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Smart Car Convertible

When we pulled up at the Monte Carlo casino that evening, we expected to cause a mass convulsion of giggles. This last stop was the final test: after all, the Place du Casino is to luxury cars what the runways of Paris and Milan are to supermodels. Crowds gather nightly to watch the Lamborghinis roll in. But what happened instead was a strange reversal: people ignored the Maseratis and flocked around our cute little Cabrio. "Oooh! Regardez la Smaht!" they cried.

We parked next to a Bentley and strolled around the square. Three Americans posed for photographs while leaning on our puny hood. I didn't mind. And when I tapped the remote-control button on my key chain from 20 yards away, even the Bentley chauffeur did a double take as the Cabrio's roof magically slid shut. Very James Bond.

We stayed only 10 minutes inside the casino, which was surprisingly lifeless. The real action was outside on the plaza. I watched a diva with a cheetah-fur parasol stride into the Hôtel de Paris, toting a Pekingese in a matching cheetah-fur doggy cardigan. I wanted to laugh, but her sangfroid made me reconsider. And it struck me that what makes Europeans so indelibly European is their imperviousness to embarrassment.

So we put the top down, revved the engine, and slowly circled the plaza in our little go-kart manqué. And if we looked a little silly, well, we fit right in.

ITINERARY: NICE TO MONTE CARLO

Day 1: From Nice, take the N98 southwest to Cagnes-sur-Mer, and follow D36 north toward Vence. Pick up the D2 to St.-Paul-de-Vence. Follow the D36 and N98 back toward Nice. East of Nice, the N98 becomes the Basse (Lower) Corniche, which you'll take to Èze-Bord-de-Mer and Èze-Village. Day 2: From Èze-Village, descend along the same switchback to Èze-Bord-de-Mer, then set out along the Basse Corniche west to Cap Ferrat. Day 3: From Èze-Bord-de-Mer, follow the Basse Corniche east, passing through Cap d'Ail, until you see signs for Monaco. Stay in the right lane and follow signs for Fontvieille and the Hôtel Columbus.

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