Everyone I know who lives or works in Monaco makes the same point: It’s necessary to leave on a regular basis to keep one’s sanity. Or, as an Irish friend, now pushing up shamrocks, used to say, “you can’t come back if you never leave.”
So leave I do, and where else is there to go for someone on a modest income other than Italy.
So, in pursuit of a happiness that stems from people smiling rather than snarling I presented myself at the ticket office of the splendidly clean Monaco Monte-Carlo railway station.
One of the four booths was surprisingly open and behind the safety glass a pleasant-looking young lady was dealing with a would-be traveller with a complicated itinerary. After five minutes his complications were unravelled, he paid more than 200 euros and made way for another middle-aged local with time on his hands.
My left knee has recently joined my right knee in causing me discomfort and stabbing pains, but I clung valiantly to the red rope and hoped for the best. At least the mademoiselle was smiling and even joking.
When my turn came to present myself I made sure I followed all the rules, with a pronounced Bonjour and correct use of the subjunctive tense.
“Please, would it be at all possible for me to purchase two adult return tickets to Ventimiglia, and one senior?”
Through lips as parallel as the tracks on Quai C, she told me: “You must say you want three tickets. How many tickets do you want?”
If this type of gratuitous rudeness and abuse happens when I’m buying something of more value than three train tickets I walk away, but since the tickets in question were part of my plan for escape from francofonia I grinned and bore it, or should it be beared it?
So, I grovelled and apologised and started again. “So sorry, could I please purchase three return tickets to Ventimiglia, one of which is a senior?”
“That will be 21 euros,” she said abruptly and I flashed my overused debit card and left, clutching my multiple ticket.
Needless to say we had a wonderful lunch in Ventimiglia and an out of this world coffee.
Everyone we met had a ready smile, and spoke Italian back to my wife rather than switching to terrible English.
Meanwhile I heard this week of a lady resident of Monaco who was shouted at when she used the public lavatory of an upmarket and pretentious patisserie and coffee shop on rue Grimaldi, having just spent 20 euros on three coffees and two croissants. I don’t want to identify it, but its name in English is Golden Sword.
“Madame, madame, you should have asked,” she was told, very crossly.
Monte-Carlo Diary is published in the interests of editorial diversity, and any views or opinions expressed or implied by the author are not necessarily those of the publishers
PHOTO: The effortless style of Milan central station The author