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Going under cover in Monaco

My miracle on Larvotto beach

If I can help somebody as I pass along

Taste of village life in Monaco

The Water's Edge: A fishy tale

Why I choose to be involved
"...I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up."
--Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Like Thoreau, I love the simple life. But while he  left a bustling city to move to the woods, I have taken the opposite route. I have given up life in a tiny town on the edge of the Canadian boreal forest for work that takes me to luxury-loving Monaco, the most densely populated nation in the world. Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days at Walden. I'm giving myself at least three years for this experiment.
--Celia Sankar


The Water's Edge: a fishy tale

The English author William Somerset Maugham once described Monaco as a “sunny place for shady people”. For many decades now, several generations of unimaginative writers and public speakers, who perhaps mistakenly believe they will appear instantly clever by regurgitating that quote, have forced us not to forget it. I vote we retire that now very tired phrase.

Personally, I find Monaco a fishy place – and I love it for being so.

Fish seem to be everywhere I turn. Monaco is, after all, a coastal village, uh, sorry, a coastal state. As such, you can't get away from the sea, not that you would want to when the sea we're talking about is the exquisite blue Mediterranean which entices you to jump in, even though you know it might very well be bitterly cold. Whenever I need to get anywhere, if there's enough time, I try to take a route along the water's edge. By my estimation, seventy percent of Monaco's seafront is dedicated to mooring boats (and many are not just any old sort of boat, but the biggest, most expensive yachts afloat). On my walks, when I look down past the shadows of these pleasure vessels I see them, these gorgeous finned creatures feasting on some very expensive crumbs that fall their way.

Bread is probably a staple for Monaco fish. The thought occurred to me one day when I sat down with a sandwich for an al fresco lunch at the marina in Fontvielle. Now, since childhood, I have been one to obey the zoo-instilled rule of never feeding creatures from the wild. But as I sat peering down at a couple of tiny red aquatic companions, flakes from my baguette sank into the clear water. Suddenly, dozens and dozens of silver fish, the length of my hand, swam from all over to partake in the meal. Multiply such a crumb spill by the hundreds of boats tied up along Monaco's coast all year round and you see these Monaco fish have it good.

While the Fontvielle chaps were charming company, I am quite partial to the fish that hang out around the pier on Larvotto Beach. They have a great sense of humour. I'm convinced of it.

Let me explain. The first time I came to Monaco on a short business trip, I decided the day before I returned home to tear myself away from the computer, and I headed for the beach. As I strolled along the concrete walkway which took me right into the sea, my blood started to race as I noticed fish, fish, and more fish, some the length of my forearm, swimming within grabbing distance. Although it was mere hours to my flight, I was struck by a very powerful impulse to buy a net or fishing rod, or something, anything, to haul them all.

I started pointing and singling out some of them.

“You, you look like you would make a good broth.”

“Curry. Curry! I could see you in a curry.”

“Oh my, I'll fry you up. You're just asking to be fried.”

And so it went on, interspersed with greedy giggles, until I reached the end of the pier and noticed a sign – which said fishing was banned.

The Larvotto area has apparently been a protected marine reserve for many years, hence the fish swim without any fear of us humans. Actually, I think they must get a good laugh out of first-timers who, like I did on that day, salivatingly point at them with expectations that can never be fulfilled.

For their entertainment, every time I go back to Larvotto, I take this act with me, pointing and drooling and verbalizing on their readiness for the pot. They love it. How do I know? Well, every time I go and they see my shadow cast on the waters, they come in droves, or swarms (somehow “school”, though the correct collective noun for fish, can not really convey the visual impression of the multitudes that gather round my feet to take in the show). This sold-out house never seems to tire of my performance.

Feeling quite proud of my piscean fame, I tried to take the show on the road the other day. Wending my way through Monaco's Japanese Garden, I happened upon over a dozen Koi gathered by a rock. These Koi were not coy; I approached, I sat on the rock, I bent over the water and they continued swirling around as if they owned the place. I should have taken that as warning. But no. The show had to go on. I cleared my throat, giggled, and began pointing, just inches above the water.

“You could make a good stew,” I said.

Perhaps I was a little unsteady in my delivery, for in truth, I couldn't see myself using any blade to flick off those ornately patterned orange, black, and white scales in preparation for a chow down. Still, I doubt I deserved the reaction I got; one huge Koi, perhaps imagining himself a piranha, barged his way through the others and projecting his mouth above the water, snapped at my finger, missing its mark only because I pulled away. Talk about being eaten alive by your audience!

Although I accidentally broke my rule about not feeding wild creatures in Fontvielle, I have no intention of making the same mistake in the Japanese Garden – not when the meal would consist of two inches of one of my digits. I think I'll stick with my Larvotto audience instead.


 


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Celia Sankar

SIMPLY MONACO
by Celia Sankar



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