Dispatches From The Road: Monaco: The Husbanks, the Have Nots, the Try Hards

Extras — By on August 4, 2009 at 6:00 am

Kelly NewsomeToday we have guest blogger Kelly M. Newsome back to share the fourth of a series of posts about traveling through Europe. A self-described “recovering business attorney,” Kelly took a career break to explore Asia, Australia, and, now Europe. She’s also a yoga teacher, freelance nonprofit consultant, community service devotee, and author of “Giving Back While You’re Gone,” an article on international volunteering from her new series, The Nonprofit Notes. You can read about this trip, and check out her volunteer activities and kids’ yoga classes on her blog. Today she talks about the cast of characters she encountered in Monaco.

“Monaco is one of those destinations you kind of have to go to when you’re in the South of France. Once you’re back home, everyone will ask you if you went, and if you come up with some lame excuse as to why you didn’t, get ready to feel even more lame every time someone new tells you what a mistake you made.

MonacoNot that they necessarily know first-hand; most people don’t. Monaco is in that relatively small group of exclusive destinations, primarily because it is – let me confirm any doubts – exorbitantly, fervently, seriously dripping with money. Super-fancy cars, tons of docked yachts, more Barclays than bus stops, a special Dior store just for kids… it feels a little like the whole place is sprinkled with gold dust.

That’s not to say, however, that it’s unapproachable. Somehow, despite the seemingly intimidating glamour and grandiosity, Monaco is inescapably charming. This petite country manages to carry a heavy, heady mix of wealth, prestige, fun, novelty and old school flavor. It’s got character. And it’s got characters.

If you find yourself here, and you have the chance, give your camera a break and spend some time observing the people around you. Sit in the casino gardens for a few minutes, take a coffee down in Monaco Ville, have a drink at the Monte Carlo Bay, and just watch. A big part of what makes Monaco is the people who make the trip there. While everybody is unique, blah blah blah, I’m going to throw out, say I merely suggest, three categories.

Monaco wealthNumber 1, the Husbanks. They’re what you might think – rich husbands – and there are many running around. They (and their beneficiaries) can afford to stay a while and, of the three categories, they fit in. Number 2, the Have Nots, essentially financial outsiders who generally hang out on a day pass. I fit in comfortably here. If you’re a friend of mine, you probably do, too. Welcome. Number 3, meet the Try Hards, gems who are actually Have Nots, but who make a serious effort to pretend otherwise (i.e., v. frontin’ (American slang)). See the exasperated woman in 5-inch Louboutin heels trying to walk on the cobblestone? The wide-eyed girl wearing too much makeup and carrying a [very good] knockoff handbag? The unusually large group of men with loud banter and visible money clips? The answer is (d), all of the above.

These are generalizations of course, but you get the point: everybody wants to catch a bit of the mystique, and rightly so. Monaco is simply delicious, delirious excess, bountiful and beautiful; a welcome vision for curious eyes. Sights are highly civilized and cultured in a mix of ways; old buildings of pastel yellows and corals balance out new business centers with glassy exteriors. Delicate iron sculptures, golden-clad building tops, edgy art exhibits, beautifully-manicured green gardens, all just waiting to be admired. Flashy, classy hotel bars for before-, after- and instead-of-dinner drinks are at your service, and the ambience is just convincing enough to make believe you could stick around for longer than you really can.

And I do wish I could stick around. It’s a place that I’d really like to learn more about. I’ve got a feeling that the locals know so many things we don’t, unpopular, wildly interesting quirks that give insights and layers to experiencing this place way outside of its reputation for financial prowess. But at the end of the day, financial prowess does call the shots. In proper Have Not fashion, I remain a day-tripper. And that’s alright I guess. Thankfully, that feeling of gold-dusted magic in the air is my favorite part, and that’s free.”

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