Friday 20th May 2016
I slept very soundly despite the rolling of the ship, and was only woken for a couple of minutes when the anchors went down. That was such a good omen, that we had arrived and were staying, that I went straight back to sleep.
The ship was cleared by the authorities by 7 a.m. scheduled arrival time and after an early breakfast I could look out at St. Peter Port from our anchorage in the bay. The sea was much improved, the sky was gradually clearing, and the atmosphere on the ship amongst passengers had been transformed from yesterday - everyone seemed well and cheerful again.
Several of us decided to go ashore on the first tender, which we did. COMMODORE GOODWILL was just leaving the bay as we headed for the port. It was good to have our feet on solid ground again, and just wander around the main streets of St. Peter Port and buy a few souvenirs (using sterling). We are all on excursions this afternoon but it felt good to find an open air cafe with seas views to enjoy this morning. We enjoyed seeing MINERVA anchored out in the bay, with SEA ADVENTURER nearby. She is currently on charter to QUARK EXPEDITIONS.
Back on our ship we could have lunch, enjoy the sunshine and watch CONDOR RAPIDE arrive at the port.
I was in Reception with a small query when the Captain came down the nearby stairs, saw me and someone else standing nearby, and came over to tell me that there was someone on board who had been at sea with Union-Castle Line. He thought I would be interested. I certainly was, and in fact it was the man standing near me, and so Captain Broomhall introduced us. Talk about a coincidence! I shook hands, thanked the Captain and then had to apologise and run for the tender to go on my afternoon excursion.
I caught the 13.45 tender back to the harbour and walked to the waiting coach for my excursion. Yet again, we felt so fortunate with our coach driver and our local guide Malcolm. We went first to a private garden at La Petite Vallée, which descended gradually down from the house towards the sea. I saw many favourite plants, and several unknown ones, but our RHS lecturer Lady Christine Skelmersdale answered any queries as we toured the beautiful garden.
Our next visit was to the Guernsey Freesia Centre and its flower tunnels. The sights and smells were wonderful, I thought, and several purchases were made.
Our next stop was to Candie Gardens, which were in a valley with views of the sea, and felt cool in the late afternoon.
Then it was time to get back on the coach to return to the port and the waiting tender, to go back home to MINERVA.
We all prepared for dinner, had drinks in Wheelers Bar, and enjoyed another evening after another enjoyable day. Tonight the clocks go forward, to prepare for our next port of call at Caen in France, on European Summer Time.
Ships seen: Minerva, Commodore Goodwill, Sea Adventurer, Condor Rapide, Condor Liberation, and our tenders
To be continued...
Thursday 19th May 2016
Oh my, we're at sea and it is very rough. The sea and sky all looked grey, although the ship seems to be riding it well. I was able to go for a late breakfast although the Veranda Restaurant was not as busy as usual. I decided to miss the first lecture at 9.30 about gardening and plants, helped with the current jigsaw in the Library and went to the 11.30 a.m. lecture about The Language of Icons, given by The Rev'd Canon Ian Ainsworth-Smith.
The ship was very quiet today as I believe many people were seasick, and stayed in their cabins. I had lunch with some friends and then took to my bed to help pass the time and weather conditions. We are travelling around Ushant and of course that can be a very wild part of the coast.
It reminded me of the trip that I made with my late husband in June 1996 when we were invited to commemorative events on the islands of Molene and Ushant, held to remember the DRUMMOND CASTLE. She was a Castle Line ship that foundered off the notorious coast of Ushant, like so many before and since, on 16th June 1896 coming up from Cape Town. The weather on the 16th June 1996 was absolutely calm under a beautiful blue sky, so we all felt very fortunate. Wreaths were put into the sea from various local and national French organisations, including one from Union-Castle Line. My husband worked as Business Travel Manager for Union-Castle Travel in London and had arranged for a big anchor of flowers to be made and available for us to collect in Le Conquet. We were on a local lifeboat, with many larger ships forming a loose circle around us and the marker buoy in the ocean, as the wreaths were tossed into the sea.
Two hundred and forty-three passengers back then did not survive, but three were saved by the people of Molene, when they managed to get ashore. In time the news finally reached the UK, and caused great upset at the terrible news of the disaster. There were public collections in the UK for the island people of Molene and 'numerous tokens of gratitude' given; Queen Victoria was so grateful for their life-saving efforts that she donated a clock which was sent to the island as a gift.
Our visit was quite emotional for the islanders, as well as us, and it was memorable to meet a few relations of the survivors, who had also made the journey to the islands in June 1996. We left gifts at the local museum and with the Mayor, and were pleased to have been invited to be part of the day's events and lunch. We were amongst one hundred and fifty official personalities representing France at the ceremonies, and felt very honoured to have been invited from our country.
Back to today though, and by 6 p.m. it was time to attend a short Choir Rehearsal, ready for our evening appearance (well, all 5 minutes of it) with the Opera del Mare at their 9.30 p.m. Concert. Our MINERVA cruise is 'Glorious Gardens and the Chelsea Flower Show' so of course the songs tonight were a celebration of Flowers and Gardens. We made our short appearance on stage for a chorus in 'We'll Gather Lilacs', standing very firmly on the stage to counteract the movement of the ship in the rough seas, and felt very pleased with the applause given for our tiny part in the proceedings.
At 10.15 many of us went up to the Orpheus Lounge for a Trivia Quiz and that was a fun ending to a strange day. The clocks go back 1 hour tonight ready for our port of call in Guernsey tomorrow, when we will be back on our own British Summer Time. That will be another tender port so we do hope the weather and seas will have improved and allow to anchor there.
No ships seen today.
To be continued...
Wednesday 18th May 2016
There was a 35 mile-long very early morning sail along the River Loire to Nantes, Brittany, from the sea, and my alarm woke me early and in good time for breakfast. Although I had an inside cabin, I always enjoy seeing the View from the Bridge on the television but the sky this morning looked rather ominous. Early excursions were going to visit Gardens or a Loire Valley Chateau, but I was booked on a Nantes City Tour; we left the ship at a relatively tolerable time of 8.45 a.m. ready for the morning's excursion.
Our coach took us from our berth in the wide river and past a listed Corbusier block of flats towards the inner city and over the Loire. Our group was dropped off at the edge of the city's old shipbuilding and wharves area and we started to walk across the space towards the nearest tall building. On our left was a carousel. It immediately started pouring with rain, so I put on my full waterproof gear of hooded jacket and trousers and felt warm and dry, but what a shame I had to wear them.
Within moments however we were facing an elephant! The huge life-size mechanical animal had been designed and made by the engineers of Nantes and lived in one of the old glass-topped shipbuilding sheds. It makes regular (and slow) walks around the area, and I remember seeing newspaper pictures of it when it, and other pieces, visited Liverpool and London in the UK. We also saw the 30 feet high dragon which had come out of its hangar and was starting to walk around. What extraordinary pieces of engineering these are. (Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrTnYOWi1RI)
We had to get back on our coach then for the driver to drop us off nearer the city; coaches are too big for some of the city streets so we walked through the public gardens and admired the residences on each side. The cast-iron drinking fountains there had been provided and donated by Sir Richard Wallace of Wallace Collection, London, fame.
Then it was out into the city streets, and into the Passage Pommeraye: a three-tiered arcade which descended under wonderful ceilings and columns.
Down on a different street level we could look around before crossing the busy road.
Another nearby bank had its glass front all boarded up, because of the danger from riots and strikers in parts of France, who objected to the latest laws on working practices. Indeed our guide told us that because of shortages of fuel for example, he had enough in his car to get to and from work today, but did not know what he would do after that.
At this point we had a little free time and three of us found a tiny local chocolate/coffee shop to visit, which was a welcome relief after the still-pouring rain outside. The welcoming young lady owner soon provided delicious calorie-laden drinks and we enjoyed talking with her and other locals who called in.
Back outside we joined our guide and group again and headed off to the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, with a statue of Queen Anne of Brittany near the entrance. The moated castle (it was still raining) had the appearance of a chateau inside, which was quite a contrast, but a beautiful building.
By now the rain was torrential so we set off fast for the Cathedral of St. Pierre. It was a relief to be inside and see the amazing tomb of the last Duke of Brittany and his wife, the parents of Anne of Brittany.
Figures of various saints were also carved around the base of the monument, and a figurehead at each corner. Our guide pointed out the head of Prudence: the back of her head showed the face of an old man with a beard, proving what she had learned in life to become Prudence in her outlook.
The stained-glass windows were lovely, as were the huge ancient wooden doors leading outside again. The coach was waiting nearby to take us back to the ship, still in the rain. Lunch was welcome on our return, and so was the easing of the rain.
Soon after 4.30 p.m. we sailed away from our berth in Nantes on the River Loire, by now in warm sunshine with light clouds. The riverside views looked interesting as we sailed through the countryside, with occasional ferries waiting for us to pass their hamlets.
The Captain had told us to look out for a piece of 'artwork' on the port side as we sailed along and half an hour after departure we could see it - what looked like a half-submerged house in the river, not quite upright, and certainly a disconcerting sight to us all. Hmmm.
A couple of hours after leaving our berth in Nantes, we neared the widening mouth of the River Loire and could see various ships in the port of St. Nazaire, including something large under construction at the STX Europe shipbuilders. Although still sunny, the sea was disturbed and becoming slightly rough as we set out to sea and headed north-west.
At dinner the Captain made a broadcast to say that because of the latest sea conditions and those forecast, it had been decided we would not now be able to call at Douarnenez as it would be too rough for the tenders to take us ashore. The plan was therefore to have a day at sea tomorrow (Thursday) and get to Guernsey early and enjoy more time there. That sounded an acceptable plan.
Our after dinner speaker was Professor Gervase Phinn, and we all thoroughly enjoyed his talk 'The School Inspector Calls'. As the seas increased during the evening and overnight we began to realise exactly why our next port of call had been changed, but a Revised Daily Programme was published and we hoped we would enjoy the day whatever the sea conditions.
Ships seen: Minerva, riverboat Loire Princesse, the Loire ferries Lola and L'Ile Dumet, Suar Vigo of Lineas Suardiaz in port at St. Nazaire as was Bore Sea.
*(Since that day I have been advised by a good friend - thank you - that it will probably be the MSC Merviglia nearest the ocean and possibly a big block of Oasis 4 at the landward end of the dock - Central Park or the Boardwalk perhaps.)
To be continued...