Tuesday, 29 June 2010

My New Summer Home

Yesterday I moved into my new home. This was not without challenges. Even after a week of tossing things out, recycling, consolidating and air mailing things back to New Zealand I still seem to have a lot of stuff following me. I do not have my jumbo pack any more. I concede that I am far too addicted to the internet to probably ever do any serious back packing. I am a flash packer. Or a flash wheeled suitcaser.

I chose the carefully selected time of 3pm to leave Antibes. This was as the England/German game began. This way no one would mistake me for being English or German. The train I was on was bound for Paris. It had one of the bar carriages that my good friend Richard was once espoused to on a trip to Europe.

The train was fast. I was only kicked out of my seat once and I dozed serenely thinking of what the next few months will bring. I awoke with the delicious sore neck and drool encrusted face that long haul sleeping arrangements deliver all too well. I was in Toulon. Originally I was going to catch a taxi to the ferry. But with no taxis to be seen I started to drag my baggage train down the hill to the ferry terminal.

I discovered new parts of Toulon. Its high streets are abundant and very closed on a Sunday. My suitcase capsized a couple of times. I wondered if anyone has thought of adding a third wheel strut which folds down when you pull up the handle. I made it to the ferry terminal very hot and eager for some breeze. It was 5pm and 28 degrees.

Half of Italy was in the ferry terminal. The reason for this escaped me at the time. I very nearly started talking about football. But then I remembered a bus ride in Edinburgh when Anna and I were heckled by some English rugby fans over a similar incident at another world cup. I soon discovered that the Italians had visited Toulon by cruise ship. Very intrepid.

After dragging my suitcase through acres of rocks on the way to my new home; I started to wonder why I did not have my pack any more. I also wondered if you can get suitcases with all terrain tyres on them. I think in my next life I will have a magic carpet which can carry me around and all of my luggage. I will also need someone to carry my carpet for when there is a not space to use it.

When I got to my new home there was no body at home. Well at least there did not appear to be anybody. The front door was locked and no one was replying to my knocks. I sunned myself on the deck and waited..... and waited.

In a cruel dose of irony, the one and only person at home was English and watching England lose at football. I was eventually let in and I began my new job aboard a Super Yacht. I think you will read the next episode.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Revenge of the Toulon

It was with a heavy heart I got aboard a train bound for Toulon this morning. In a sine wave of highs and lows the torrid trip to Toulon last year was a bottomless crevasse of torture.

I did have a good reason. A job interview. The train rode to Toulon through the freshly drenched flood plains. I do not think there will be as much Rose dumped on the market next year.

The vineyards were mud yards. To give you an idea of the water that was around last week I saw a Porche on its side covered in baked mud.

I arrived in Toulon safely, and only half an hour late. I made my way to the clearly labelled Le Porte.

Local knowledge lesson one.

If you are looking for Super Yacht berths in Toulon you need to catch a ferry to La Seyne La Mere.

Our extremely fruitless trip of Toulon last year could have been less worthless if we had known this.

My job interview went well more on this at a later date. Hopefully.

I then tried to leave Toulon. This proved difficult. I actually started to PANIC RAGE INTERNET MONEY but then the fear abated. I had to wait for 1.5 hours at the train station. It is hard to keep a concerted RAGE going for 1.5 hours unless you are Uncle Phil. Even he would agree I am far better at being happy than being angry.

On the way home I befriended a little old French lady. I consoled her over France's dismal showing at the world cup and told her to support the All Whites tomorrow.

Which is what I will be doing doubly so.

Because I got the job.

The thing about Kiwis. We might not fly but when we fall over it is easy to get back up again.

My Powerboat Licence Experience

On Thursday and Friday of last week I took the prudent steps to gain a licence to drive small boats or tenders. As the world becomes more regulated it is wise to have some sort of qualification for driving small boats. Previously I only had some bush lawyer advice from another New Zealander.

"You only need a licence if you fuck up. So do not fuck up and you will be sweet"

While I admire this attitude, we live in times where things do fuck up. Even me.

I did not have many requirements for my course. I did want to steer well clear of one vampiric training institution which is the scourge of yachting. People in the know will know of who I do not speak of.

I made the wise choice of signing up with the Riviera Sea School who are based out of Golfe Juan

Confession time. Summer is not really here yet. I love making people feel jealous in other parts of the world as much as any other traveller but the weather has been pretty shit.

So come Thursday morning it was positively bucketing down! Luckily I had a change of clothes and thought at least the first morning of my course would be theory so I would be ok.

My instructor turned up on time and told me I was the only student for the next two day. RSS does not cancel courses when they have cancellations, unlike other evil training institutions.

I had the appearance of a drowned rat. He pulled out a poncho I could borrow and we made our way to the class room. The instructor gleefully informed me that the course was 90% practical and 10% theory. I wistfully willed the rain to abate. It did.

What followed, were two thoroughly enjoyable days of boating, manoeuvres, theory, laughs, banter and studious education.

My tutor was a knowledgeable type of bloke with the kind of god like tender skills which come with driving a tender almost every day of the year. He could teach anyone new things. Probably even god.

There is some practised subtle irony in that last sentence which I am happy to explain in person any time. For a nominal fee.

On our final day I got to choose a spot on the map. I then drew up a passage plan and we set off on a beautiful morning with nothing but a compass heading and a stop watch to guide us.

Driving a boat at sea in a straight line is some what akin to driving a tractor in a freshly tilled paddock when you only have posts to steer by. Probably.

We got to our anchorage safely and I got to drop the anchor.I then took some photos for this very blog

This is why I chose this magnificent anchorage.

View back to Golfe Juan

My instructor, Sam. Nice guy. Kept wanting to buy him a beer and then remembered we were not in a bar and that that would not be very appropriate or easy.

A more relaxed first time Captain you will never see.

At the end of two days I had an afternoon practical test of sorts. I passed. I then had some questions to answer. I was left in the tender, baking in the sun whilst the course instructor got my licence and the questions to follow. I was in a semi delirious state when he got back, having been afflicted by sun stroke and my brain had melted after furiously cramming a pack of study cards and the contents of a book.

Needless to say. I passed the test and have my licence.
Show all
Job done.

Three cheers me and the Riviera Sea School.

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Result

Sit back in your chair. What happened after my reagents took hold? What sooth did I see? What insights did I glean?

Firstly a visit to Spain is loooong over due. Barcelona is only a few hours from here by car. In my minds eye I traced a visit to Spain in a car I purchased from a suitable car broker.

The thin black line is my intended route. It has all the essential visits for someone who knows nothing about Spain, finds a map with google image search and butchers it with MSpaint.

Hugging the coast from Marseilles I will adopt my Spanish costume as I cross the border.

I will not wear a German scarf. Ever.

In Barcelona I will marvel at the vibrant pulsating city of communal baths with artwork to match.

Listening to Heroes in my flavour enhancer induced stupor I heard the main villain say;

"The Gypsy takes the path of least resistance"

With this in mind I will head to the Gypsy strong hold of Vigo in Galicia.

Carnival, Carnival, CARNIVALLLLLLLLLL!

Vigo is the home of man mountain El Fuerte. It is also the home of my Spanish fan club. I will be welcomed as a returning hero, a ticker tape parade, huge communal baths, horse sacrifices! It will be incredible.

After many months of diligently learning Spanish and the local customs it will be with teary eyes I leave Vigo. But I think I will take a small part of Vigo with me, in my horse strengthened heart.

From Vigo I will travel South East to Madrid. Pausing in the sweltering city to catch a breath I will then drive to somewhere far more interesting.


Oh to be dressed in a Batman costume in Toledo and to have someone say "Holy Toledo Batman"

What a huge accomplishment that would be.

From Toledo I will head to Valencia and have a few wistful moments for the New Zealand Americas cup team who lost valiantly in Valencia.I might need to lose my car here as well.

From Valencia it is to Ibiza bitches. Ibiza is a gypsy pilgrimage if there ever was one. If I time things right I will get there just as the closing parties start and most of the Italians and English have gone home.

From here it is on to Palma to resume my career in Super Yachts.

Or is it..........?

Friday, 18 June 2010


After five days of furious work I thought it would be prudent to delve into the arcane and conjour up a future for myself on my day off before my tender driving course. My spell included,

-8 cups of coffee
-Six slices of wholegrain toast with MARMITE
-A Heroes marathon, about 9 episodes if my hazy memory serves me correctly
-Quite a lot of internet including football results
-Refusing to go to the beach
-Getting hungry and deciding to go get groceries
-Half a bottle of gin, a packet of bbq chips, some 85% dark chocolate, chorizo and a ready made pasta meal later....

I felt positively vile. It was in this delirious state that I dreamed my alternate future........

Stay tuned. I actually started feeling sick just writing this.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Hopes Dashed

My dreams of being a artist of leisure, writer, DJ, short film maker, performance mockist, Swedish lesson maker and cultural ambassador in the Riviera turned out to be only that. Last week was a very positive one in Antibes. We nested in a small hotel after our wonderful weekend in Nice and set about selling ourselves again. A year later it is a lot easier prospect and one that is not as terrifying. Most people are very positive and the ones that are not have been filed in the do not/disturbed folder.

Anna chanced upon some temporary work back in Italy for four days. I set about moving our belongings into a large apartment. The apartment is huge, I had looked forward to spending a relaxing weekend, sun bathing, drinking Gin and tinkering on my new mixer. My hopes were dashed when I ended up lending a hand to a friends boat in Cannes. This hand has turned into five days work and I have shelved all of my dreams.

For now.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


On Friday past I took my caravan of trinkets, treasures and niff nafs and headed towards Nice. My mission was to set up a temporary gypsy fortification inside a hotel, get up the lay of the land and be prepared for my fair maidens arrival by aluminium bird(plane).

Nice is actually quite cool. It does have a reputation for petty crime but the only criminal activity I witnessed was some really bad violin playing. This was balanced out by some incredible piano accordion playing. Some of the best I have seen in France.

With the the mini bar healthily diminished I set about repacking my assorted assortments of curios, loot and ensembles. My wife would probably describe it as my crap, which is a fair assessment. I have also been mixing tunes together, a long lost love which probably should have stayed lost if my recent dalliances are to be heard. My wife has had the presence of mind not to say anything. I will take this as a muted compliment and will continue until she gets ear plugs.

On Saturday morning I ventured to the Aeroport by bus. I went to the wrong terminal. For visitors to Nice Aeroport there are in fact two terminals. If your wife is arriving via Norway it should be pretty easy to find her flight. There are not that many fights to and from Norway.

With my Wife safely in my arms we went back to the hotel unloaded her loot and went out to find some more. What happened next was a Herculean four hour ordeal of shopping. I had bought a mixer the day before so sheepishly declined any shopping. What I did offer was my studied eye for fashion and to carry bags of clothing.

Forget drinking, whoring and other vices associated with Sailors. Most modern yachties go power shopping when they come across land. The ones I like do anyway. I had to opt out at 4pm, leaving my wife to buy some more skirts, belts, shoes or some other such things. She returned after dinner satiated and ready for some adventuring the next day.

Our adventuring was postponed until dusk. We went and sat on the beach and engaged in some forced terrestrial bound radiation exposure. I burned myself quite well. This is my pre summer sacrificial burning that I make to Ra every year. I am still pink now and hope not to get that burned ever again outside of a crematorium.

As the Sun started to wane we went climbing up around a large hill.

Nice has a nice promenade. It reminds me a little of Livorno. Just better.

Beach with cursed sun beating!

My freshly dressed French mistress.

Impressive war memorial to fallen Gaul.

Really pretty cemetery, did not feel like a cemetery at all.

View from the top.

Arty shot of caged angel.

We had a great meal, drank some wine, absorbed the ambience and enjoyed it for all it is. People in Nice are a lot friendlier than in Antibes. I will be revisiting some of my year old theories about France and the Riviera over the next couple of weeks.

Maintenant je vis à nouveau en France

Monday, 7 June 2010

What Good Luck!

An epic amount of good luck has seen me being able to leave my job and begin a fresh start with my Wife. When you are as happily married as we are, seeing each other for only 2 months over the next year was always going to be a stretch. We did it tough last year to get some experience and we did get a job together in what was the worst year for yachting in a long time.

On the long and lonely train ride from Viareggio to Nice, France I was frequently reminded why I started the ratherlargeadventure.

To see new things
To meet new people
To find stuff to write about!

Lugging a full backpack of assorted costumes and dragon finery, a suitcase full of alien gadgets, day pack of books and a laptop is not easy! I had a nice Italian man befriend me in Genova named Allesandro. He had spent a week in London with his family. He had ok English and was very apologetic for Italians in general. He as I think, most garden variety Italians think Italy is still the centre of the giant Roman empire. We had a talk about football and he knew of New Zealand music and in particular Dubstep. He had been to a party in Brixton and there was some very heavy Dubstep being played from New Zealand. Isn't that nice!

On the train ride into Monaco I met a nice American girl who was travelling by her self. She had just finished her job in the UK and was travelling through Europe. I gave her some tips on France and about travel writing. I also gave her my card. I gave my card to Allesandro my card as well. I have not really had much opportunity to give my card out recently! It is a shame and it is something that I will be working on over the next while.

I have some photos to put up and a write up of Nice. But in the mean time enjoy some flyers I have taken photos of. It really is a good time to have some spare time.

Lucky me!