MINERVA 14th May 2016 Part 8 Caen & the Bayeux Tapestry
Saturday 21st May 2016
We are at sea this morning, heading for the port of Caen through rain showers.
Leaving the English Channel we had to wait to enter the lock at Ouistreham, which caused a slight delay, but were soon on our 9 mile- long way up the Canal to Caen city, where we arrived at 10.30 a.m.; we passed the famous Pegasus Bridge en route.
The weather improved, and after an early lunch I left the ship to get on my excursion coach which was on the quayside. Forty minutes later we arrived at Bayeux town, and our female coach driver took us to see the entrance to the Bayeux war graves cemetery.
The coach was parked, and we set off for the Cathedral nearby. Our female guide this time set a very fast pace, and almost immediately many of our group fell back and had difficulty catching up. Fortunately we soon stopped beside a picturesque mill and millstream, and at least many passengers could catch up with our guide. I felt that her English was not completely intelligible, which was a shame, but I managed to keep up with her walking speed and try and understand what she was telling us.
Our first visit was to the Cathedral, consecrated in 1077, which most of us enjoyed. There was a wedding ceremony taking place so we could not visit all areas, but it finished just after we left.
I was happy that next we were taken to the entrance to the famous Bayeux Tapestry. The guide books describe it as a 68.5 metre long strip of coarse linen decorated with woollen embroidery recounting the dramatic story of the Norman invasion and the events that led up to it. It is set behind glass in a horse-shoe shape display cabinet and it is incredible to think of its age and history. I have heard it said that it was embroidered by ladies in Kent, England, but it's good to know it is being preserved safely. Again, another thank you to UNESCO.
We met our guide again as arranged and she said we could have half an hour of free time. I headed up the main street and found the Queen Mathilde Salon de The so all was well with the world for me. Back with the guide in good time we all headed back to the coach park for the journey back to Caen and the ship. I was again in a front seat to enjoy the views ahead, sitting behind the guide - she and the driver were down a few steps at a lower level. I noticed that the driver and guide talked almost non-stop to each other during the journey home, with frequent eye-contact between them rather than on the road.
We arrived back at the quayside and rather than go back on board I went beyond our bow towards what turned out to be the CNCM conservation group for old and/or unusual vessels, including the Jacques Cousteau ship ALCYONE. This had unusual 'tubes' on deck, but I chatted with one of the conservators who told me that these contained the sails, which are known as Turbosails. It was built in 1985 and now belongs to the Cousteau Society.
The sky looked menacing with very dark clouds but I went to the stern of MINERVA to see what was happening on the quayside there.
Caen Nautique had organised board activities on the river there for those aged 15-25, as I discovered by talking with one mother. The event certainly attracted crowds of people. I had good views of MINERVA from the quayside, before going back on board to change for drinks and dinner.
We left Caen at 9.15 p.m. and sailed along the canal, passing the Pegasus Bridge again, which shut after we had gone through the waterway.
We arrived at Ouistreham at the end of the lock and, whilst I was looking over the port side to see the quayside activities, I discovered that Captain Broomhall was on the Bridge wing just below and he waved up at me. We could see the MONT ST. MICHEL Brittany Ferries vessel loading just ahead on our port side.
Whilst we were all waiting for the ship to be able to leave the lock I met and chatted with a couple of ladies who, like me, were leaning against the rail; this was when I discovered one of them was Rosalind Whyte, a guide and lecturer at Tate Britain,Tate Modern and Greenwich and another of our experienced ship lecturers. She was delayed in coming on board earlier in the cruise due to a prior work commitment in London and was telling us about her transport and weather challenges to get to France to join MINERVA.
The ship left the lock and entered the English Channel, passing MONT ST. MICHEL on our way out at about 10.25 p.m.
Tomorrow we are at sea, sailing towards our next port of call in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.
Ships seen: Minerva, Mont St. Michel, Alcyone, and various other vessels in the Preservation yard at Caen.
To be continued...