Coasting la Côte

When I heard there was going to be an inaugural voyage for the recently refubished Club Med 2 sailboat, I was so excited to go, that I actually invited myself to come along. Since the trip was a press preview, with a sprinkling of the rich and perhaps famous to rub elbows with, and since I lived so close, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t be able to easily race down to catch some sunshine, and participate in the buzz—cruising past St. Tropez, Cannes, Nice, and Portofino.

Portfino

So after spending a few days on land in Provence, I was ready to set sail and meet my travel mates. Having not gone on many press trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect and happily, our rag-tag group was from all over the map: Japan, the United States, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Italy, and, of course, France. We boarded boat and set sail eastward.

sailboat

I’d been on one boat before, a medium-sized cruise liner, and was less-than-impressed with that one. It was freezing cold from the boat being severely overly air-conditioned, so I was wearing sweaters indoors, while sunny Mexico was right outside. Not only was it cold physically, it was also uninspiring and I felt like I was on a floating hotel, it was so big and impersonal.

But this was a small vessel, a 5-masted sailboat, with less than two hundred rooms and sure enough, it was just the right size and pace for cruising the Côte d’Azur.

The boat had just been completely refurbished and I loved my room. I pondered how I could move it, and the view from the portholes, back to Paris.

chambre

Lots of events and activities were planned, but I was mostly interested in meeting the chefs. So while everyone else was taking tours of the engine room and the luxury suites (it was probably a good idea I didn’t see them, or they would’ve had to drag me out, clutching the sides of the door), I made plans to visit the kitchen. Where I always feel home.

When I walked out of the plush hallway, and the world of the guests, behind-the-scenes into the stainless-steel kitchen, where all the food gets prepared, I met young pastry chef Arnaud Baudouin and bread-maker Philippe Kangat.

macaron dessert

Lest anyone think French chefs are mean and grouchy, you can see from the looks of these two that’s they’re anything but. In fact, they looked so content, that I would’ve been happy to spend the rest of the trip in the kitchen, giving them a hand.

Okay, not really.
But still, they were obviously happy doing what they do.

baguettes chefs

Later that night, though, I got pulled back into the kitchen where they showed me what they’d planned to serve for dessert. Puffy-crisp raspberry macarons lined the counters with a wave of dark chocolate breaking alongside, and what I’m not showing are the warm chocolate cakes they were plating up. But I got the recipe ; )

financiers yacht

Another great thing I liked was the beautiful trays they set out for afternoon tea. The pistachio financiers dipped in chocolate were so huge, they were cut in half for those dainty European appetites. Of course, I had two halves, since everyone knows that two halves have less calories than one whole one. Right?

Portofino

I met some really lovely people from all over the world, but had an especially good time with Sarah and Shira. Both are journalists, but since Shira works extensively in the world of red carpets and show-biz, I glued myself to her and got the most amazing gossip about everyone from Brangelina to Madonna. And now she has some on me—gulp! So if you read about me frolicking on the Côte d’Azur in The Star or In Touch Weekly, don’t believe a single word of it. I’m denying everything.

chef sugar bread

The other thing that I loved about this vacation is that sports and classes are included. Like, completely. And that, coupled with the fact that I’m not getting any younger, figured that was my cue to learn to play golf when on land before we shoved off on the boat.

swinger

I managed to get a few good swings in and although I would’ve liked a little more attention (as you can see, the instructors were more interested in something…or more likely, someone else…but with a backswing, and fesse like that, can you blame them?), I got some good advice and hope to eventually increase my success as a swinger.

golf pros

But things were heating up, so I hit the pool then retreated for lunch and rosé. Not being a fan of buffets, especially when most of the guests are from a culture where lining up isn’t one of their better-known attributes, there was always a choice between choosing something healthy…

healthy breakfast

Or something a bit less so.

not-healthy breakfast

And I learned that all Club Med’s are not created equal, as there wasn’t a single slightly-humidified Oreo to be found, as there was in the Bahamas.

When I asked, they said that the French wouldn’t be as, um, appreciative of the charms of chocolate-sandwich cookies with sugary cream filling. And while I reluctantly agreed, I was also thinking, how do they know unless they try them? And I would be willing to be shoved aside, in the name of international understanding, just to let them in on our little secret. After all, I’d taught Romain the benefits of crispy bacon at Columbus Isle and he quickly joined the cult of that, too.

unbaked croissants

Also for breakfast and lunch, there were loaves of the famous white chocolate bread, nearly-petrified bacon (just the way I like it), French and Italian cheeses, tropical fruits piled high, and just-baked croissants.

croissants

And can I just say a little more how much I loved the staff? I swear, I had at least fifteen bromances with the charming fellows who manned the bars, espresso machines, and effortlessly served us in the dining rooms.

wine server

Most of them were from Mauritius, a multilingual isle where they obviously put something in the water to make everyone absolutely charming. (They should try it elsewhere.) And if anyone thinks that eliminating the tip system, which is part of the all-inclusive vacation concept of Club Med, means that servers won’t do a good job, they should spend a few days with these amazing guys.

christopher

My very favorite was Christopher, who was très charmant and had such an adorable grin, that I just wanted to candy him and take him back to Paris with me.

fruit

But the sweetest part of the trip was the day we were docked in Portofino. It was a charming little town, although a bit touristy and hotter than you-know-where, so I headed back to the ship before the others I went ashore with. After a dip in the saltwater pool on the very top deck of the boat, I was cooling myself down with a small sip of cold wine, leaning over the back railing, and noticed a swarm of water skiers far down below.

The night before, the head ski nautique instructor was trying to convince me to give it a go, and I thought, “No way in heck am I going to attach myself to a speeding boat motoring across the deep-dark waters of the Mediterranean, and make a fool of myself in front of everyone on the boat.”

Farzana

And then it hit me.

Since I only had about one-quarter of a glass of wine, I knew it wasn’t that talking, but something in my head said, “David, when are you going to have another chance like this in your life?” I’m not one to take chances, but I ran down the stairs, put my name on the list of participants, slathered on a lot of crème solaire, and waited my turn.

One of the instructors suited me up in an orange life jacket, gave me a quick lesson on how to stand up (a technique which goes opposite of every instinct that I know), got fitted with skis, then was shoved out into the luminously-blue Mediterranean.

speeding yacht

As I scrambled to grab the life-line that was thrown to me, I tried a few times, had a few false starts, but didn’t make it up. So after about five or six tries, it was back to the boat so the next person waiting could go out for a spin.

But the GO (gentil organisateur) at the club put my name at the tail end of the list without telling me, and when I saw what she had done, I considered erasing it, but figured I may as well give it another go. After all, how many times am I going to get a chance to be out in the middle of the Mediterranean, surrounded by luxury yachts and posh villas in the hillsides, whiles the sun beamed down upon me, and a lavish dinner and a fully-stocked bar awaited me later that evening?

And so, I let myself get pulled back out to sea as the sun was lowering in the sky. Gradually the small boat picked up speed, and as I held onto the rope, I calmly began to follow the instructions I’d been given before, which I had no success with prior. But prodded by the driver of the boat who used his hands to motion to me to stand up, voilà…there I was!

I know I should’ve been so scared that I would have an accident right there (speaking of embarrassing…), but there I was, riding the wake of the boat as he picked up speed, and we made a big, wide circle around the deep-blue water, which I skidded effortlessly across. And when I got back, everyone gave me a burst of applause and all I could think about was when I could do it again.

thumbs up

After a nice, hot shower, I changed and headed upstairs to meet my traveling companions for dinner. I started to tell them that I think that I had just had one of the best afternoons of my life, but I wasn’t sure I could express how exhilarating it was. And how happy I felt that I was able to just jump in and do something, without prodding or goading, and even more importantly, without fear.

celebrating

So I toasted myself, a celebration that was definitely bien mérité.

Related Posts & Links

Columbus Isle

Club Med’s White Chocolate Bread Recipe (Club Med Diet)

Nice and the Côte d’Azur

The French Feed Their Kids, Serieusement (Club Med Insider)

A Lebovitz Isle (Matt Bites)

Quick Coconut Ice Cream with Saffron (Recipe)

Individual Hot Chocolate Cakes (Recipe)

Club Med 2 (Club Med Website)

78 comments

  • INSANELY JEALOUS.

  • Loved this entry.

    Just wondering: would you consider doing a trip like this on your own, if it wasn’t a press event, and would you feel comfortable going by yourself?

  • Wonderful story David, and thumbs up for the courage :-)

  • You are one lucky dude. And we are lucky, too, in a lesser way though, that you share all of your (ok,some) adventures with us, your faithful readers! Lovely writing and funny, too.

  • Beyond insanely jealous.

  • Wow, great post. What an exhilarating experience, those memories will last a lifetime. And how cute is Christopher, flashing those pearly whites!

  • bravo :)

  • Bravo!! Well done David.

  • David – this all looked and sounded so lovely! And if you ever want to water ski again, come to the lake country of Georgia (USA) – I can hook you up. :)

  • That story was hilarious – good for you for deciding to go for it – and for finally succeeding!

  • So jealous! I am happy you are having such a fabulous time and blogging about it so I can ready and sigh happily….. :-)

  • Good on you! We old dogs need to remember that new tricks are energizing.

    The cruise looks terrific. Very entertaining story.

  • So so jealous!! :) Sounds like you had a lovely time. And Bravo on the water skiing!

  • That made me tear up a little, it sounds so fabulous!

  • Wow, what a recount ! Sounds like a most relaxing yet adventurous, delicious and fun experience overall. And gorgeous at that too. Love the smiling staff!

    2 quick questions – just curious what the bread/cake is above the (expert) golfing shot? And um, did you perchance mention a recipe for a warm chocolate cake? No? Ok, that must have been my imagination…! ;)

  • Bien merité, ça c’est sur! After falling on my face (and fesse) more times than I wish to count, I have filed water skiing and snowboarding under Activities Never to Attempt Again.

    J’aime vos baskets, btw.

  • Now look at all the beautiful people! Doesn’t David look like he’s fitting right in?

    So nice to see you in such a splendid, well-deserved mood. The last image is a real gem.

    *Sigh*

    This makes me long for the lovely sunsets of the côte d’azur, and a drink on the terrace of a house that will never be mine…

  • Wonderful post. I don’t have a spontaneous bone in my body but you just made me want to go out and try something I’ve never done before :)

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and it’s always the first one I open when I see a new post on my RSS feed. I’m really looking forward to reading your book (not yet available in Egypt) and am saving all your tips for my next trip to Paris.

    Thank you

    Nevine

  • I am so proud of you!

    I am just getting the kitchen ready to caramelize some white chocolate.

    Laura

  • Wow… what a trip!

  • let the good times roll! and yes, what a fesse, in all its callipygousness!

    so, while i read all of this i’m sitting here in an office, fluorescent lights on because it’s that dark outside, rain falling ALL day. and the worst?! it’s only about 10 degrees centigrade. insanely jealous? oh no, i go way beyond that, mister.
    how about some “summer” in munich, mr. lebovitz? hot cocoa anyone? ;-)

  • Fantastic water skiing experience! And, good luck with your golf game.

  • I am so envious! I love your blog, I love “The Sweet Life in Paris“. Reading the book reminds me of “A Year in Provence”.

    Hopefully, someone will write a screenplay.
    Have a fabulous summer!

  • You are so cute. Hooray for getting over fears! That feeling of exhilaration is the best. x

  • Marlowe: Actually, I did begin the trip alone. But in such a small environment, you’re bound to meet others if you’re traveling by yourself. I did like the size of the boat because you can be alone, or interact with others.

    L: Once I realized, “What the heck am I afraid of?” (and I realized I have good French health insurance…) I just went for it. And was I glad I did!

    Nadege: A reviewer already suggested that. I do hope if it happens that Daniel Craig plays me and hope I’m invited to the screen test. (Especially for the scene in the clothing-optional sock store!)

    Kerrin: I don’t know what that was, but when I went to take a picture, they told me they’d find a nicer looking loaf. I thought that one was pretty good : )

    I need to scale down the recipe he gave me, which might take a while since I’m swamped. But my recipe is linked above, at the end of the post.

  • Wow! Gorgeous boat, amazing location, oh-so-attractive staff, AND gourmet food? Seriously, in my next life I want to be you. And congrats on your water skiing success! The one time I tried it, the snap on my bikini top broke just as I stood up. Never, never again.

  • Is that guy in the 2nd to last picture available as a boy toy? Dark chocolate and hot guys. Your life doesn’t suck, David! :)

  • David what a great trip and recap! Isn’t that a great feeling to conquer your fear and accomplish the outcome well? Good for you! Sounds like an amazing trip all-around, from the staff, people, the boat, the ports, the food, the wine…..all something to cherish.

  • Wow! Awesome post and you really did an anstonishing job portraying a cruise trip. I am currently on the Cote and I would never think of getting on a cruise as such, till obviously, now :)

  • Sounds like the perfect vacation to me! Isn’t it great when you finally do something you never thought you’d EVER even attempt for whatever reason…and then do it on a whim AND succeed! What a big rush, huh? Well..you can now cross them off your list of “things I gotta do before I…”

  • Nice! Now I get your Italy comment on Twitter. I hope you picked up some Lavazza ;)

  • Bravo, David! Truly inspiring.

  • Wonderful….love it and the pictures and their atmosphere, nice greets Liz

  • Well, I’ve always thought I’d go stir-crazy on a cruise or be driven crazy by my fellow passengers and the promiscuité of group travel/dining in close quarters … but it sounds as if Club Med has done a great job, let’s hope they can fend off that vulgarian Nanard! ;-)

  • You do live the life, don’t you?

  • Bravis!!! I read hear sometime back you turned fifty this year. So did I – this post is very inspiring. As I too need to DO things that scare me to death. I love the last picture of yourself. Bien Merite indeed!

  • That photo at the end of your post says it all! Thank you for sharing the details of your trip. Looking forward to the recipes. ;-)

  • David -

    You just seem like a good guy who gets a lot of good things – karma working at its’ best!

    Cheers to you!

  • A beautiful post, David. Mazel tov on having the guts to try something new and get over your fear!

  • Oh, I wish I could travel with you! I was giddy reading about your day. What a great post!

  • What a fabulous article! You have me not only wanting to go on the cruise but also now I have a desperate need to go to Mauritius – the land of beautiful smiley men!!!

    Great read – thanks!

  • What a coincidence! Another Meg has already beaten me to the exact comment I wanted to make: INSANELY JEALOUS.

    Had to double check she wasn’t me, writing in my sleep or something. ; )

  • What a fabulous trip! Much appreciation for sharing it all with us here so beautifully and artfully. Your brave adventure into water skiing brought back many happy memories of my childhood summers at camp in Maine. The thrill of waterskiing is something I had forgotten about. You’ve inspired us all to be a bit more adventurous. I may be up on those skis again this summer. I hope it’s like riding a bike, you never really forget. I think wiping out as an adult will be considerably less fun than it was when I was 10 :-) But I’m inspired now to give it a try, thanks for that especially David.

  • thank you for letting us experience through you. you take me there (hey-that could be a song…) fabulous!!!!!

  • although i’m not another meg, i too wanted to say, “insanely jealous”!

    to answer your question–of course, everyone knows that eating two halves of something gives you fewer calories than eating a whole one.

    but even better, broken pieces of things don’t have any calories, since the calories have all leaked out.

    i’m also positive that calories consumed at holiday parties don’t count–will have to check if it also applies to vacations :)

  • thank you for sharing this wonderful adventure with us. We all need to be reminded to toast ourselves once in awhile, yes indeed.

  • What a lovely trip! Thank you for sharing – I’m living vicariously and enjoying it immensely! And thank you for the recipes!

  • What a funny post~ I remember my first ( and last ) water ski attempt which occured in Australia. My bravery was not as well rewarded as yours I can assure. Congrats on taking the risk and seeing it pay off!

  • Hey David, thanks for the reply. I totally agree – that first loaf certainly looked good to me too — hence my question about what it was ! ;) Bet it tasted good too…

  • Now THIS is what I call a posting. Lovely in all regards. The writing, the style, the flow, the tone, the amazing pictures…bravo indeed!

  • Sara and Shira – you fitted well in between. Does your new friend Shira know that her name means POETRY in Hebrew? I love that name, it’s my granddaughter’s name too.. And she wants to be a journalist too, like her grandfather. So one day you might meet another young and brunette Shira on one of your “working” trips!

  • I feel like I just took a wonderful vacation by reading that.

    The sweet sweet life indeed.

  • Great writing as usual, great photos, love the one of the golf instructors! I’m also insanely jealous of the extra crispy bacon. Mmmmm, doesn’t get any better than that.

  • ~Sailaway~ Have great time make sure to Take Lots of Photos~

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Have a Wonderful time!

  • REALLY, David, are you the luckiest man on earth or what? Congrats on building yourself such a great life…you surely have worked very hard to have achieved your sparkling place in this whacky world…so congrats and keep on enjoying yourself!!
    I have to admit some envy of the Paris 9 who are joining you on your gastronomic peregrinations in October…if I had the resources I would be there too.

  • David, you really are living the sweet life. Wonderful post/photos. Absolutely beautiful.

  • such a nice read right before bed! and, strangely enough, i do love to be in the galley just as much as in the kitchen…

  • What a wonderful, happy trip…thank you for sharing it with us!

    (Why did you leave? Ah, right, not by choice.)

  • WOW This entry had it all! Food, luxury, gorgeous people, including yourself. Also bravo to you, David.I admire your grit. I water skiied a lot in my youth, but youth will try anything. I did try to learn to ski one winter at Zermatt and made a complete fool of myself. Wandered off the path and found myself up to my shoulders in snow, trying not to drop my rented skies. LOL

  • Fantastic. Read every word of this and loved it all. Good on you for living life to the fullest!

  • David, I was looking at re-doing my Cote d’Azur cruise with Windstar again…who knew Club Med 2 ship even existed…except now i do and THAT is the ship I am going to take…and one more thing suggest a place to stay near the towns or in Villefranche that is not the Hotel Welcome cause that is the one i would stay in anyway cause where i really want to stay in Eze is too expensive

  • you know, i got married in portofino in that little chapel perched on the peninsula that you see when you first approach the port. now i know how to return there in style, maybe for our tenth wedding anniversary??

  • Johanna: It’s cute town, but I imagine the best places are not right in the port area. Although we did have a nice, yet pricey (€12) glass of prosecco at a wine bar on the port.

    Natalie: I don’t know any hotels there as I stay with a friend in Nice when I go.

    Cecileg: The golf instructors were very nice, but they were obviously a bit distracted…

  • Ah yes, the man can write.

    Great story David. You truly capture the mood.

  • wow… I feel like I was there too.

  • I think everyone should have a picture of themselves like that – joy on their face and a wine glass held up high! If it’s not a real one printed and stuck to the fridge, it should be in your head! Such joy!

  • Ah c’est dur la vie David, hein?

  • You lucky dog! So what was the Madonna gossip?

  • Way to go! I know this sounds drippy, but I thought this post was pretty inspiring. Water skiing is just the kind of thing I would have to spend hours mustering up the courage to do. Sounds like a fab trip!

  • Just wanted to stop by and tell you that I was nursing the last 100 pages of “The Sweet Life in Paris.” It was such a wonderful read — and I didn’t want it to end! Would you please consider a second book of your experiences around France and the rest of Europe (not to mention the Mediterranean Sea)?

  • You’re my hero. Excellent poste.

  • Wowza, honey, you sure know how to pick your freebies! Fabulous vacances! BUT, you are still dressing like an American and we need to get those pants edited.

  • Judith: Pas de tout, ma chèrie!

    The shirt is Lacoste (très française), the socks and “les baskets” are Adidas (European), and the cap is Kangol (très branché en France) which I bought at the outdoor market in Paris. The shorts, admittedly, are from the US of A, though…

  • Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.
    You’re so funny!!!

  • FAN TA STIIIIIIIQUE!

    I have a fear of cruise ships and all their stomach viruses and buffet tables. But this sounds like a DREAM. Sign me up…

  • hi David
    I am from Club Med in Australia, and we were only allowed to send ONE Aussie press member so I was glad you mentioned it!!

    we love your post so much, we would like to pot it on our Club Med Facebook page – with your permission and mentioning where it id from of course. Would you be happy for me to do this? So we can spread the joy even more…I am very envious….I didn’t even get to go..looks like you had a ball!!
    cyn

  • I love your post….I feel really jealous though..wish I can be where you are!

  • I noticed the Kiri cheese in one of your pictures and it made me miss being in Europe so badly! I spent a few weeks in Spain last summer and I developed a liking for Kiri cheese on some crunchy bread. yummm.