Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

The Monte Carlo Tourist Train and Me

TRAVEL THERE: NOT THE MONTE CARLO I ENVISIONED

Since travel is my very expensive hobby, rather than something I’ve figured out how to get paid for doing, I spend a whole lot more time dreaming of what I might do, were I to visit a destination, rather than actually visiting said destination.  That’s OK, because I’ve found, contrary to all the hype, doing what you love as a job, does not free you.  It just turns your passion into a chore.  That being said, this tourist train was not the visit to Monte Carlo I’d had in my head.

We Found the Escalator and This Train

In spite of our seemingly endless wanderings, we did find the escalator to Monte Carlo and it dumped us right at the Jacques Cousteau Museum and Aquarium.  Had Museum Girl been in charge, you know what would have happened.  Instead, right across the street was this very obvious tourist train.

I’ll confess, I’ve been on many of these tourist trains in my life.  My mom had a nose for them.  I just haven’t been on any in the last few decades.

In fact, a few years ago, on this very blog, I made fun of the people who rode around Linz, Austria, on a rather uglier tourist train.  I had spent the day visiting the wonderful little town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and I felt quite superior.

Funny how the fates will pay you back.  Seeing Monte Carlo, from the seats of this very red and white train, was much more “not me,” than being on one in a backwater town like Linz.  I hadn’t spent a lifetime dreaming about Linz.  Monte Carlo was a different story.

Trolleys vs. Tourist Trains

While I have avoided tourist trains, I have been on a lot of free (or at least cheap) trolleys, which are painted just as gaudily as this train.  The difference is, with the free trolley, I’m sitting there feeling very clever for finding free/cheap transportation.

I feel somewhat in control, because I have done my homework and know exactly where the train will be going and where I will get off.  In addition, I am wearing some fashionable ensemble I’ve chosen, rather than running around in my lounging pajamas and a pair of flip flops, that I’d just thrown on for breakfast.  I’m protected from the sun by one of my signature sun hats.  I also have on make-up and am carrying a handbag with all my necessities, including a tour book with a map.

In Monte Carlo, one of the most glamorous cities in the world, I was stripped of all these trappings.  I was about as unglamorous as I can remembering being (outside of my own home), maybe in my life, and I felt it very strongly.  Sure hubby and I weren’t exactly havingone of our best days, but it was nothing compared to my internal struggle.

Laugh All You Want

You, my faithful reader, may be laughing at me right now.  “Who cares?” you might ask, “Get with the program,” you’d advise, “and make the best of it.”

That would have been the reasonable thing to do, but who says humans are reasonable.  I manage to be reasonable most of the time, but this was Monte Carlo.  Who saw me at less than my best mattered not at all.  What did matter to me was that a dream had been shattered and the chance that I’d get a do-over are slim to none.

Sitting with my friends, in an open air restaurant in Sorrento, eating an authentic Neapolitan pizza and drinking an authentic Italian beer – that’s what I live for.  Making our way around Vienna, on our own, and seeing all the things I had on my list – that’s travel to me.  Finding the amazing White River Falls in Oregon, which most people have never even heard of, is one of the favorite moments of my life.

Being stuck on a tourist train in Monte Carlo, looking more like a scatter-brained soccer mom than myself?  Well, that’s travel, too, but I hate it.  The dream I had of Monte Carlo was replaced with the reality I made that day.  It’s true – I went back to Monte Carlo, later in the day, appropriately dressed, accompanied by the CEO of Celebrity Cruises and had experiences your average cruiser never gets, but even so, the red and white tourist train felt like a mistake.  It still does.

To make matters worse, I was at odds with my very wonderful husband who had made all this possible.  One or the other of these conundrums I might have been able to pull off with aplomb, but the two together made my visit to Monte Carlo a low point on my vacation. 

Why It Matters

You may wonder why I am taking the time to tell you all this, especially in my usually upbeat travel blog.  Well, I’m thinking there may be a whole lot of you out there who have a Monte Carlo Tourist Train moment in your memory.  Things were so bad on your very expensive vacation you decide you’d just stay home in the future.  Please don’t do that!

For every amazing, wonderful high point in my travels, there is at least one pretty awful experience that could have turned me off travel forever. In between those two points are many, many mediocre, inconvenient or downright boring experiences.  In other words, if I counted the number of stellar experiences and compared it to the non-stellar, I’d be staying at home the rest of my life.

But travel is in no way like the latest political poll.  It is not the number of good experiences in relations to bad experiences that you have to count.  It is the value of those splendid travel moments you must hold on to.

  • Will I ever forget standing in a bakery, in a small Bavarian town, with some of our dearest friends, watching hail completely fill the streets; when moments before we’d been sitting in the sun enjoying a street cafe?  The answer is no.  The next day we visited Neuschwanstein, and while I enjoyed it, I remember the smells in the bakery better.
  • Or the day in St. Thomas with my bestie, slightly buzzed from banana daiquiris, singing some reggae song about the days of the week, at the top of my voice.  Truly a favorite moment in my life.
  • The list goes on and on and on.

My Monte Carlo Morning was not one of my best travel moments, but it cannot ever negate all the wonders I’ve enjoyed, even if it were multiplied geometrically! Come back next week and I will tell you about my train ride.

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