2024 Travelogue: Easter in Monte Carlo

I’ve made it a habit to travel on the long easter weekend and this year found myself in the French Riviera for a beautiful, expensive weekend.

I grew up not too far away from the casinos in Connecticut: Mohegan Sun was a sporty 30 minute drive from my house. When I was old enough to gamble, my best friend taught me how to play craps. I was sick and broke back then, but if he was up, he’d throw me $20, and I’d learn how to make that last. Craps is an appealing game for a data scientist, it’s all about knowing the odds. I’m pretty decent at craps, lifetime going into last weekend, I was probably over the house a couple hundred bucks (sports gambling and baccarat didn’t treat me so well).

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are casinos in the American form, they’re as much shopping malls and destinations as they are casinos and like I imagine Vegas to be (I’ve never been), they’re not exactly centers of culture and class. Monte Carlo is a different vibe. Located in the small, wealthy independent nation of Monaco, the gambling scene on the Côte d’Azur caters to the rich and glamorous. A visit there had long been on my bucket list, and for the last couple of years I’d been planning a trip, setting aside some money for the tables. Craps is an expensive game for the casino; a full table requires four croupiers, who have a stressful and complex job, what with the rapid pace, complex lingo, and tricky mathematics of the game. It’s hard to find a craps table in Europe. The Casino de Monte Carlo has one.

I started the trip by heading down to Nice on Good Friday. I booked an afternoon flight, which ended up being a blessing, as I had been feeling a little under the weather and needed the extra sleep. The downside was arriving late to Nice. On the flight down, I sat next to an adorable Polish grandmother who spoke no German or English, and me speaking no Polish, we still found a way to communicate when she was asking me what cities were out the window. Language challenges would be a theme of the weekend. While I understand a shocking amount of French for never having studied the language, my spoken French is limited to only the key vocabulary to survive.

A tug docked on an azure sea

Arriving at Nice, I didn’t really have a plan to get my AirBnB about 45 minutes away in Cap d’Ail, steps away from the Monegasque border. I opted to take the bus and encountered my first challenge. The public busses are outside Terminal 2 but my flight arrived at Terminal 1. There’s no easy way to walk it, which means you have to take a tram. The wayfinding in the airport hardly makes this clear.

After getting to the bus stop, I discovered I was just in time for the last bus. I downloaded an app and bought a ticket. Downloading the app was an exercise in frustration: first you have to download the app, then make an account, then activate the account, then enter passenger information, then add payment information, then you have an assortment of nearly identically-priced tickets. I evidently bought the wrong one. No matter; you can tap on to pay.

My next challenge arose once I arrived in Monaco. Google Maps is awful in the area. I underestimated the scale of the vertical elevation in the area, what looks like a direct path on the maps actually requires knowing the existence of a public elevator, a stairwell, or some other trick to traverse the distance. It took me a bit of wandering around at night, roller bag in tow, looking like the clueless tourist that I was before I managed to find the path.

The weekend involved a lot of climbing. On Saturday, I walked from Cap d’Ail to the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, a good museum but full of too many screaming children for my taste, and back to the AirBnB. My iPhone clocked it at 40+ flights of stairs. I didn’t bother to do any running on this trip.

Later that night, I headed down to the Casino de Monte Carlo to gamble away some cash. I could have (should have) quit when I was up 800 EUR, but I was having fun, the crowd was great, and I was admiring how the croupiers were handling the game in three languages simultaneously. Neither Italian nor French are suited for Craps; it’s a game where English shines. I made another mistake, the Casino requires a passport and I assumed my Visa would suffice. It did not, so I had to find my way back to the flat before the last busses of the night. I managed, but it cost me an hour (but perhaps it saved me some money). The Casino itself is beautiful

After another day in Monte Carlo, I headed over to Nice, where I’d have eight hours or so to kill before my flight out. I headed to the Monte Carlo train station, bought a cheap ticket, and hopped the train to Nice. Stashing my bags, I headed out to Old Nice and the seaside. I stopped for a nice breakfast on a beautiful plaza, a cute queer waitress complimented my eyebrow piercings. Maybe it was the sorely-needed springtime, but Nice blew my mind. It’s a beautiful city and the people are chill and friendly, great weather and scenery. Definitely a place I want to go back to.

The beach along the Nice seaside

I headed back early to the airport, as I was a little beat. Nice is France’s third-busiest airport, but you’d never know it from its amenities, which are non-existent. A terrible experience with Swiss led to chaotic boarding of a delayed flight, creating even more delay. After 91 minutes of delay, we got underway to Zürich and a quick sprint through the annoyingly-designed bilevel terminal at ZRH and I was able to just make the Berlin leg of the trip. Getting back after 11, disembarking and gathering my bag, which I was forced to gate check, took me to after midnight. No more trains were running, so I took an overpriced cab back home, exhausted and ready for the whole four hours of sleep my schedule would afford me. A long weekend without a lot of rest, but it was time well spent, even if I did gamble all my money away.

Trip log, 2024 (cumulative):

  • Airports:
    • BER
    • EWR
    • IAD
    • FRA
    • HEL
    • MUC
    • BRU
    • ORD
    • LHR
    • NCE
    • ZRH
  • Countries:
    • United States
    • Germany
    • Finland
    • Belgium
    • United Kingdom
    • France
    • Monaco
  • Cities:
    • Charlottesville
    • Washington, DC
    • Berlin
    • Helsinki
    • Brussels
    • Chicago
    • London
    • Monte Carlo
    • Nice

Posted: 06.04.2024

Built: 22.05.2024

Updated: 06.04.2024

Hash: aef4d59

Words: 1116

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes