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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


Going under cover in Monaco

"It's not raining, Luv," he said.

I swiveled around to see who had put such a soothing British baritone to such condescending use. And I caught a glimpse of him as he walked by, a lanky lad, apparently in his twenties, who had not yet learned to hold his tongue. I smiled and continued on my way, persisting in the offending action that had prompted the comment I held my umbrella aloft as I crossed the busy street in front of the Cafe de Paris.

No, it was not raining. On that mid-summer's day, not a cloud was to be seen in the wide-open, blue sky. Instead, a big yellow sun reigned supreme, as it tends to do at that time of year in the Mediterranean.

And this was precisely the reason for the umbrella.

Okay, if we're nit-picking, a parasol, the umbrella's dry-weather cousin, would have been more appropriate, strictly for shading from the sun. But search as I might in Monaco, Beausoleil and Nice, I could not come across this implement made of permeable material and, perhaps, featuring some sort of frilly border. I had to settle for your everyday nylon brolly.

Somehow, though, I suspect this fine nuance between parasol and umbrella was nowhere in the thoughts of my charming heckler. He was verbalizing what was telegraphed in the bemused stares of so many hundreds of passersby and seated onlookers I'd encounter day after day as I sauntered around with my portable shade.

Ironically, when he crossed the street and headed in the direction of the Cafe, the Brit would have come across several near-wilting people hiding from the sun under the establishment's large, white parasols. Why is it, then, that Europeans don't seem to understand this act of protecting oneself from the sun using an umbrella? All of summer, I came across only about seven other ladies who made use of this form of sunshade in Monaco and every last one was Asian.

Living in a country which is all of 0.76 square miles, I see no need for me to own or use a car. I rarely take the bus. And so, I walk everywhere I have to go. That would add up to many hours at the mercy of the sun, were it not for my trusty nylon cover.

As for why I need the shade, well, ahem, a higher level of melanin does not make you immune to sunburn and skin cancer. It does offer some protection, but darker skin is still very much vulnerable to harmful UV rays. Thanks to a question from a dear, sweet friend, whom I cherish, and who just happens, like the fellow near the Cafe, to be a Brit, I realized that this isn't common knowledge.

Now this brolly-carrying has been a habit of mine going back to my childhood on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. When I turned 11, I moved on to a secondary school many miles from my home. Classes began from one in the afternoon, which meant I'd be making my way to school at mid-day, when the tropical sun was at its fiercest.

I walked to school everyday (not out of necessity, but simply because I'd grown to love saving and banking the taxi fare my parents gave me) and I so began using an umbrella as somewhere I'd read that too much sun exposure would cause wrinkles to appear faster. It amazes me to think that that little 11-year-old girl made a decision which has stuck with me more than a quarter of a century later even in spite of being heckled by sultry-voiced Brits.

Actually, if I could help it, I wouldn't be walking around holding an umbrella at all.

In Trinidad, I used to see something I'll call an "umbrella hat", since I don't know its proper name. It is a full umbrella, but instead of a stalk and handle, there is a headband. You open up the contraption, slide the headband onto the crown of your head, and there you have it portable, handsfree shade. Now, that's what I want.

Sadly, I've seen nothing of the sort on the Cote d'Azur. So people around here are spared that oddity. All they have to contend with is the sight of this Caribbean lady parading the Mediterranean on bright, sunny days holding an umbrella aloft and wearing a sari!

Oh, but that last detail is altogether another story.

 


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Celia Sankar

SIMPLY MONACO
by Celia Sankar





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