“French twist” evokes visions of a hairstyle, or perhaps a donut made of braided dough—preferably glazed with chocolate. I am sailing among the Greek islands under the tricolor of France aboard the ship L’Austral, Tonight, we’re cruising from the ancient port of Rhodes on its eponymous island toward the island of Patmos farther up the Aegean Sea.
Now on the far side of fifty, I readily acknowledge the compilation of my own bucket list. These lists are populated with dream destinations and activities that I hope to accomplish before crossing the proverbial River Styx. Forgive the Greek mythological reference—did I mention that I’m writing this from my cabin while I cruise the Greek islands? Check one big one of that bucket list…
I knew that the shipboard experience might be less Greek than I had anticipated from the very start on Wednesday. Our shipboard orientation began shortly after casting off from Greece’s main port of Piraeus. “Bonjour!” announced Captain Jean-Philippe Lemaire’s with a hearty welcome. His accent was thick, but with enough concentration I could decipher his message. The social director’s impermeable French accent, however, would have challenged even Julia Child’s extensive linguistic skills. Yes, it would be a French crew on this French ship--I just wish I could understand the overhead announcements.
The theme carried over to our shipboard menu. Croissants, sauce bernaise, escargot—the menu offers certifiably French cuisine (which thankfully, I love). To those grumps who sneer at the very wet scrambled eggs at the breakfast buffet, I say: order an omelet and quit complaining. At a loss for the Greek word meaning “thank you,” I acknowledged our waiter’s attentions by saying “Merci beaux coups.”
I blushed, “That’s about all of my French.” He was nonetheless quite pleased; he gives me a bit larger pour of the wine every time.
Last night, we cast off for our next port of call at 10 pm. After a sumptuous feast of stuffed guinea fowl and foie gras, we joined some friends at the outdoor bar on the top deck for farewell cocktails. I settled down with my glass of Greek wine and scanned the panorama of Rhodes’ crenelated battlements and the commanding Palace of the Grand Masters illuminated against the dark skies of a moonless night. These stone works are the handiwork of the Medieval Knights of St. John more than 700 years ago. No, they weren’t Greek knights either; they were Frankish veterans of the Crusades.
Vive le France!