The long and the short of it was, I wasn't supposed to be in France. It's hard to say, really, what the French had against me. I've always been a big supporter of their fries (frites
, if you want be more accurate) and I've never been one to say anything bad about their maids. Regardless, my departure from Monaco (basically French, but not close enough to make it a problem) was due to happen at the ugly hour of 9:45am on Tuesday. Having gone to bed at 7am after a long night of pokering with an American, two Brits, a Swede, and a Belgian waffle, getting on a bus was not my idea of fun. So, I slipped on the Bose, fell to sleep, and woke up at a highway rest stop in Italy.
Falling asleep in Monaco and waking up at the Italian equivalent of a Flying J truck stop is an odd thing. I stumbled off the bus and into the bathrooms (where an attendant was actually accepting tips). I stumbled out, bough a Coca Light and a Mars bar, and got back on the bus. I drifted back to sleep, wondering how the Italian countryside remained so painfully pretty. Then I noticed a distinct lack of billboards for the next tourist trap and decided I'd have to debate the merits of capitalism vs. beauty another time.
A couple of hours later, I was in Milan, being hustled by gypsy cab drivers (which I managed to deftly avoid), and in my room at the Grand Hotel. Ostensibly, it was a nice place. The TV flickered and the remote was straight out of the 80s. The bed was hard, the pillows were thin, and the view was of an alley. There was no room service except for breakfast and the street noise was akin to an open window in New York. But, it was clean, expensive, and near the city center.
"Just one night?" the man at the desk asked me.
"Just one," I said, still behind my Bolle sunglasses, stinking of Monaco beer, and ready to be anywhere in America.
"You need much longer," he said.
"Next time," I said, took my room key, and stowed my bags. I didn't bother to tell him I was staying in his fair city for less than 24 hours, that he was essentially harboring a French exile, and that my knowledge of his language was based entirely on the works of Father Guido Sarducci.
I am guilty of not seeing enough of the places I travel for work. I spend too much time in my hotel rooms or in casinos, and not enough time on the streets. I vowed, despite my insane fatigue and desire to be in my own bed, that I would go out into the streets of Milan and stay there until I could no longer stand.
And so I walked.