My arrival in the Riviera was like something out of a Hollywood movie. Or Made In Chelsea: South of France. A silent and brooding Frenchman in a sleek black private car drove me from Nice to Monaco, where the boat was docked, in amongst all the others gathered for the upcoming boat show. First things first, the chief stewardess took me to where I will be living for (hopefully) the next year or so. All the cabins, except for the captain’s, hold two people in single bunk beds. We have a single desk, that has thus so far only been used as a holding area for miscellaneous items – I doubt any real study-related activities will be had. My top bunk is plenty comfortable to sit back and type my blogposts, complete with a view of the open sea through a porthole. Each room has its own ensuite, in which the shower is both powerful and hot.
The crew mess is where we eat lunch and dinner. It’s just next door to the galley, so it’s not far for me to travel to lay the table and serve. Also in the crew mess is an L shaped sofa with a big TV, that miraculously has Sky. These days, travelling the world doesn’t mean you have to miss the Bake Off. The crew fridge is stocked full of snacks, leftovers, juices, yoghurts, you name it. The freezer is Magnum central. By the toaster and microwave, the cupboards hold all the breakfast items, plus a naughty drawer with every type of chocolate under the sun.
What came as a surprise to me, despite my stewardess friends advising me not to go OTT on the toiletries, was that quite literally EVERYthing you might need is provided by the boat. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, moisturiser, dry shampoo, cotton buds, nail varnish remover, even obscure things that you think only you use – it’s like having a mini Boots onboard. My uniform is also fabulous. A navy blue mens round neck tee shirt, chef’s trousers, with the super sexy thick socks ‘n’ clogs combo. There is a no shoe policy on the boat, with clean white socks left for us to use beside the main door, the etiquette of which I’m still trying to figure out. But my clogs are allowed indoors, and that’s all that matters.
My welcome night was spent enjoying a beer in Monaco, at a place called Stars & Bars, with three of the yacht stewardesses. My roommate is a girl called Lovely, who as you may presume, is indeed rather lovely. They filled me in on the fascinating ways of yacht life, I tried to suss out some of their favourite foods, and we came back to the boat before curfew trying to dodge the rain. While the guests are onboard, the curfew is midnight. Otherwise, we are free to come back any time we please.
The morning began at 8am with a bit of a daunting, ‘Right, what shall we cook today?’ But after throwing some suggestions around, it was mostly a case of using up leftovers and ingredients from the guests’ dinner the night before. The guests all actually left the boat at 8am that morning, so it wasn’t just me responsible for cooking crew food on my first day. Thank goodness! *Breathes sigh of relief.* The galley is small, but everything is squeezed in uber efficiently. All of the cupboards are identical, so it will take some time to get used to the whereabouts of every pot, pan and utensil. One of my initial tasks over the next few days is to clear out every cupboard, give it a good clean, and put all the ingredients back full, labelled, and in an organised fashion. So that they end up resembling a supermarket shelf. It will make life abundantly easier for me, and appeals to my penchant for having everything in good order.
The head chef whipped up roast chicken legs, hummus and crudités, goats cheese soufflés (from the night before) and turbot with a tomato sauce. My contributions consisted of my trusty sweetcorn fritters, sweet and sour plum chutney, tomatoes with avocado, a spinach, date & almond salad and banana & Nutella muffins for afters.
But before lunch was served, the shit hit the fan.
We left Monaco in an intricate reversing manoeuvre that had me awestruck, to make tracks to Antibes. As far as anyone was aware, the sea was calm, and there was nothing to worry about. But lo and behold, there was an enormous swell in the ocean and the boat was literally reeling from side to side, relentlessly. After a futile attempt to fry my fritters in the galley, while simultaneously turning paler and breaking out in cold sweats, there was ultimately no choice but to retreat to my cabin, and sit on the floor in the bathroom, waiting for something to give. Then, like an angel, a stewardess called Jhel came in with a mug of ginger ale, and told me to come up to the bridge deck for some fresh air. The following hour and a half was spent crouched in the shade on some steps, clutching a plastic bag and willing the waves to cease. All that was going through my mind was how the heck am I going to cope on the blimmin’ Atlantic crossing?! We’ll just have to cross that bridge. (How I wish there was a bridge we could cross, by car).
Phillip Green’s yacht, Lionheart, in Monaco. Bigger than all the others.
Now, it seems that my arrival has been pretty darn perfectly timed. The crew have just finished an epic 8 week season in the Med, with the guests onboard for the entirety of it, meaning 12-14 hour days and no days off. With them now gone, it is high time for the hard workers to have some well earned R&R. Tomorrow night we are being taken out for a crew dinner, which supposedly only happens about once every 6 months. Cocktails at 7pm, followed by dinner at a beach club in Antibes, all courtesy of our kindly captain. How lucky am I?! Yes, it’s been just shy of 48 hours since my joining, but this is just a fantastic way of easing me in gently, and welcoming me to the fold. A fold that has been simply superb, thus so far.