Whenever I describe Monaco to friends not from here, I say it is a village in which we live – but one of the most sophisticated villages on earth. Certainly in terms of offerings, it is more like a world-class city. On the agenda in the next couple of months we find the ATP Rolex Masters Tennis, the 69th Formula One Grand Prix and a packed spring Festival of the Arts. All to be followed by Prince Albert’s long anticipated wedding on the Rocher.
Before gearing up for that (and believe me, fun as it promises to be, it takes gearing up) I find myself enjoying an interlude in a tranquil spring. A spring that not only came late this year but most likely will be short lived. Soon the tourists will invade like the sugar ants beginning to dot the terraces and the conversation will be all about ‘la chaleur’ with hand-fanning emphasis.
This year witnessed a long cold winter on the Cote d’Azur, one many feared would never end. Spring was ushered in protesting with torrents of rain. Rain for days on end. You could visibly sense the anxiety on the face of locals. Everything from distressed posts of homebound Facebook users to unseasonal traffic as errands were run by car and not à pied. Long waits to get into packed parkings.
And now at last the rain has ended and spring is here. ‘Ça y est’ you hear all around town, delivered with a heartfelt sigh of relief – ‘le printemps est arrivé.’ We are back to sunshine and normalcy on the Cote d’Azur, shopping in outdoor markets, a stronger than normal compulsion to clean, (o.k., for me anyway) to exercise, to eat less and to walk along the sea. Gardeners are digging up winter cyclamen and planting vibrant tulips, boats and terraces are being scrubbed in anticipation of long hot summer days.
This is the other side to Monaco, the one I love. One I fear is slowly disappearing but which you still find some mornings with an early walk. The little corners that remain of a sleepy, fishing village on the Med. Pockets where the air smells of quiet, of spring and an ever so faint mélange of fish, sea and diesel oil. Where coffee is delicious in a café in a quiet port, under massive cliffs where the Oceanographic Museum perches defying gravity for more than a hundred years. A scowling fisherman preparing his nets and boat just in front of you. Everyone out and about and the lovely feeling of familiar faces, people you know if only by sight. And, oh yes, the long awaited start of rosé season! Bon Weekend and Vive le Printemps!