What do you think about when you see or hear the word Monaco?
Most people view it as the lavish land of luxury, rich in excess, steeped in sexiness. Some mistake it for Morocco and others think it stinks of capitalistic con.
Aside from an African country, it's all of those things, and it's also surprisingly accessible.
Last weekend I returned for the first time since studying there seven years ago and timed it to coincide with the Grand Prix, an F1 car race where the world's best drivers speed around the tiny, twisted public streets of Monte Carlo. It was wild, expensive, fun, impressive, offensive astounding and exhausting; everything I wanted it to be.
|I've been told Ross Brawn is in this pic|
I rubbed elbows with celebrities and flirted with models and didn't recognize any of them. I sped around town in a car driven by a race car driver and slept on a yacht. I had bottle service and tables at the poshest clubs, danced between millions of Euros worth of the most expensive booze and never went to sleep until long after sunrise.
On the plane home I reverberated between embarrassment and disbelief, wondering why I enjoyed it so much and how many of the world's problems could be solved with the money spent there. Was the happiness of a privileged few really worth all that?
Then I started coming to my senses and a conclusion. I've made some amazing friends in Monaco and had some of the best times of my life there. For every unapproachable, arrogant person in the principality, there are a thousand beautiful souls basking on the southern coast of the spectacular, sunburnt state, as intelligent and kind as anyone you'll ever meet. And this is what you're supposed to do at this age, right? I'm looking forward to my next trip.