Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Monte-Carlo... almost as over-rated as Cape Town

"Koekie, have you met Roger Moore?" I was casually asked. As in, Sir-Roger-Moore? Um... no, I do not get much opportunity in my daily, mundane routine to meet Sir Roger Moore.

"Oh well, let me introduce you now! Kate, this is Sir Moore and his wife, Kiki."

That's how my week ended last week. I met James Bond.

I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty damn cool. But the week wasn't all A-list cavorting and hob-nobbing. In fact, it started out pretty shite.

My plan was as such - I was catching a taxi from my (new) flat in Amsterdam to Schiphol at 8am. I was flying out at 9.25am. I was landing at 11.30ish and would then hop in a pre-booked car from Nice to my hotel in Monte-Carlo, where I would check-in, freshen up and meet our TV stars arriving from the US.

8am came, and went. With no taxi. I phoned the taxi company, had a general argument with the operator who couldn't understand why I was upset that when I phoned to ask where my (pre-booked) taxi was, he replied with, "oh, I'll send him now."

You're only sending him NOW? I'm supposed to be halfway to the airport NOW.

Taxi arrived at 8.30. I arrived at the airport at 8.45. Of course, despite already checking in online, I still had to stand in the same queue as everyone else to get my baggage checked in. And, of course, being a first world country, everything is "Self-service!" (supposed to be read in a tone of mocking merriment - because big corporations would have us believe that doing away with real live people who can actually help is in the best interests of the general population. Which it is, of course, not. It is however in the best interests of their Accounts Payable budget. So who gives a snot about service with a smile, right?)

Anywho, so... of course... I get stuck in the queue behind the purple-rinsed granny flying to Florida - apparently for the first time - who has never seen a keyboard, never mind a touch screen. And as I watched in growing agitation over her shoulder, I was trying not to scream as she typed her destination into the self-check in machine, oh so bone-achingly, slowly... index finger extended... hovering... circling... *F*... pausing... concentrating... selecting... *L*... look down at paper... squint back at screen... extend index finger... hovering... searching... *O*... MY... GOD.

I had to remind myself that society does not take lightly to irrational, verbal attacks on pensioners. It's not her fault. Eventually I lost patience, grabbed the closest unfortunate lady walking past in a blue uniform and hissed, "she needs assistance, for the love of all sanity please get her off that machine!" I followed this successful diversion by shoving my way to the front of the queue next to me. I made my plane on the final boarding call.

Arriving in Nice, I learnt that drivers across the continent had no interest in transporting me. It was not specific to the Netherlands. Because I was there for a work event, I had been informed that a car had been arranged. There was nothing. No signage, no sign, no welcome. I eventually managed to get hold of a representative for the event and was greeted with the assuring tones of someone who knew absolutely nothing about my presence... "Koekie? From where? XYZ Studios International? I don't have that on my list of cars today. Sorry."

Awesomeness. So I forked out 100-euros for a taxi, which WILL be expensed back.
But it wasn't over yet.

Finally at my hotel, I went to the reception desk to check in.
They asked for credit card details as a deposit. Now... I don't own a credit card. I do not need a credit card in my personal life and I do not think that I should have to explain to a snotty Frenchman who is effectively nothing more than a bloody concierge on the doorstep of society, why I do not have my own credit card. But I digress. I know from past experience that hotels will always accept a cash deposit, which I asked to do instead...

Fine. That will be 2000-euros in cash. In case you thought that I had a seizure when hitting the zero digit, I'll put that into words: two thousand euros, in cash.

Right. Now that is a problem. Can I put it through as a bank transfer?
"Nooooh," said the keeper of the key, while sneering down his freakishly elongated nasal passages (perfect design for a Frenchman in customer service), "because zhen we will only get zhee deposit when... eef... zhee bank clears it tomorroh".

Well, fuck you very much. My colleague attending the event was on a plane at that stage. The only other people I could contact were all in the US, where it was the middle of the night.

And so, that is how I came to wander the streets of one of the most expensive, high-brow cities in the world, looking - and feeling - like a worthless bum who'd stolen a laptop.

But it did get better. While being pretentious and snooty, it is a spectacular city. And to be honest, I think the locals that I met were humble and just all about having fun (except for that front desk receptionist at my hotel; he was a big fat meanie). It's actually the tourists and the celebrities, tottering about in their haute couture, who make the city so over-rated.

But then again, I did meet some fantastically professional TV stars. On several occasions the Prince breezed past me (I didn't get to say hi, I was too busy being pressed up against a wall by his body guards. Sounds dodgy, but I promise I was only intimate with their elbows). I met James Bond, as well as some rappers of yester-year.

But the character that topped my list of heroes wasn't an on-camera personality. He's a local in Monaco. He's just your average family guy who makes a habit of escorting and playing tour guide to the stars. And he was the security/personal assitant assigned to Holly, Kendra and Bridget when they came to Monaco a few years ago. He was the person Kendra called when she got arrested outside the Prince's Palace at one o'clock in the morning. Which I found delightful. I met someone who worked with The Girls Next Door... that makes him a rock star, certainly in my books.

The red carpet: with the cool kids from NCIS and Dexter.


cassey said...

Cool, you met James Bond :) It sounds like it was fun, despite the hiccups.

Anonymous said...

No need to pick on us poor techno-dinosaurs just because your life wasn't going according to plan!!
No pic of you on the red carpet?????

Anonymous said...

It would appear that you arrived there somewhat "shaken, not stirred". For this comment I offer no excuse - it just had to be said!


Champagne Heathen said...

Wtf is up with 1st world airport check-ins!?! My guy nearly missed his Alice Springs flight too because of the chaos!

You check in online the night before, but then you must stand in line, just like before, with everyone. Why not just keep the old system, if the new system does not add an ounce of efficiency?
Except now there are all types of "new" queues, but not any shorter, and in our case, no Qantas person knew which queue we were meant to be in, so we were incorrectly moved about 2 or 3 times! CURSE SWEAR!

They do go out of their way to make travel as stressful as possible these days, I reckon/ conspire.

Brilliant about James Bond!

Monte Carlo made me feel ill with how rich it was. And my North African Arab mate could not join me there because, well, he is too poor... so they don't have visas, but they do have "wealth" police who will harass you enough till you are forced to leave.

Koekie said...

It was fun, and the weather was - for lack of a sweeter phrase - simply splendid.

Champers... I went "old school" for the return flight. I didn't even bother with online check in. I didn't even try the touchscreen self-service machine. I went straight to the baggage check-in queue (sans boarding pass) and when I got to the desk, I smiled apologetically and said, "I couldn't get the machine to check me in, can you help?"

Baggage and I were checked in, one time. Yes please! One point for me.

Baoyi said...
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