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Bon Voyage: Nice, Monaco: jack pot destinations

10 February 2013 By Sarah LaCorte, Columnist No Comments

Studying abroad implies having to become a part-time tourist and a part-time student. After my first week of classes and the cumbersome reality brought by multiple syllabi, I was eager to step back into the role of the tourist.

This weekend I went on a trip to the French Riviera to the coastal cities of Nice and Monaco. Being winter in a summer town allowed some liberty to not totally stick out as a tourist, so my friends and I decided to just stroll around the various neighborhoods of Nice in no great hurry. Although each week I will try to find more to comment on than how beautiful everything is, for this column I will get the tourist’s awe out of the way.

With no agenda other than to be open to the scents and sights of a strange city, we were introduced to Nice one alleyway at a time. Although the Mediterranean was a perfect azure blue and the old stone buildings picturesque, I was pulled out of my postcard vision when I literally walked into the middle of an anti-gay marriage rally. It took a minute to realize people were holding signs that showed one man and one woman holding hands. It is unbelievably foolish of me to think that because a place is beautiful and the way of life so lush means that it is a utopia in comparison to the United States.

Here in France people are still divided, still going to fisticuffs over similar issues at home. From an American perspective Europe always seemed so progressive, but nowhere, it seems, are politics so easily homogenized. The next city we went to was Monaco. Monaco is actually its own principality where Grace Kelly was princess. The second smallest country next to Vatican City, Monaco’s population has the highest average income of any other country in the world. Basically it is where the world’s billionaires and millionaires live. Also, as if this is fair, there are no property taxes in Monaco. As such the ports are filled with Yachts and despite souvenirs shops pandering to the lowly peasants, um, tourists, all the shops are Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Diors, you get the idea. Let’s just say the ascot and fur coat quotient here is pretty high. Ironically enough, Bono lives here.

So as any college student who normally lives off of Ramen noodles visiting a billionaire’s town would do, I went to Monte Carlo to gamble. This casino is no Vegas or Atlantic City, it looks like a mini Versailles. If it could be wrapped in gold leaf or velvet, it was. The ceilings are painted with more frescos than the Sistine Chapel.

The main difference was the atmosphere. People go to Monte Carlo for serious gambling and so the majority of games are in smoky back rooms where all the billionaires I assume rub their hands together and practice their maniacal laughter.

After a few awkward minutes standing in the main lobby tottering around in my Payless heels, I shrugged off the bouncer’s snooty glares and plopped down at a slot machine.

My friends and I put in a 10 euro bill and quickly realized we had no clue how the slot machine worked.

So we just spent ten minutes pushing random buttons and gaping at the flashy colors on the display. The guy sitting at the slot next to us was mocking us until we hit the jack pot. Split between four people we won enough to go out for un cafe. Sipping coffee later at night I thought, life in this gilded paradise is beautiful but I am still just as happy to eat Ramen in front of my 14-inch television in the comfort of my 600 square foot apartment any day.

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