Ports of history and beauty.
So, last week you read all about the ship Black Watch. This week here’s my take on why this itinerary is one of the best you can find.
We started with Le Havre, but frankly, as the city was flattened during the Second World War, there’s not a huge amount to see there so I’m going to concentrate on the other ports where there was a lot more to do.
Next day was the charming island of Guernsey one of my favourite places.
You can walk straight off the ship and right into the capital of St Peter Port and here you find the 12th Century church of St Peter Port and the top of Les Val des Terres, known for its cycle hill-climbing event.
The wonderfully eclectic Victor Hugo House is here and is well worth a visit. Home to the famous French writer, Hugo’s writing room is at the top of the house and has panoramic views over St Peter Port, out to sea and across to his homeland, France.
My favourite part of the island though is the stunning bay of Moulin Huet. Stop off at Moulin Huet Tearooms and enjoy one of their delicious crab sandwiches and just drink in that coastal view…magic!
Of course, over the centuries the Channel Islands have been seen as the gateway to an invasion of Great Britain and a visit to the German Occupation Museum will allow you to understand what life was like on the islands.
It contains an impressive collection of war memorabilia gathered over the years and includes the evocative reconstruction of a street in St Peter Port during the occupation.
You can then see the fortifications from the Napoleonic era and the German occupation and the German Underground Hospital.
You can explore the series of tunnels commissioned by the German high command during the occupation and painstakingly excavated by Russian prisoners of war.
Lastly, don’t leave Guernsey without visiting the beautiful Little Chapel in Saint Andrew, made entirely from coloured china.
It was created in July, 1914, by Brother Dodat who wanted a miniature version of the grotto and it is the world’s smallest consecrated church.
From there it was off to Spain and the wonderful city of Bilbao. I took an organised excursion that had as a highlight a selection of traditional pintxo a typical snack from this area.
We visited the amazing Guggenheim Museum, with its stunning facades, and from there explored the charming Old Quarter, also known as the “Seven Streets”.
This area used to be the walled part of the town with narrow alleys connecting them, known as cantons.
From there the next port was Hendaye, the most south-westerly town in France, and after that the next port was my favourite the attractive city of La Rochelle, and beautiful Island of Re, with its long sandy beaches, maritime pine forests and typical villages.
In La Rochelle you will see the impressive Porte de la Grosse Horloge (Tower of the Big Clock), which used to be the main gateway to the city.
Next you journey out of the city, towards St Martin de R, the picturesque capital of the island, now a charming tourist centre.
After free time you reboard and travel north to the village of Ars-en-R (yes, you read right), nestled in salt marshes.
The village is typical of the area with its white houses and colourful shutters. This is one of the prettiest places you’ll find.
The last port of call was another stunner and another Fred Olsen excursion.
I went to ‘Discover Concarneau’, which was combined with the stunning little town of Pont-Aven, one of the most romantic places in Brittany.
You dock at Lorient and travel to Concarneau where you will can view its most notable feature, the well-preserved 14th Century “ville close” (walled city), built on a small island in the centre of the harbour.
This medieval walled town is one of the most photographed in Brittany, for good reason.
Rejoining the coach, you make your way via picturesque countryside roads to the charming village of Pont-Aven, situated on the estuary of the River Aven.
A walking tour along the river takes you to the heart of the city. Learn about the colony of painters, led by Paul Gauguin, who made it famous by the end of the 19th Century and formed the school of painting called “L’Ecole de Pont-Aven”.
The town is full of biscuit and chocolate makers, local cider shops and art galleries temptation all around!
It was a fabulous itinerary, great value for a good cruise.
The best sights of Balbao
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao one of Europe’s best museums, both inside and out.
Pasarela Zubizuri a bridge with glass along the bottom that gives you the sensation of being suspended in the air.
Kiosko del Arenal beautiful old bandstand with loads of character and history.
Catedral de Santiago go in and just absorb the atmosphere. It’s a truly spiritual old place.
A Ride on the Funicular de Artxanda amazing views and well worth doing for the experience.
A stroll through Casco Viejo the old quarter with oodles of atmosphere and history. Great man-watching.
Museo de Bellas Artes for the Art lovers. You won’t be disappointed. Great collection.
Euskal Museoa museum of Basque culture. Highlights just how different and unique the Basques are from the rest of Spain.
The massive floral puppy at the Guggenheim just adorable, and an engineering feat! Every visitor took at least six photos.
Teatro Arriaga beautiful opera house just wish I’d been able to go to a performance.