We sat outside for quite some time drinking overly expensive wine and people watching.  There were cars that cost 6-figures every which way, and women with handbags that cost more than my entire wardrobe.  There were attractive people everywhere, all made up and perfectly altered to look exactly the way society wanted them to.  All the while, I sat there in my $12 pants and 8-year old backpack.  I couldn’t help but have some empathy for the young people growing up in that environment.  It felt so pretentious, so fake, so…for show.  My $5 backpack from Hong Kong came with a lifetime of stories.  Stories I wouldn’t give up for anything!

Before we left the restaurant that night, Natalie pulled up our AirBNB reservation – which I booked, by the way.  She calmly said, “Renee, do you know we are staying on the 4th floor and there’s not an elevator.” 

“That can’t be,” I confidently told her.

“It says right here in the listing – This flat is on the 4th floor and there is no lift.”  She said it so matter-of-factly, and at the moment, I knew the rest of the day was going to be hard. I just chalked it up to part of every adventure and went with it.  It was an hour walk uphill – with bags – to get to the train station just a half mile away.  Once back in Nice, where we were staying, it was another 30-minute walk.

We found the AirBNB, dropped our bags off, and had dinner at an Italian restaurant.  Not gonna lie, I filled up on a few extra carbs knowing that I had four large flights of marble flights to make on my hands and knees.  It wasn’t the first time and I sure hope it’s not the last.


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