Nice is beautiful in September—80 degrees in the day, 65 or so at night.

We’re traveling with a pair of vegetarians. I love them, I do. But sometimes it gets a little frustrating to do a complete menu analysis before going into a bistro. (We’ve gotten more than a few blank stares in both Italy and France while asking servers to point out vegetarian dishes.) A day or so ago, in Nice, we were hanging around the harbor and looking for a place to lunch. They stumbled upon a falafel place and got very excited.

The harbor

I, on the other hand, was not. We’re in freakin’ France and they want to eat freakin’ falafel? For real? I decided to choke back my sarcasm and go with it—for the sake of the group. The food inside looked OK, and everybody eating there looked French—no tourists—so that kind of helped sway me.

Well, teach me to be a bitty. First, the meal was very good. Second, fortune decided to smile on us at that very moment. You know how when you’re traveling, you wait and wait for that magical encounter—that suggestion that somehow never makes it way into a travel guide? As I get older, I find that those experiences are fewer and farther between. Maybe it’s because I’m a little less outgoing and tend to keep more to myself than I did when I was 21.

So we’re eating falafel and talking about the weather, and I start chatting up the table next to us. Two French men, middle aged, one of whom was a boat skipper. I couldn’t believe it, we’d just spent all morning looking for a boat to rent for a sail (the man friend likes to sail). At some point, we had all agreed that there was no better place than Nice to shoot our wad on a private boat trip. Here we were, a private sail—practically landing in our lap!

The view from our boat. No, I’m not posting any pictures of myself in a bikini. Turning 30 has been so cruel.

We took the offer, and the next day, we met a French sailor named Yann in front of his private boat in the Nice harbor. No small irony that the boat had a handicap sign on the bow. Turns out, Yann and his friend Jean-Phillipe (the skipper we met in the café) help paraplegics enter sailing races. They’ve raced all over the world in their disabled-friendly boat!

We climbed aboard and set sail from Monaco. On the way, we passed several private yachts heading toward Monaco for the yearly yacht convention. I saw lots of Hugh Hefner types with women in bikinis. Ah, the life. The best part of the trip, besides chatting up Yann, who has sailed across the Atlantic on his own, was taking a dip in the 300-meter deep Mediterranean.

Even though we’re on our way to Paris, I doubt we’ll be able to top that experience. It made the trip for everyone.

Lesson learned. I haven’t made a peep about menus since. Yes, fortune smiles upon the selfless. Apparently, it also smiles upon vegetarians.