We successfully made our train and disembarked. Interesting thing about Monte Carlo—which you know about in theory, but not in reality—it’s built on the side of a mountain… which means, it’s basically buildings stacked on top of buildings, so… Google Maps is super fun… as is the back and forth up and down switchbacks and stairs with packs on. Tomorrow—back up it all as we head off to Genoa, Italy.
A Day In Monaco
One exit of the train station was at the same level we got off the train at. The other level (the level we followed the masses to) literally led us up numerous escalators and an elevator (with a glass wall inside a mountain) up to an entirely different level of the city.
We learned the hard way, we could’ve just exited the same level we got off the train at and it would’ve been closer to our hotel. It’s also blazing hot out, so that makes things extra fun. At the very least, Monte Carlo is a ridiculously beautiful city, so if you’re going to get lost and walk endlessly up and down cliffsides, this is probably the city you want to do it in.
A Waterfront Hotel
Our hotel… eh. It’s right on the water, which is amazing, but it’s like it was built for luxury in the 1970s and never got an upgrade. Plus, everything in Monaco is expensive. Really expensive.
Like, they charge for the typically-free coffee in the hotel room. And I won’t even tell you what I paid for the room already. The least they could do is give me a K-cup on the house. Seriously.
Anyhow, we decided to get some food before I started getting hangry and took a stroll along the water’s edge. It’s kind of jaw-dropping. Yachts everywhere. With helipads on them. Bentleys, Rolls Royces, we saw a few six-figure Mercedes that made us gawk.
Little did we know that wouldn’t be the half of it. We had lunch and continued to walk the city. Worked our way towards the Monte Carlo Casino.
The Fairmont sits right next to the casino and must’ve had five Ferraris sitting in front of it. Next to a Beamer and a Benz, which just looked silly being within fifty feet of them.
We thought one of the cars was blasting music, but then realized it was actually the Fairmont’s rooftop deck in full swing. All I could think was that this would be a rich bachelor’s paradise.
A Huayra Pearl At The Monte Carlo Casino
We hiked up a bunch of stairs to the casino and the cars got even more fantastic, if you could even think that possible. It’s times like these, I wish my grandparents were still with me.
My English grandmother very recently passed (just a couple weeks ago), but her and my granddad used to be really into Formula One and even owned a Lotus at one point. I wouldn’t say I was really, really into cars, but every now and then, I do get a little geeked out.
I saw this incredible specimen of a vehicle immediately in front of the casino and started taking photos of it. I’ve never seen anything like it. It had a pearlescent navy paint job that almost seemed to have a herringbone pattern and the interior was ridiculously stunning.
Turns out, it was a Pagani Huayra Pearl. Jeff and I did some research, and as far as we can tell, we may have actually seen a one-of-a-kind car in the world today. Pagani does only a few custom cars and did a one-off Huarya Pearl a few years ago for $1.4 million that was destroyed in a car accident.
Another, more recent Huarya Pearl was built and the only price tag we can track down is $2.5 million. Either way, the thing’s amazing. We drooled, we walked into the front entrance of the casino, but couldn’t get into any of the rooms due to dress codes, and we drooled some more looking at the car on our way out.
As we made our way back to our hotel, Jeff simply said under his breath… “I should’ve touched it.”
Tomorrow—Genoa, Italy. On the Italian Riviera.
Misadventure In Genoa, Italy
Oh my, oh my, oh my. Yesterday was an interesting day, to say the least. Apologies to my niece and nephew up front, as they will not be receiving postcards from Italy. I’ve been really good about sending them this trip every stop, but moms and dads everywhere will understand my plight after today’s post.
After I closed out my blog Tuesday, we had this whole Keurig machine fiasco in our hotel room. All I wanted was my 4 Euro decaf Keurig pod before bed to wind down and the machine was broken. Jeff was certain it was user error, but he couldn’t figure it out either, so we called the front desk, who did all the same things two people had already tried twice before and eventually replaced our entire machine.
If I’m paying what I’m paying for a hotel room in Monaco and they want me to pay for my own coffee which should be complimentary, just please God, give me a machine that works. …I think I should’ve gotten a 9 Euro latte on the house for the trouble.
The Train Ride to Genoa, Italy
Upon checkout, we did in fact learn there was a much, much easier route to the train station than the way we had come in. …It was on the same level as the hotel on the mountain. Has escalators and everything. A slight hike up some stairs, but nothing compared to what we endured the day before. Got some coffee (for a normal price) and jumped on the train to Genoa, Italy.
Unfortunately, this train was not the most enjoyable we’ve had. It was not, by any means, the longest trip we’ve had, but it felt like it. It was super packed towards the end and I was relieved to get off. Here’s where things started to get a little hinky…
My whole idea for this stop was to experience the Italian Riviera. And there are a number of surrounding train stops that are exactly that—Portofino, it’s a common jump-off point for Cinque Terre, there’s a quaint fishing district in Genoa called Boccadasse.
I knew, that by staying in Genoa, Italy we wouldn’t be getting exactly that because it’s a cruise port town and much larger, etc. but… Dunno what I was thinking. I thought it would be easy and there would be some enjoyable things to we could see.
I didn’t do a whole hell of a lot of research this trip on where to stay, what to do, etc. I’ve learned a few tricks in my travel planning that are usually pretty sound and my home life lately has been super busy, so I just book everything quickly and check the box. Jeff likes to plan the sights these days, which is fine by me. Me=logistics. Jeff=sights.
Ice Cream Check-In
So… we’re staying at a nice hotel across the street from the train station. In a port town. It’s a little dirty in the main plaza and there are lots of homeless. Whatever, we work in DC and we see a lot of pretty rough homeless every day, especially in the business districts.
We check in and drop our stuff off. They gave us complimentary check-in ice cream bars. I’ve never heard of that before, but they were delicious, and I was starving. (I thought if I checked out and checked back in maybe I could get another one.) After that, we headed out to do some sightseeing for the afternoon. Here’s where things went really downhill. Quickly.
Genoa, Italy is one of these towns where they just tell you to ditch your map because there are so many alleyways. And the people who tell you that are kind of right. It’s not as intense as Venice, but it’s pretty intricate.
Google Maps had us taking shortcuts through every conceivable alley known to man in this city. It didn’t always know our exact location and, of course, it does not account for taking you through neighborhoods you probably shouldn’t be in. Like… really shouldn’t be in.
Only The Best Sightseeing In Genoa, Italy
Literally, maybe a block away from our hotel, we started down an alleyway that looked pretty shifty. Lots of shifty-looking people, and no other tourists. Kind of dark, but daylight. Smelled of urine. Early on, I said to Jeff, “I think we should turn around,” but we kept trudging forward thinking it would open up to a main road at some point. It did not. For a very, very long time.
These are the scenarios where no amount of downplay is going to make you not stand out. But I tried nonetheless. I moved my [pretty expensive] sunglasses from my face, to my head, to hanging in my shirt, to eventually just inside my bag as we quickly walked. Anything expensive that we own, let’s just keep it out of sight. Except for Jeff’s iPhone with the directions on how to get the hell out.
I can’t even really describe how rough this area was. Every now and then, a dark side alley would open up, and we’d see prostitutes standing there, in broad daylight. There were tons of people just kind of sitting on stoops, eyeing us. All I could think was that, an entire mob could attack us, steal all our things and leave us for dead in one of these side alleys, and no one would ever find us.
At some point, we merged with other equally lost tourists, who looked equally terrified. Safety in numbers. I don’t know what language they spoke, or where they were going, but we’re friends ’til the end now. BFFLs.
Actual Sightseeing In Genoa, Italy
We eventually found our sights, which happened to be in better areas. Thank god. They weren’t nearly as magnificent as we thought they’d be. We stopped to get some lunch and, as soon as we sat down, the British couple next to us started talking about Trump. Coincidence? I think not.
We had a couple of other things to see on our list, but the question of how to get there without going through what we just went through was a number one priority to me. It was difficult to tell on Google Maps how to stay on the main roads and, to be honest, the walk over turned south so quickly, it would be hard to predict if the same thing would happen again.
Once you’re in, you can either turn around or keep going; any side roads you see are not better options. Ultimately, we decided we weren’t impressed, anyway, and that we’d take the afternoon off and have drinks at the hotel pool.
The Most Honest Cab Driver In Genoa, Italy
We found an ATM where Jeff kept trying to use our credit card to withdraw cash, instead of our debit card, and hopped a cab. Those of you that keep up with my travel posts know how I feel about cab drivers, so I was on super high alert. And I wasn’t messing around after the trauma of the Genoa slums.
Turns out, we got the only honest cab driver in all of Italy. So, I tipped him even. Just when I’ve lost all faith in cab drivers. Like… literally all faith. All ended well. We’re in one piece and got to relax in the sun with some drinks.
I’m kind of mad at myself for this one, to be honest. I’m sure there are lots of beautiful things to see and do in Genoa, Italy, but I didn’t plan today out well. I always kind of conveniently forget how nasty parts of Italy can be, the train stations and docks in particular.
I mean, I spent a few years here as a kid in a not great area of Italy and, if there’s one memory that was beat into my head, it was to be careful around the docks and the train stations. And these were the only places we did anything here. What can you do?
Genoa, Italy to Lugano, Switzerland
Today, we’re off to Lugano, Switzerland from Genoa, Italy. A little town just across the border from Lake Como in the Alps.
A side note that, while I love love love the Italian language, I think I’ve decided that it’s basically just French with a bunch of extra syllables added on and an extra fancy accent at the end of everything. I’m rolling with this theory and seeing how people respond since I speak very little Italian.
This is the trip of a thousand languages. Jeff’s got the Spanish and the German (sort of) down. I have the French and the Italian (sort of) down. And we’ll see what the hell happens in Switzerland. I’ll keep you updated.
A Word From The Author
Today’s post is going to be a little different, and I’ll be consolidating our Lugano activities with our arrival in Zurich in tomorrow’s post. Because I think this is an important topic, one worth discussing, in a timely fashion.
Terror Strikes Barcelona
Let’s discuss the obvious: 13 people died in a terror attack in the Las Ramblas neighborhood in Barcelona when a van barreled down a main avenue. There are reports of a second attack and an arrest in two smaller towns outside of Barcelona.
My heart goes out to the people of this beautiful city. We are indeed safely out of Barcelona at this point in our travels. And thank you to everyone who’s reached out in concern.
Yes, we were actually at the very plaza where the van driver started his rampage; it was the bus stop where the tour guide told us to get off to talk to the hop-on/hop-off office to retrieve Jeff’s phone, and then we got ahold of Joe from Wichita and moved on to another stop.
We also jumped off at this stop to grab dinner at a specific restaurant and walked back to our hotel. So… how do I feel about all of this as an avid traveler?
Aren’t You Afraid To Travel?
Of course I’m nervous when I travel. I’m a very aware person in general. I don’t like people in my personal space. I don’t trust sketchy strangers that approach me. I’m extra cautious at ATMs. I don’t wear clothing with loud logos or jewelry when I travel. I’m the asshole that wears travel wallets on certain trips. And, Jeff and I do regular “passport/wallet/phone” checks on every trip we go on.
We’re as smart as we can be. And anyone anywhere can be a target of petty crime if you’re flat-out unaware of your surroundings. Many of the things listed above apply to being at home in DC, too.
I metro to and from work many days. You keep an eye on your things. Walk away from sketchy strangers that approach you (which happens daily right outside the front doors of my office, and I work in a decent area). You watch out for unattended bags or suspicious behavior. And, you don’t flash cash around. Those are just safety basics, anywhere you go.
Putting Things In Perspective
When it comes to traveling abroad, let’s be honest—we’re not visiting any current war zones, nor do we want to. Believe it or not, I am not one of those people that wants to visit every country in the world before I die, though I’m certainly impressed with folks who do. (Are they brave? Or just crazy? Maybe a little of both. I don’t know, but it’s not for me.)
We’re visiting areas with pretty developed infrastructures. Some off-the-beaten-path places, but developed nonetheless. We can’t predict tragedies that are going to happen anywhere we go. We can’t predict them at home, and we can’t predict them on our travels.
A month or two ago, someone shot up a baseball field in Alexandria that prevented tons of my coworkers from getting into work. Last week, someone drove a car into a crowd of people in Charlottesville. Let’s not forget about Pizza Gate.
And, whatever your political affiliation, I would say the motivations for these crimes were very much the same as the motivations for the recent spree of crimes in Europe—hate, intolerance, ignorance. And, yes, those were at home.
I don’t stop going to work. Or stop going out with friends. So, why would I stop traveling? It’s like being afraid of getting kidnapped or dying in a plane crash. People are kidnapped in their front yards in America every day, and you’re far more likely to die in a car crash than in a plane crash. It’s illogical, but folks are still frightened.
I have actually decided not to go somewhere before because I didn’t think it was safe. Some folks have disagreed with me on whether those feelings were valid or not, but I just felt I wouldn’t be able to relax enough to actually enjoy myself, so I simply opted for another destination.
And I’ve gone a few places that other folks might not think are safe; I might disagree with them in return. The bottom line, though, is that if I let fear dictate my life (and, yes, I’ve been guilty of that very thing before and deeply, deeply regretted it), then I’ve let hateful ignorance win.
And I’ve let it take something very, very precious and dear to my heart away from me. As much as I might be fearful of the unknown or the unexpected, I can’t stand the idea of letting other people scare me from doing something I love even more.
While we travel today from a small pedestrian city in southern Switzerland to a larger metropolitan one, and while we pass through a large train station, a couple of borders tomorrow, and an airport the following day, I’ll definitely be nervous.
I’m even a little superstitious and worry that today’s post will cause some sort of negative future event to inevitably occur. But, if you take a look through my blog or through my Facebook albums, you can see all the amazing experiences, wonderful people, and intense joy travel has brought to Jeff and my lives.
I’d like to think we’ll have many, many more years and experiences together, and I couldn’t imagine not having made the memories we’ve already made. I have no regrets. Except to not go somewhere because I was afraid to.