May 7 – Life is full of surprising coincidences

Location: Saint Jean Cap-Ferrat (France)

After heading into town to see the local doctor about my flu yesterday afternoon, and getting some high-powered antibiotics, I wake this morning feeling much better.

But it was still a disturbed night for Bill as I coughed, spluttered and choked to death, as quietly as I could, beside him. Despite this he got up several times during the night to refill my glass of water and brought me back a couple of Panadol in case I felt like them. I did.

He rubbed my aching back to put me back to sleep and cuddled into me, holding me warmly, when I got the shivers. In between feeling sorry for myself, I feel emotional and grateful for his kindness and convinced that our past spats were probably only teething issues.

After dragging myself from our bunk, my next challenge is to get to, and from, the Apple Store to drop off my computer, which is also sick, before Jean Piereo, the boat’s local handyman, arrives to show Bill how to use the water-maker at 10:30am, and Brenda arrives after 2pm.

And so it is that at just past 8am, I find myself in the little dinghy with Bill, on my way to shore, speeding across the clear blue bay, past a beautiful 90-meter boat called Nero, in front of a backdrop of gorgeous mist-covered mountains dotted with French villages.

Nero looks as if she might have once belonged to Princess Grace and Prince Rainer. I’ve nicknamed her, the movie star boat. In fact, according to the Internet, it turns out she’s not an old boat after all, having been built in 2008. She’s actually listed for sale at €60 million or able to be chartered for €385,000 per week.

If we Google the name of any boat that we see, we can find out the most interesting facts about it—size, cost, history and sometimes even layout and name of the owner. Bill has found and downloaded an app that provides the same information.

On shore, I walk to the train station and carefully get instructions on how many stations I need to go past to get to the Apple store at Cap Commercial (shopping centre), St Laurent. Once on the train I take the precaution of disembarking at Nice to check with a man in uniform pushing a trolley, whether the train is the right one.

“Non,” he says and indicates a train on another platform. I race to catch it, count two more stops then disembark. Wrong station. Grrrr… Shades of Monaco.

On a mission to get back in time, I run through the tunnel to the other side and just manage to catch another train as it takes off in the opposite direction.

“Is this train going to St. Laurent?” I ask a young man who jumps on board with me.

“Yes, but we have to change trains in a few stations,” he says. “I’m going there myself. I’ll tell you when to get off if you like.”

I smile. His name is Eugene. He is American, obviously gay and very chatty.

“Are you going to Cap Commercial?” he asks.


“Me too,” he says, “I work there.”

“I don’t suppose you work at the Apple store?”

“Yes,” he says with a huge smile.

We speak briefly about my Mac then lapse into a comfortable travel silence.

Shortly afterwards, an announcement is made (in French) and a ticket inspector walks past.

She asks the young woman in front of me, one of only four of us in the carriage, for her ticket.

She doesn’t have one, so after lots of discussion the inspector calls her associate in and they both escort the young woman off the train, which has just pulled into another station.

While they are gone Eugene calls someone on his mobile to explain that he’s taken the wrong wallet to work again and doesn’t have a ticket. He sounds stressed.

The train takes off again and a third ticket inspector walks in and asks to see the ticket of an older woman sitting in front of us. The woman complies and then the inspector looks at me, saying something in French.

I shrug and explain in English, “We’ve already been inspected.”

The inspector flicks her eyes at Eugene who is still on his mobile, looking very serious with a bright red face. She nods, then walks into the next carriage.

Eugene lets out a noisy sigh and is about to say something to me, when yet another inspector walks in. She looks at me, I nod to the woman in front who is just now putting her ticket away. The inspector gives me a friendly smile and follows her associate into the next carriage.

A few seconds later, the original inspector then walks through, but after one look at my pissed-off expression and slight shake of my head as I indicate her friends in the next carriage she doesn’t even ask. She just keeps on walking through our carriage.

Finally the train arrives at St. Laurent and we escape.

“Oh my god,” says Eugene. “I had no ticket. I’m so grateful to you.”

“No problem,” I say. “I didn’t have a ticket either.”

Eugene personally escorts me to the Apple store and despite me not having an appointment, and it still being 20 minutes before the store officially opens, I am immediately served and told that my computer will be ready as quickly as is humanly possible. I easily make it back to the wharf before lunch.

While I wait for Bill to collect me, I drop into one of the many small restaurants lining the wharf to have a coffee and access the free Internet.

The owner serves me personally.

“Are you from the big boat?” he asks in heavily accented English.

I smile and nod.

“Jean-Pierre,” he says extending his hand to shake.

“Lauraine,” I respond.

“Nice boat?”

“Yes. But I am just crew,” I indicate the chair opposite me. “Do you have time to join me while I wait to be picked up by my partner.”

He flicks a look around the restaurant, nods to the other waiter behind the counter and holds up a finger to order a coffee, then sits and we chat. He’s younger than me, possibly in his mid forties, a bit taller and slim. It is difficult to understand him at first because his English is limited and heavily accented, but I manage to discover that he and his brother own two of the restaurants on the wharf and have for many years. He is recently separated and has a 7 year-old daughter and 12 year-old son, both of whom he sees on weekends.

I explain to him a bit about the boat and my Australian roots, then Bill arrives all too soon.

“I must go,” I tell Jean-Pierre with regret, while impulsively holding out my hand to shake his goodbye. “How much do I owe you for the coffee?”

He closes his eyes briefly while lifting his chin, dismissing my request.

I give him a huge smile. “No, no” I protest. “Let me pay for both coffees. Is the least I can do in return for your company.”

“Lauraine,” Bill calls. He’s impatient to get back to the boat. We have a busy day scheduled.

I am embarrassed. “We do not have much time, but may I introduce you to my partner, Bill?”

Jean-Pierre graciously nods. We wander together over to Bill and I quickly do the introductions while sitting on the edge of the wharf to remove my shoes and slip into the dinghy. We must always have bare feet in the dinghy, more to keep the inflated edges of the dinghy clean, than anything else.

Thank goodness Bill is all smiles when I introduce Jean-Pierre as the restaurant’s owner. The men shake hands, exchange a few words then we zip off.

Back on the boat I notice the DVD folders have been rearranged.

“Have you been watching DVDs?” I ask.

Bill shakes his head. “Nope. I’ve regrouped the first folder according to genre.”

“How did you know what genre they were?”

“Looked it up on the Internet,” he says with obvious forced nonchalance.

‘But they were all alphabetically organised across those three folders…?”

Bill sighs. “It’s more important for them to be sorted by genre.”

“I agree that’s a good idea,” I say, slowly flicking through one of the folders. “But now they are not in any sort of order, alphabetic or genre because you’ve only reorganised the first folder.”

“Give it a rest,” he says with the familiar edge to his voice that I hadn’t heard for a while. “I’ll finish doing it when I have more time.”

I remind myself it’s not a battle worthy of my attention but I get a strange look from Brenda when Bill lets it drop later about how he’s reorganised the DVDs by genre, implying he was responsible for the entire clean up. He obviously didn’t hear my conversation with her yesterday. I take a breath to set him straight before he puts his foot in it, then remember, it’s not a battle worthy of my attention, and let him talk, while Brenda continues to look sceptical.

It’s turning out to be quite difficult to live harmoniously in what can only be described as a hot-house. I wonder how people forced to share a cell long-term in jail cope, then question my sub-conscious choice of analogies between a luxury yacht and jail cell.

Just two more days on this anchorage, then we sail to the marina in Italy, where the boat will be pulled out to be antifouled. It will be our first solo trip and I am very excited and sure things will improve once we’re on the move.

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