Skip to content

Shifting Memories of Monaco

My most treasured travel souvenirs are the memories I carry with me. Lately, however, I am coming to terms with the fact that my memory is like the ever shifting sand dunes in the desert. As time passes what I remember imperceptibly changes, colored by new experiences and the erosive passage of existence. Impressions which were once so clear in my mind, vivid high-definition photographs, slowly transform into a Fauvist canvas. I am reminded of these tricks my mind plays on me as I look down from the cliff heights of Monte Carlo, Monaco at its cluster of ochre tinted tiled roofs.

A voice inside me insists that I was here before, standing upon this same hillside looking down at the same houses. Yet part of me doubts my recollection: was it a dream I am recalling more evocatively than other dreams; do I have a case of déjà vu; or is it the uncanny way my traveler’s eye sees similarities which makes me believe that I have done all this before? Right then, while the Mediterranean sun bakes the palm trees below and turns the tawny building facades into works of beauty, I start to panic. What use is all this if I won’t remember it correctly months from now? What if I am doomed to repeat the same mistakes as I wander from place to place? Perhaps I should take more photographs so that I will never forget exactly what this hillside looked like, what this particular view was, how the light and color danced in the air?

I pick up my lens put it to my eye and hesitate. I can see the cobalt sea, honey hued hills, and cloudless sky faultlessly poised in exact thirds inside the tiny gridded viewfinder. Except, the scene looks nothing like the one I am gazing at and I cannot pull the trigger.

I am suspended between two worlds, each a replica of the other, yet nothing alike.

The landscape inside the camera window does not shimmer the way my seashore does as if a silken bejeweled cape were waving back and forth. There is no friskiness in the sloping shades of umber and olive when I glance through the miniature looking-glass. Light and color do not pirouette and leap off the sky and descend upon the rooftops within the peephole. I now understand a little of the frustration that the Expressionist and Fauvist painters felt when they attempted to capture this region on canvas. How does one wrap up the mutating balance of shadow and illumination into a mosaic of color? How does one define the essence of a destination and deposit it on canvas? How does one distill the wayward catalog of memories and create a lasting impression?

If it is possible to do so, I do not possess the knowledge. Not through any photographs nor any notes can I hope to capture the exactness of this moment while I stand upon a bluff and stare at part of the Monaco landscape. I know these present images will metamorphose too into reminiscences that are neither wholly truthful nor complete fairy tales. In a week the colors will bleed together, in a couple of months I will identify the hill incorrectly, in seven years this trip and all that my senses have experienced here will be a jumble of incoherent thoughts. I can only hope that some of my pictures and a few of my scribblings will jog a vague memory in the future of vermilion houses, ultramarine waters, and orange headlands. Perchance I will still recall the dancing luminescence, but if not, all is not lost. My remembrances will continue to slip and slide into various shapes but I have to believe that in their fluidity is their strength. An idea, a recognized scent, even this feeling of déjà vu must mold me a little differently then if I had never studied this vista or sat upon this hillside in Monaco. That is a souvenir worth the journey for me.


Monaco is the world’s second smallest sovereign state famous for its Grand Prix raceway and highest per capita income. Away from the glitzy gambling and shopping venues, the “Jardin Exotique” is an aesthetic wilderness in which to admire tropical foliage, gather one’s thoughts, or explore two-hundred thousand year old history.

Experience the landscape that has intoxicated artists from Louis Bréa to Henri Matisse in our e-book French Riviera: Artist’s Paradise.

10 replies »

    • Especially in this day and age with phone cameras, Instagram, and the blogging world! I usually try to use my first day at a destination for taking it all in before I begin fiendishly snapping away at everything. 😀

  1. Very thoughtful post and so true! Another thing I have noticed when I try to convey my “real” impressions of a place is that those impressions can change drastically upon a second or third visit. “Could this be the same place I loved/hated before?” I have often asked myself.

    • That is so true Debra! Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for me has been visiting a place as an adult that I once saw as a child. The impressions are so different! I would be so interested to find out: what specific place which you revisited were your impressions altered drastically the second or third time?

      • My impressions of Paris changed drastically. (Keep in mind that this was a long time ago (early 1980s). I spent a year abroad in the south of France while in college. The first week in France we spent in Paris. I had such high expectations and my experience did not live up to them. I remember thinking it was just a city with old buildings and rude people. The second time i visited I thought it was better–fine, but not fabulous. The third time I thought it was incredibly beautiful and the people were charming!

        • 😀 Happy to hear that your impressions of Paris changed! I think having expectations of any destination makes it difficult to appreciate the place for what it is, although it is difficult not to for famous places like Paris, or London, or New York. Thank you for sharing your story with me!

  2. however inadequate photographs and notes are, they can sometimes work the magic of transporting us back to the vibrancy and immediateness of experiences long past .. smells too … such marvellous writing bespoke traveler … and yes, I feel the sum of all that has held your attention must surely add richness and depth to your consciousness, to you, even when all those memories have blended into the tapestry of life.

    • Thank you Christine for your kind words! I agree with you wholeheartedly that though inadequate, photos and travel stories are precisely what inspire me to explore places I haven’t discovered yet or return to places I never thought of seeing in a certain way. I hope my writing and Jesse’s photos do the same for others.

  3. I think some places lend themselves to the capture more than others, but that last shot of Monaco has all the vibrance I would equate with the city. Memories are such elusive things, but that’s part of their charm. 🙂

    • It is indeed part of the charm and it intrigues me how memory works during travel and remembering destinations afterwards, not just for me but how different it is for others. Thanks, as always, for stopping by!

Send A Note

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Buy My Books
Follow Bespoke Traveler on

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog:

Join 19,287 other subscribers


Thank you for your support. Donate button


Click the envelope below to sign up for the Bespoke Traveler newsletter:

Bespoke Traveler Newsletter





%d bloggers like this: