It’s Nice in Nice

Fraser’s blog left us as we arrived in the picturesque Port of Nice, surrounded by super yachts and beautiful people. The main reason we chose Nice as a place to visit was that I have a cousin living here. Monique, her husband Remi and their two daughters live a few km from the centre, in an ancient shepherd’s cottage on the side of steep gorge, a wonderful, higgledy-piggledy home set into terraces that have probably been there for hundreds of years.

Monique and Remi’s idyllic home in the mountains.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. Monique and I haven’t seen each other in nearly 40 years, so we were both equally excited to meet again, especially so far from both our original homes. She came down to the harbour with a friend to visit our boat, and there were tears on both parts as we hugged and giggled and relived memories of our childhood together.

Hugs and giggles. It was so good to catch up with Monique after all these years.

The next evening, she collected us and drove us up to their amazing house where we shared pizzas with her family. This was an evening that will remain etched my memory. Remi is a marine biologist, so we had much in common, and one of their daughters is a talented artist and promising writer. Goes without saying that she and I hit it off! Their other daughter is a super-fan of tuna pizza, and it was a joy to see her enjoying herself, as she’s autistic and can struggle to communicate.

The giant bag. We reckon we could have scrunched Patrick up into it and saved him a plane ticket. It’s heavier than it looks, as it contained all our winter woolies as well as the last earthly remains of Robbie I.

The next morning, Fraser and I lugged an enormous bag between us, sharing the load by taking a handle each, down the harbour wall to the tram station at the end. The tram (€1.50 each) took us under a cliff then along the coast, past Phoenix Park Zoo (no, I’m not suffering from confusion in the heat; there really is a Parc de Phoenix with a zoo!), and eventually to the airport.

Just a wee snack on the plane to tide us over!

We’d booked ourselves onto a flight home for a few days to catch up with family, and to take Robbie (RIP, see last episode) to his final resting place in Bangor. We’d filled the bag with all our winter woollies and thermal underwear, knowing that we’d not need them again for a long time.The bag was bulging at the seams, so much so that the staff at the airport sent us off to the outsize luggage area.

Laura, trouncing her dad at chess. We were both slightly overwhelmed by the available space in a real house vs living on a boat.

We were met at the airport by middle daughter, Laura, who submitted her PhD a short while ago and was having a bit of a break from work to recover from the stress. It felt amazing to see her again (more hugs), and as we were only home for a few days we tried to fit in as much as possible.

Fatty didn’t seem to care if we were there or not!

The whole visit was a whirlwind of family, seeing Katrina and Peter in their new home for the first time, meeting Mabel, their Flat Coat Retriever puppy (huge, gangly, and very excitable), cuddling all the cats, whether they wanted it or not. It felt surreal to have all that living space, with separate rooms for different activities. And a shower that you didn’t have to keep pressing the button to get wet.

Drizzly and dreich in Donaghadee, but still the family got together. Mabel the puppy in the middle with Katrina. Photo credit :Kirsty.

We did the rounds of the extended family and managed to catch up with almost everyone. Fraser’s sister, Carol, even flew in a few days early from Aberdeen to make sure she caught us before we left again. Fraser had a birthday while we were in Donaghadee, so there were several birthday cakes and lots of gifts to squeeze into our hold luggage along with Robbie II (RIP Robbie I!)

Some of the family we managed to catch up with. Not much left of the several birthday cakes! Mo, the huge black and white cat in Katrina’s arms, was very happy to see so many visitors More people = more crumbs dropped on the floor and more chance of stealing food.

They all came up to Donaghadee to visit us, even though it was 12th July (non Norn Irish folks, google it!) and we dodged the bands to take a walk to the beach where many of the youngsters swam. It was a lot colder than the south of France, so I told everyone I’d left my swimming stuff on the boat…

Our niece, Tamilla, and her partner, James, swimming in Donaghadee on the 12th. Brave souls!

We’ve been trying to persuade Patrick to come out to join us for a while as crew, and we finally succeeded while we were home. We couldn’t get him on the same flight as us, but he followed a few days later.

A traditional Northern Irish spectacle on 12th July: Orangemen and bands marching through the streets in Donaghadee with a police escort to stop the cars (me, in this case, trying to collect fish and chips for our tea as we hadn’t had them in more than three months).

Returning to Nice and little Barberry felt like coming home almost as much as going back to Northern Ireland had. Maybe more so. We’d left her locked up tight, so the inside of the boat was baking hot by the time we arrived after a two-hour flight delay, but we soon had all the hatches open and the fans going again. At least the plane had been air conditioned!

We’d forgotten just how hot it is in Nice. This shows the thermometer we keep in Barberry: almost 100 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius)

While we were back in Northern Ireland, we had swapped Robbie I (RIP) for Robbie II, thanks to the help of Brian, our friend and the local Raymarine engineer in Bangor. He’d got a replacement part all ready for us, so Fraser fitted it as soon as we got back.

The entire steering wheel had to be removed in order to install Robbie II.

The replacement windlass had also arrived while we were away, so Fraser retrieved it from the capitainerie and fitted it straight away.

Our replacement windlass arrived in a giant (and very heavy) box.

When he’d fitted the original windlass, I’d helped him and seen the excessive amount of sealant he’d used to glue it down, so I stayed out of the way this time, expecting some sweaty grumbling, until he needed me to help him tighten the bolts. He was definitely sweaty by the time he’d finished. What he needed was a dip in the sea to cool off.

Stealth photo, taken from beneath the table as I write this blog: Fraser doing a “Boat Job” (defined as a job that looks simple before you start, but usually leads to many sub-jobs and the use of every single tool he’s smuggled onto the boat).

Before we left Nice to go home, we’d had little time to explore, so now we cycled to the nearest beach, far closer than the one in Port Napoléon. This beach was heaving with humanity because this was Friday 14th July, Bastille Day, and a French public holiday. Still, we managed to find a few spare inches of ground to drop our towels and clothes while we swam. The beach is stony, not sandy, so we were glad of our swimming shoes. Also, there’s a very steep drop-off into the water, which is difficult to get up and down, especially when you’re challenged for balance and a little (!) overweight, like me.

The stony beach in Nice is very popular, but most people seem happy enough to fry themselves in oil so there’s always plenty of room in the sea for swimmers like us.

The sea was warm, crystal clear, and teeming with life. We swam amongst shoals of brightly-coloured fish, chased down silvery fish with spots on their tails (they weren’t a bit afraid of us) and even dived down to the stony seabed to examine a spiky specimen that looked a bit like a rockfish. We definitely didn’t want to stand on it because it had rows of ferocious-looking spines along its back. Luckily it seemed to prefer deep water, well away from heedless human feet.

There’s another swimming area closer to the harbour, but we didn’t fancy clambering across the rocks.

As we came back from the beach, we saw the police, ambulances, pompiers (fire service), etc. all lining up, and wondered what trouble was brewing It turned out they were gathering for a procession to mark Bastille Day, with lights flashing as they went in convoy along the coast road. There were fireworks that night in the old town, and a few parties around, but nothing kept us awake after our active day. This lovely little harbour is far quieter than many marinas we’ve stayed in, maybe because no one wants to upset the super yacht owners!

Port of Nice with Barberry somewhere in the mix! Photo credit: Patrick

Fraser fitted one of his birthday presents before we set off for Patrick, a second 12V fan to circulate the hot air. Even small jobs are frustrating on a boat, and the heat makes everything twice as difficult.

We followed Patrick’s plane on the Flight Radar app as it approached.

Patrick’s flight arrived the next morning, and we were so excited to see him that we caught the tram to the airport to meet him. He arrived, looking his usual cool dude self, and with very little luggage. I guess that’s a good thing when it comes to storage, but I’m worried that he’s assuming availability of laundry facilities that will be few and far between once we’re on our way again. He can hand wash his own undies if they run out…

So good to have Patrick aboard with us I have a list of jobs for him…

Once we’d dropped his kit on the boat, we took him to the beach for a swim. He wasn’t quite the palest body on the beach, but he’s definitely going to need the old factor 50 all over his torso. It was an easy game of “Spot the Irishman.”

My boys! Need to get some colour into Patrick’s pale cheeks and some meat on those bones, but there’s nothing like a sailing trip for healthiness.

Fitting Patrick into the boat has been a challenge. The layout is ideal for two people who get on very well together, but once you add a third warm body to the mix, she begins to feel quite cramped. There is, theoretically, a quarter berth beneath the starboard side cockpit locker, but it’s only 5’8″ long and Patrick is 6’2″. It’s also very narrow, and built more for a child than for a gangly adult. As a result, he slept last night on one of the sofas.

He’s really too long even for the sofas. That pale body is gonna burn! Should have bought extra Factor 50…

If you’d like to see a guided tour of the inside of Barberry, to get an idea of the space available, I did a short YouTube video when we first set off on our adventures. You can view it here. The two sofas are usually where Fraser and I lie down to watch a short session of YouTube (sailing channels, obviously) or “Real TV” (Netflix, Prime, Disney) if we can get sufficient internet, and if my French eSim will allow us to.

The only dedicated sleeping space on Barberry. It’s now doubling up as daytime storage for Patrick’s bedding.

We’re going to have to rethink this as Patrick also needs somewhere to chill out, and he’s definitely not fussed about watching the same stuff as us. We’ll work it out. The sofa isn’t the comfiest bed, as I know well. I’m susceptible to night cramps so I frequently get up in the night and move myself to one of the sofas so I don’t disturb Fraser’s beauty sleep. Now, I’m going to have to rethink that strategy as well. We all knew there’d be a period of adjustment required if Patrick joined us, but I also know that we’ll work it all out soon enough. For a start, we might need a bigger fridge. I’d forgotten how much food he can put away!

It’s hard for Fraser to find space for all his tools when he’s doing boat jobs. The sofa on the left doubles up as Patrick’s bed. I used a wide angle lens so it isn’t as big as this in real life!

We’re only allowed to stay here in Nice until Tuesday, as the marina is very full and we were extremely lucky to find a berth here at all (someone cancelled only minutes before I contacted them to try to book us in). Over the next few days, we need to lay in enough supplies for the next leg of our adventure, and to finalise our passage plans. It’s far easier to plan when you don’t have any significant tidal streams to take into account, but we’re still very dependent on weather forecasts.

The view from Monique and Remi’s terrace. So peaceful, with just the sound of cicadas in the bushes.

In the Med it tends to be all-or-nothing as far as wind is concerned. Currently the forecast for Tuesday is “nothing”, so we’ll probably have to motor most of the 95-mile journey, which is a shame, but can’t be helped. The weather forecast for this part of the world is for record-breaking temperatures over then next week or so, and sailing is a lot cooler than motoring, but at least with Patrick as crew, we can now run a sensible watch rota. We’re contemplating sailing through the night to Corsica, to save ourselves from burning to a crisp. It’ll take us in the region of 18-19 hours, so burning or heat stroke is a very real danger, and not just for Patrick.

Lucille, the enormous black cat, loves to be close to people. And food. I think he must be Mo’s brother, separated at birth (but he has better table manners).

After Nice, we aim to stay mostly in anchorages, so supplies won’t be easy to buy. We might have to send Patrick off in the dinghy to forage! We’ve become quite lazy here, with a boulangerie, a supermarché and numerous excellent restaurants a short walk from the boat.

A selection of the desserts Remi bought for us to share. No idea why they all seem to be lined up in front of me…

I’m slightly worried Patrick might find our sailing style a bit pedestrian, as he’s been out sailing with a friend of ours, Rusty McGovern, who sails a scarily fast boat and likes to cover the distance in as short a time as possible. Patrick also loves extreme sports, so we might lose him along the way if someone we meet offers him base jumping or free climbing. He’d never be able to resist the lure of danger! Rusty runs a sailing school in Bangor, and he is a great teacher for all levels, in case anyone is thinking of taking up sailing as a sport! He nursed the two of us through our RYA sailing exams before we came on this adventure, so we’d have all our certificates to keep the authorities happy.

Our next destination: Corsica. It’s around 95 miles, or 18-19 hours sailing to get there from Nice.

One of Fraser’s boat jobs was to make a fix for our swim ladder so it doesn’t disappear under the boat every time someone tries to climb up it Even he struggles to climb out using it, and I have no chance as it stands. He’s fastened a block of wood behind it to act as a stop, not only because we intend to swim from the boat to cool off as often as possible, but also because it’s a safety issue. If someone falls overboard, it’s almost impossible to get them back onto the boat without an easily-accessible swim ladder.

He keeps on telling me what a good thing it is that he brought so many tools with him. Photo credit: Patrick.

On Sunday evening, we all went up to Monique’s house again for dinner, and Patrick got to meet a bunch of cousins he’s never seen before. We had an amazing evening with much laughter and some talk of politics (interesting to get the French slant on Brexit, which pretty much aligned with our own views). We’re really going to miss this wonderful family.

Dinner al fresco with (L to R) Remi, ElsieLee, Mary-Elvis, Monique, Patrick, me and Fraser.

One thought on “It’s Nice in Nice

  1. Flying sailing and family meals. All so exciting. BTW wishing Frazer a happy belated birthday. The saying goes 2 is company while 3 is a crowd…. But in this case you will manage the crowd. Many hands make light work is a bonus to Patrick’s arrival

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