21 February 2007

Hi-jinks and adventures ashore-Foreign style



So it came to be that USS Oldboat was on her peaceful summer cruise in the Mediterranean. We had done our support of the NATO mission in Yugoslavia by flying a couple recon assets over Bosnia and Kosovo taking pictures for something or another. Also drawing the tax-free pay for the month since we hung around for a couple of days from April to June. So it came to be that after two weeks the Admiral in charge of our battle group decided we had saved enough money. So we pulled into a beautiful French city called Cannes. It is famous for some sort of film festival, I don't know. What I do know is the place is dripping in money, beautiful women, and history. How bad is it dripping in money, while I was there we saw a Yacht pull in drop the back end and a little Mini drove off the Yacht and around town.
Anyhow, we pulled in on a Friday around noon. It wasn't until something like 3 in the afternoon that we could start to go ashore. Liberty call usually starts with the highest ranking people first and then filters its way on down. So at 3:01pm (1501 for you non-military types) the ships general announcing system started the cattle call with "Liberty Call, Liberty Call for all Officers and Chiefs". At which point everyone but the duty section quit working and hustled off to our berthing compartments to throw on their best mack-daddy outfits.
One of the interesting things that sailors have to put up with is the liberty attire in a port. What it is varies from port to port and even day to day sometimes. At the time Sixth Fleet required that everyone go ashore wearing the minimum of nice pants and a collared shirt. A pair of clean blue jeans and a polo shirt works perfectly. Usually the make verboten for us the wear is things that show American pride or would insult the locals. So people trying to get off wearing NY Yankee caps, Bulls jerseys, or even cowboy boots were turned back to change into something else.
After navigating all that one ends up waiting in line to catch the liberty launch. This is usually a tour boat or some sort of passenger ferry that is hired to run from the after end of the carrier to what is termed "Fleet Landing". The good launches are smart enough to have some folks hawking food and soda, the really smart operators will have booze or beer on board. So one could grab the local version of the Cheetos, a Coke bottle in the local language or a local beer and enjoy the 15 to 20 minutes of joy bounding away from the ship with local cash in the your pocket and trying to decided what to do first.
I got ashore with a friend of mine named Tony (buddies are required in foreign ports) and one of the first things we headed off to do was fine a local restaurant with genuine and authentic French food. We found some little restaurant right by the bay and silhouetted the ship and the setting sun. It was great and looked really beautiful. As we sat their talking about what to go and see next, a bunch of very beautiful girls sat down at the table next from us. Both of Tony and myself had about half a bottle of red wine between us after eating some local food. We were getting giggles and eyes from the girls as we started to talk about whether to just sit here with another bottle of wine and enjoy the house band or go and find other excitement. What finally broke the ice was, one of the girls in an almost perfect "Daisy Duke" southern accent ask us "Y'll Americans?"
Tony and I looked each other in the eye and had a quick conversation with just some facial movements, which basically lead to us staying and having these three beautiful girls join us. We found out talking to them that they were college students from some college in upstate New York and they were doing the study aboard for the summer. The plan was to visit some major cities involved in Western History or something like that. Since both me and Tony were history buff we got on beautifully with these girls. The most they knew about us was that we were from Virginia and we fixed airplanes and in town for the weekend. All of which was perfectly true, we just didn't say that we were sailors, lived in Norfolk, and were going to leave Tuesday morning on the next high tide. We did fix planes since we worked with the aircraft parts. They didn't ask anymore and we really didn't steer the conversation anymore into our backgrounds.

Okay that being said we picked up the tab for the girls dinner and talked them into hanging around to listen to the house band at this restaurant. It really wasn't that bad of a band. They did instrumentals of just about everything from some early 50's rock up to some 80's new wave. As the dinner crowd broke off around 945pm the waiters started to clear the tables inside off and move a few away from the bandstand. Dancing! Oh joy, one of my least favorite adventures. I am just horrible. I can sort of two-step, but anything more or less I look like I am having a seizure. I did my best at dancing. I held my own. As midnight struck at the local church bells the girls want to go someplace else, we looked at our watches and realized that our carriage was going to turn back into a pumpkin at 0200 in the morning. So we had about an hour to really have some fun, the lead girl Mandy came out and said "Well we are staying right around the corner and...." Both Tony and my didn't hear anything else, our single man programming kicked in. So we escorted these girls back to their hotel, well actually we all staggered and bounced like some pinballs up the street.

We came up to this little hotel set back from the main drag, it was really looked interesting. The fun though didn't even get a chance to start, because as we staggered through the front door and the girls chaperon hit and octave and volume that I believe is reserved for emergency sirens.
Almost exact words were, "What are you girls doing with these boys! Have they touched you! Are you Drunk! OH MY GOD!" almost in the same breath. As I tried to calm this chaperon, Tony meanwhile was trying to plan a good time to go do touristy things with these girls the next day.
I explained how the girls were lost and run out of francs so we offered to pay for their dinner. Took them to dancing and walk around the little harbor. We then escorted them back home. I also told this chaperon that the same truth that we told the girls. That we were in town for the weekend and it was great to meet Americans. That calmed her down, found out that the girls were in deep kimchi for being out with out either her or one of the other 3 chaperons. Though that me and Tony were nice gentleman for escorting these girls home and she paid us a 1000 franc note (about 75 dollars) for the trouble.
We walked back to Fleet Landing and talked about how weird it was for sailors to be the gigolos and being paid for spending time with girls in a foreign port and not the typical way around.

More to come in future intallments after this commerical break. Southern and friend end up being guests of a racing team over in Monaco. Southern and friends spend a whole day on a beach in the French Riveria. Stay tuned.

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