As much as I gripe about expensive dinners, hefty train tickets and the like, there are a few places in the world that are truly expensive, to the point that it is hard to imagine that there are non-millionaires or billionaires who live there. Monaco is one of those places. A slice of pizza will not run you less than 7 bucks, and a whole pizza will cost at least 30. Needless to say, I do not stay a night here and plan on getting a later train back to Nice where a bus will be waiting to take me to Rome. However, to fulfill my culinary criteria, I do have to eat a quintessentially Monacan food and so I step into a local supermarket. There, I find the holy grail of cheap Monacan food: Barbagiuan Monegasque. This seemingly unpronounceable dish is a simple fritter filled with ricotta cheese and chard or spinach. I get a box of these fritters along with another spinach-filled pastry and two drinks for about 11 Euros, and eat voraciously while the sun rises high and hot over Monaco.
Culturally, Monaco is French, but in effect the general population of the city of Monte Carlo is mostly tourists. I content myself by taking photos of churches tucked in cliffs and yachts bobbing in crystal clear waters, until a sign for a "plage,” or beach, catches my eye. I am eager to go for a swim so I skirt the narrow cliff, coming to an ancient marble staircase at the bottom of which bronzed locals are tanning on the pebbled coast. I quickly change clothes in the shadows of the bus station, and emerge in only athletics shorts with my Cambodian krama wrapped around my neck for a towel. I dive into the frigid water, my feet sinking into the rocky bottom as I replace the salty sweat on my body with the salty sea. The rest of the day my numerous bug bites sting each time one meets a drop of hypertonic Mediterranean sweat. What I need is a shower, but Rome and the Vatican, a layover in Pescara, San Marino, and then my arrival in Rimini stands in the way of access to such a luxury. I try not to lick my lips, as slurping the salt just makes me thirsty.
In the afternoon, I nap in the free Japanese garden of Monaco while two Russian hotel workers smoke cigarettes at my feet, talking about what cars they want, and the women they could pick up with them. The Leningrad lullaby knocks me out for about forty-five minutes, and my write-brain (ironically housed in the left of my head) wants nothing but to blog, practice my languages, and call up one of my old friends on WhatsApp. I do all of these things sitting in a McDonald’s, using their WiFi, and not buying anything. In Monaco, as in life, the best things are free. To that point, as I walk to the train station, there is a free concert across the street where a young French rapper jumping up and down on stage and rhyming in English. I wait a half hour for my train and board feeling I have gotten the most out of this tiny and expensive nation.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.