Welcome to: Where I Spent My Week Off —by a NYC Restaurant "Insider"
[ Continued from "My Week Off : St. Tropez..." ]
So, what do you do in the industry?
I used to do lots of things. Now I do other things.
And you have how many weeks off a year, generally?
Okay, as a certain somebody pointed out to me yesterday, I guess it’s really more like four or five.
What made you choose Cap d’Antibes and Cap Ferrat for this vacation?
As I explained before, I didn’t exactly choose it; I was just lucky. A couple of years ago, I was invited to sail the Turkish Riviera to Greece aboard the Black Sea, a 110′ sailing yacht owned by an incredibly lovely family I was fortunate enough to have been able to do some very miniscule favors for, once or twice. Evidently, I was such “a good guest,” they invited me back this year to cruise the Cote d’Azur with them all the way to the Ligurian Coast. Obviously, I would have been a total idiot to refuse. It was one of the most amazing trips of my lifetime (and despite the danger of sounding crass, I must say I’ve been blessed to have experienced some pretty fantastic journeys all right).
My journey with them started in St Tropez; Cap d’Antibes and Cap Ferrat were simply two more stops along the voyage…
And where did you stay?
Still aboard the Black Sea. It has four separate guest chambers (all with full bathrooms), as well as a Master Chamber and sleeping quarters for a crew of five.
How was the ambience/service/amenities etc?
Magnificent, impeccable, luxurious. The Black Sea was entirely custom-built according to the stringent specifications of its owner. It looks and feels "like an Ian Schrager hotel," which is precisely the way I’ve heard at least several visitors aboard describing it. From what I’ve witnessed and gathered, the Black Sea is famous along the coasts of Turkey, Greece, and apparently, Croatia. It would be far from a stretch of the imagination to assert that surely it has now made its mark on the French Riviera as well. It turns heads (and camera lenses) absolutely everywhere it goes.
And its crew is unbelievably gracious, diligent, and hospitable. (Not bad to look at, either. Haaa.)
Any major glitches and/or disappointments?
Aside from the trip being far too short? No.
Oh, there’s the food thing— there’s way too much of it. Breakfast, a meal I never eat, is the most problematic. Where I’d much prefer simply three consecutive cups of coffee, there is instead a daily sumptuous buffet of European delectables. And in the company of generous Turkish hosts, to decline is practically an insult. Thank goodness for the available selection of fresh fruits and juices, or I likely would have gained ten pounds.
Any great standout experiences?
I’m getting to be so much better a swimmer! No, really.
See, evidently, boating/yachting is so ingrained in Turkish (and Greek) cultures that everybody swims like dolphins in the sea practically from the day they’re born, I am not even kidding. The first time I traveled aboard the Black Sea, I was a vastly pitiful swimmer in comparison— it was really embarrassing. I mean, even though my form is fine, I have very little stamina in the water. Therefore, this time the mere idea of swimming smack out there in the middle of the Mediterranean again at plunging depths of god-knows-what was still a downright harrowing experience to me. I am not at all exaggerating when I say my hosts (and their friends) dive right into water at nearly every port and swim for miles on end with nary a care in the world. So, you either have to keep up at some semblance of competence, or forever be labeled the histrionic, unworldly city-dweller who would drown in a puddle of saliva.
Well, the truly amazing thing about the Mediterranean is it resembles our Atlantic and Pacific Oceans not a wee bit. It’s fantastically placid and, in some places, as warm as your bath. You’d have to be an histrionic, unworldy city-dweller who would drown in a puddle of saliva to not appreciate and take advantage of its splendor.
Believe it or not, two summers ago I swam from the shores of the island of Symi to the Black Sea, at a distance approximately equal to 3/4 the way across the Hudson River to New Jersey (even though I was pretty much kinda scared to death). Later, in retrospect, I realized it was an utterly stupid thing for me to attempt at my skill level and vowed never to do it again.
So okay, I didn’t accomplish that same feat during this expedition, but I do dare say I came pretty close!
Anyway, my point is: Wow, Cap Ferrat was a really great place to swim— overall of all the places I’ve bobbed in the Mediterranean by now, I’d probably rank it tied for second or third.
(Also: I think Brigitte Bardot lives here and Bill Gates has a home here too or something.)
As for Cap d’Antibes— apparently, from what I surmise, it’s a huge hit with travelers who love the South of France, but "detest St Tropez" (that’s a direct quote). Sooo, it’s kinda like people who hate the Meatpacking District but love the West Village. I guess.
Unfortunately, it was a short visit so I only tried one restaurant. It was called L’Oursin and came highly recommended to us by a friend of my hosts. It a had a great outdoor dining area in the plaza (next to the carousel) as well as a large indoor restaurant. Primarily seafood— grilled fish and shellfish, with meat and pasta dishes available too. Personally, my moules avec frites were delicious and fresh, but the serving size was gigantic— which was kinda weird to me, because I thought the French weren’t into that sort of thing. Also, the escalope avec pasta bolognese was pretty good too, but again, enough to feed at least two people. Don’t even get me started on the salade de fruits de mer. (The one thing I can’t quite comprehend though, is why lobster is so expensive everywhere you go with the Mediterranean right outside the doorstep.)
How much did you blow all week?
Wait, we’re still not quite done yet!
But to answer the question: believe me, still not anywhere remotely as much as its worth.