Welcome to Marseilles!
So since I last wrote you I was in Rhodes Greece. Since then about a week has elapsed and we have operated with the French Naval Air Force, being a flex deck for them to get some carrier quals in with their E-2′s and Rafales. A couple of the Rafales landed onboard as we sailed around near the French Rivera. We also stopped over at a port in France, Marseilles, which is a very interesting city to stop over. A famous city that has been around since the time the Greeks ruled the Mediterranean. We arrived in town just a few days before the Cannes Film Festival and one of the things we were asked to do was supply some sailors as tourists for the opening day festivals. So a couple of the guys from my work center went to the film festival and got a chance to see Mr. George Lucas, Mrs. Angelia Jolie, and a number of other stars and starlets walking around. Even cooler, they had received a police escort up to the central movie house and from there hung out going to the various meet and greats which occurs during festivals like that. Meanwhile on the ship they had a sunset parade where they had the charges from the consulate of Marseilles, the mayor of Marseilles, and various important French military officials, along with various important French civilians. This went off without a hitch and it was pretty exciting to watch it all go down. The food spread was very good, the usual party style finger foods. The really interesting thing was that instead of the usual fountain of sparkling cider they had filed up this fountain with chocolate.
Marseilles is an interesting town to walk through. It has a mix of various ethnicity’s. It really seems as the city is made up of ethnicity’s that made up Frances Africa colonies. There was a distinct district composed of those from Morocco and Algeria, which was termed the Arab district by the local police. There was one that seemed to be made up of their gold coast colonies, which was termed the Africa street by the locals as well. All through out the town you could see the people interacting on decent terms. The big draw in town is this huge cathedral up on top of a hill that is called the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace. It is about two miles up to the cathedral from the harbor front. Myself and a couple of others hiked up to it and inside there was a couple of prayer rooms. The biggest one where the main services were offered has this large statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in this ornate room. It was very awe-inspiring to look around. On one side of the there was a wall dedicated to those from Marseilles who had given their lives in defense of France. There were various displays of the major awards of some of these men and women who had given their all. The other prayer room was smaller then the main hall and just before you walked in there were prayer candles which you had to walk through first. Even with wearing light-weight polo and shorts the first part of the room with all the candles was incredibly warm. They offered spaces in the racks where you could light your own candle. We walked back down the harbor and found a place to grab a bite to eat for lunch. One of the girls I was with had ordered a seafood platter that had at the center piece a sautéed squid, some white fish, shrimp, and mussels. I had a simple seafood salad that just has squid and mussels on it all covered in virgin olive oil. After weeks of eating at Chez Truman this salad was awesome. After lunch we walked over to another end of the harbor front where there was a huge castle and fort which defended the harbor during the days of sails. There was a memorial of to those who from the French Resistance and the Free French Troops who died during Operation Dragoon which was the invasion of Southern France in August 1944.
After we pulled out we did the flex deck for some units of the French Naval Air Forces. We recovered a French E-2C and a pair of French Rafales. They stayed onboard for a few hours and then left. We all walked round the two fighters and checked them all out. I have included a couple pictures of the aircraft and the Naval Aviators. One of the interesting things is the patch that French pilots were wearing, I think I have seen that sort of patch before just not sure where.
The end is near. Now the biggest thing to fighting is channel fever. Channel Fever is very vicious disease that causes people to get hurt and make major mistakes. What is it? Basically it is where ones mind downshifts from constantly being on task and going out to work day after day is replaced with thoughts of being home with girlfriends, wives, husbands, children, parents, all the loved ones back at the beach. Thoughts of settling down to working and getting off with the chance to enjoy liberty every day (that is if you don’t have the duty). Thoughts of different foods and adventures people are going to get involved with. To help keep people thinking about the job at work, the ship has mandatory classes for home coming. Such things as car buying, money management, single sailor programs, new parent programs, married and returning, stress reduction, and some other classes along those lines. The first two are primarily aimed at the first term sailor who typically hasn’t seen as much money which they had earned while on this deployment. Just for example at the end of my first deployment with six months tax free I had something close to ten thousand dollars sitting in my bank account just on my own pay check alone. So that our sailors don’t get ripped off by some of the car salesmen out there nor do they waste all their money on wine, women, and tunes; we try to teach them about how to best save money for their future. The rest of those classes are to help out new parents, single sailors to understand their options beyond hanging out on the ship or barracks, and de-stress from this cruise with out doing something stupid.
Southern Air Pirate
Southern writes that the last postcard will probably arrive around the 31st – then everything will be packed for the cross-country haul back to Whidby. So, here’s a little something we threw together in appreciation for all the postcards this deployment:
Article Series - Postcards from Deployment
- Postcards from Deployment
- Postcards from Deployment: A Sailor’s Thoughts
- Postcards from Deployment: Groundhog Day – Portcall Abu Dubai
- Postcards From Deployment: 24/7
- Postcards from Deployment: Don’t Do Stupid Things
- Postcards from Deployment: “Strange FOD”
- Postcards From Deployment – Not So Fast Folks…
- Postcards from Deployment: Coming Home (?)
- Postcards From Deployment: Coming Home II
- Postcards From Deployment: “This is a Drill, This is a Drill …”
- Postcards from Deployment: Homeward Bound (I)