The sky was a heavy, marbled grey, with regular releases of fat raindrops to make the pavement slippery under the stupid foam forms of my sandals, but still it was hot enough to sweat sunscreen straight off after application and heat up the bins by tourist trap cafes.
Seaside locales, some more than others, rely upon the romantic properties of diffuse sunshine. A cloud and their colder, harder selves are revealed, the fantasy disrupted, the burden of scraping a living in the off-season gleaned.
Since my day trip to the curious, petite principality of Monaco (the second-smallest sovereign state, behind Vatican City) I can only assume it takes the greeny filter of money to see the upside to life there.
It wasn’t that it looked drab on a sunless day: it somehow couldn’t. In every direction is an ornate, flashy architectural feature, like a spoiled, giant child of the sky has stuck together all the special bits from limited-edition Lego kits. A mishmash of eras and styles, skyscraper upon skyscraper, built vertiginously into the curve of the coast. A pool here, a tower there, all gleaming and gilded, shimmering with wealth.
Perhaps my problem was that I arrived by train, and tried to travel by foot, rather than arriving by helicopter and getting straight into a supercar as the local population of millionaires (rumoured to be around one in three residents) perhaps do.
If you thought Edinburgh’s 3D warren of bridges and hills makes it mildly tricky for visitors to navigate, Monte Carlo is an outright Escher painting of a city. For a place with so many public escalators, which take pedestrians up and down street levels, I suspected I was in fact descending to a yet deeper layer of hell.
It wasn’t a comprehensive survey. I tired quickly of people watching. I didn’t even visit the famous casino. When I spotted it costs money for the public to tour the Prince’s personal collection of rare cars, I felt done with the whole city, sick of the relentless thrum of traffic idling past Ferrari and Lamborghini showrooms.
A curiosity ticked off the travel list. But life in such a haven? I’d rather pay my taxes.