Monday, May 16, 2016

Bordeaux to Britain, Day 3, 4/26/16

Even though neither of us slept well, we were up early Tuesday morning, got dressed and went down to breakfast on Deck 2, where the dining room is just above the water.  The breakfast buffet had all the traditional offerings, but the stars for Mom and I were the fresh croissants, much smaller and tastier than U.S. versions and the cheese selection.  I had what became my traditional breakfast on the cruise, a croissant with Brie and Camembert, plus bacon and fresh pineapple.  Mom tried all of the dozen or so kinds of bread over the course of the week and said they were all good.  She also had yogurt and muesli every morning.  There was also a breakfast menu, which we never even looked at because the buffet was so good.

After breakfast, Mom went to both of the lectures on offer and I went back to the room, put up my foot and took a nap.  Then we went down to the dining room for lunch, then back to the room for sweaters, coats, purses, ID cards and in my case, a hat.  The ship docked at Belle-Île-en-Mer and this was the view from our balcony:







Belle-Île is a lovely island in the Atlantic ocean near the Brittany coast.  We weren't at the docks but anchored a way out.  Lots of ships at the dock, from yachts to sailboats!



We took a tender to the harbor, which is marked off by these lovely lighthouses.


I'm not sure if they work or are decorative, because we weren't there past dark.  Either way, they were beautiful.  Then it was a long walk through town to the buses, with lots to look at.




I don't know if this was a canal or an inlet running through the town of Le Palais, but either way it made for a very pretty walk.  It was also a very chilly walk, since the temperatures were unseasonably low.  It seems Mom and I brought some Ohio weather with us.  Fortunately, we'd both packed lots of layers!  After a long walk (mostly uphill), we got to footbridges crossing the canal/inlet, and this little building, which is actually inside the hill:


Then it was a fairly steep but mercifully short walk uphill to the parking lot.  While we were driving around the island, the guide told us about the island's history of belonging mostly to France but sometimes to England, and that the local language is a Germanic language.  When she pronounced the town name Sauson, it sounded like something from my History of the English Language class.

The guide also told us that the island was a favorite painting spot for Monet, who painted quite a few versions of the Côte sauvage (wild coast).  We stopped there first, and saw a German bunker, part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall.



Very close to this bunker is one hell of a cliff where Monet painted Cliffs at Belle Ile.  The little specks on top of the cliff in the first picture below and on the beach in the second picture below are people, to give you some idea of the size of the cliffs!



There are rock formations just off the coast, and the one in the middle is called the Howling Dog:



I loved the howling dog and wanted to take him home with me, but I'm pretty sure that he'd be over the baggage weight allowance.  I also loved this cheeky gull who clearly DGAF about the people invading his launch platform:


Our next stop was Sarah Bernhardt's home on Belle-Île.  Evidently she fell in love with the island and converted an old fort to a home.


There's a pretty little church nearby, plus pretty road signs and French cows.




We passed a French trailer park, which looks like an American one, but sounds better when it's called Parc Par La Mer. It's amazing what the constant sea wind does to the plants, and a little scary, too.



Our final stop was at a huge rock building called The Citadel.  It's very old, and there wasn't much of the building to see, except for a small and very eclectic museum on the ground floor, but the grounds were extensive and lovely.  We were passed by a French Labrador Retriever, out for an amble with his person:


And we got a glimpse of our ship, and I got a fuzzy picture because I was chilly and my hands were shaking:


Then it was on to the Citadel.


I really wish I could do a better job of conveying the sheer size of the place.


Although the person in the middle right of this picture does help with scale:



There was lots of wild geranium in the citadel.



And there were plants growing out of the walls!  I think but am not positive that this is some kind of laurel.


Inside the Citadel on the ground floor, there was a very eclectic museum, with everything from a vintage map,


to Victorian medical supplies,



to a lot of Sarah Bernhardt souvenirs of bygone days,


to completely modern dioramas.


Next we wandered around the outside of the building, peeking into claustrophobic holes like the place where they stored the gunpowder and weird things like a greenhouse with Sarah Bernhardt's cactus collection.

When it was time to leave we walked through the central courtyard, lined with very large artillery shells



And, of course, cannons!  Also over the baggage weight limit, alas.  Also also too small for the shells decorating the walkway.


Then we walked around the entire outside of the Citadel, down and down and down until we were back at the little hill house and then down and around some more until we were in the town, where we stopped at a chocolatier called La Palatine and I bought lots and lots of chocolates, both for me and to share with my co-workers.  Then we stopped at a darling little accessories shop, and Mom bought me my birthday present, which I am trying to forget so it will be a surprise on Bastille Day.

After that we walked to the harbor, waited in the cold for the tender, which arrived back at the ship and decanted us into the lounge just in time for the cocktail hour.  Mom and I both had coffee, which was free, rather than drinks, which were not, and Mom was very unimpressed when one of the waiters tried to slide past us without dropping off the shaker full of snack mix.

Then, surprise, we went back to the room and I took a nap, then read for a bit and washed my face before we went to dinner.  I have to say that two of my fellow passengers, B from Ohio and M from Texas were very generous in sharing their anti-inflammatories, which helped me get through the week.  My dinner was very good, and Mom enjoyed hers, but she did note that the vegetarian desserts were awful and after the previous night's frozen paper-thin pineapple slices, she ordered the dessert from the carnivore menu.  Other than the first dinner, I can't remember which dessert was which night, but in no particular order, I had strawberries with pudding, balls that were half lemon gelato and half lemon shortbread, fudge cake with a mint meringue straw on top, all of which were incredible.

After dinner, we still didn't have internet, so we couldn't e-mail Dad, but Mom wrote up her travel notes from the day and I downloaded pictures from my camera to first my computer, then hers.  We took turns showering and then it was lights out.

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