Rouen France. Day 2. 8 June 2019

Good day folks, thanks for following along with us as we have travelled from Victoria BC Canada to Barcelona Spain, then Cadiz, up coast of Portugal (Lisbon and Porto), several stops in France (Saint Malo, Cherbourg, Honfleur)…. as we prepare to leave Rouen France, today is our last stop on mainland Europe.

A sea day tomorrow, followed by Greenwich England and then nice flight home, direct this time :). Westjet, London Gatwick to Vancouver and then a quick hop over to Victoria by Tuesday afternoon 11 June 2019.

Today, with rain on the forecast, we bundled up after a leisurely breakfast and grabbed the large bus shuttle to town. Our intention to walk over the bridge and walk along the Tall Ships exhibition here in beautiful Rouen, on the Seine River in France. The rain held off, the crowds were building, 5 entrances, free admission but security present creating some line-ups to get in. Families, young and old, friends, single walkers, tourists and locals all seemed happy to be walking along the promenade. Many lining up to step foot on and tour around the ships themselves.

Several countries have pavilions … Canada selling maple syrup products from Quebec, Russia selling stacking colorful dolls, Cuba selling interesting bright colored food served in edible dishes. I noticed the Swiss tent but don’t recall what they were featuring. Flags flying proudly in the wind, beckoning walkers to take a closer look.

The promenade spread out about two kilometers on both sides of the Seine, with 50 Tall Ships from around the world, open air tour boats taking people to view from the river, for photo opportunities. We kept our eye on each other walking as the crowds got more and more dense, people stopping at white tents for purchasing sweets, baked products, mouilles frites, beverages, souvenirs of the Armada 2019, leather goods, cheeses, wines. One tent hosted huge, larger than life-size pink plastic pigs drawing attention to their food being cooked over fire pits, pigs on racks rotating, stacks of wood to add to the fire. Never seen anything like that before! Otherwise it had the real feel of a festival like Calgary Stampede, I thought.

We were grateful that the rain held off. We retraced our steps back to the main bridge and found the exit. We enjoyed walking along the roadway back to the ship. Total walking time of our outing today was 2.5 hours.

When we arrived at the ship the staff were rearranging the stairway up to the 5th floor of the ship ….

A wee rest and then lunch at the buffet. Now sitting in the Living Room, 10th floor, looking out at the sun sparkling on the water in front of us. Big gray and white clouds taking turns covering the sunshine that surely is above, creating the heat of this day. It has been a spectacular place to park and visit this great city. No regrets, only gratitude for the weather, the ancient sites, the waterways and celebration of the Tall Ships here in Europe. The torrential rain has started now, difficult to make out shapes on the front window through the many large raindrops. It is a beautiful day.

I listened to a few chapters of “Making Friends With Your Mind” recording with Pema Chodron as the weather passed this afternoon. Went for some laps of walking around the deck, it was warm and sunny. Decided to have a swim in the lovely salt water pool. About ten minutes into the pool, the black clouds came back and the rain started again. It is time now to get ready for dinner. Music can be heard from the pier, our balcony door open, concert beginning the evening celebrations.

As we prepare to depart France tonight, I think about the trip, my intentions to walk and be present to the land and stories we are walking on … ending the trip in Greenwich England, where time takes on a new meaning. More to follow …..

Each night before drifting off to sleep we have been exchanging gratitude from the day, the trip, or what has happened to us. It builds a closeness, a sense of positivity and friendliness with ourselves, each otherand the world around us.

I intend to keep that practice going as I return home, ever so grateful to have a wonderful supportive home to return to. Grateful for my loving family, for having enough, for being enough. Thankful for safety and positivity.

Thank you for following and supporting me in my travels,

Pamela

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Rouen France 7 June 2019

Rouen is the capital city of Normandy, with 2,000 years of history …. an ancient place. Arrival in our port parking lot at 7 am. Watched as we backed up in our parking spot on the Seine River, next to the Tall Ships. The morning started clear with promise of rain, which came in buckets. We did some reading about the port and had a chat with the ambassador of the town who was on board providing information and maps to cruisers who wanted to do some sightseeing without an organized excursion.

Originally we had discussed going to Paris for the day, by train and back same day. It was not easy or simple to take the shuttle to the town then catch a taxi to the rail station in order to get an early train into Paris …. where to stop? And then return same day ….. some folks from the cruise decided to go to Paris and spend overnight while the ship was docked in Rouen. Some stayed two nights, went to Paris from Honfleur and would meet up with us again tomorrow before we depart for England.

Mary and I finished our jigsaw puzzle (monochromatic Venice), had some lunch and decided to take the shuttle in to Rouen to check out the highlights, Notre Dame Cathedral, Joan of Arc execution spot and the big clock (gros horloge). Armed with our map, water bottles, rain coats and optimism we caught the shuttle in to centre of the old town.

There had to be 6 to 12 river cruise boats lining the Seine. So many tourists out walking, the Armada 2019 starts tonight with 50 Tall Ships and countless white tents set up for vendors and information booths along the river. We are parked in a little different part of town than typically would be, due to the Tall Ship event. There promises to be fireworks just outside on the pier each night. This Armada in Rouen takes place every five years, one of the largest concentrations of sailing ships in the world.

The shuttle ride was slow on the way to town, with stops from traffic and pedestrians crossing. Likely about 3 km took almost 25 minutes. We were let out in a congested bus parking zone two blocks from the main Cathedral. That was our first planned stop. Massive, ornate, under construction …. it was absolutely spectacular, magnificent…. we are searching for words to describe it. Nothing comes close. Consecrated in 1063, epitome of development of gothic art since the 12th century on the foundation of a 4th century basilica. 11th century Romanesque edifice. 19th century cast-iron spire rises to a height of 151 meters, the tallest in France. Trying to take in the outside with photos. We open a small door, entrance is free. In we stepped and the fabulous huge pipe organ was playing.

I took about 3 pictures and had an allergic reaction, could not breathe, coughing and gasping …. I had to leave the church and get air outside. The rest of the photos were taken by Mary, and then we stayed outside. I was not able to recover enough to enter any other buildings in this city, however we walked for a few hours on the cobblestones, taking pics of half-timber houses, beautiful rugged doors, picturesque facades, a fabulous hat shop and even a central market-place displaying colourful blooms and some flea market items.

Great Clock: Gothic belfry, Renaissance archway and clock face and an 18th century fountain, inside is the 14th century mechanism, for the first bells of the city …. and views available to get an amazing panorama. We walk under and take photos from each angle. Wow.

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake at the old Market Place on 30 May 1431, marked today by a large cross. The church created on the site has two purposes, church to honor Saint Joan of Arc, and a civil memorial to commemorate the heroine. We went in and admired the stain glass.

We saw the Parlement de Normandie, Palau’s de Justice (Court House) from the outside. We missed the Musee des Beaux-Arts.

Opting to bring the shuttle back to the ship, with wind picking up and rain starting up again. A quick 10 minute drive back, passing countless hundreds, thousands of tourists packing the walkway along the river, umbrellas, heavy rain, leaves and twigs scattered along the way …. we were so lucky today to have virtually caught all the sunshine between the rain showers. We saw the beauty of the city, tasted the historical significance and enjoyed wandering down beautiful cobbled walkways.

The evening was spent on board the ship, we ate in the buffet area and talked. Tea, hot water, sparkling water, all adding comfort. Back to the room after dining venues had closed (the ship is staying in port overnight to 8 June in the evening …. then we set sail for England, a sea day in between).

I shared, reading aloud from a fabulous life-changing book I have been reading, “The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life” by Lynne Twist. This book has been downloaded to my Kindle reading app on my ipad.

Good night wherever you are. Wishing you were here. Missing my family. I will be home in a few days.

Second day in Rouen, plans to walk the Tall Ships.

Love Pamela

Honfleur France, 6 June 2019

Honfleur France, Thursday 6 June 2019

We arrived in the wee hours of the morning so the night was peaceful for sleeping, no rocking. Awoke in a port of Honfleur, up against the pier, tide out. Leisurely wake-up and now have had breakfast. It is a bit of a slow start, late morning activities, now getting ready to head out. A map of the various walking tours and description of what to expect in this port town.

From the cruise terminal to the town center is 1.6 kilometers. Azamara provide a shuttle, and say it departs every 1/2 hour. There is a number of different walking trails, gardens, tour around the old town. Looks like there is a beach and Mont-Joli to explore later in the day. There is also a petit train for sightseeing tour.

Samuel de Champlain departed in 1608 from Honfleur to found the city of Quebec in the new world 🙂

Medieval town, narrow half-timbered houses, cobbled walkways, sheltered cove, fishermen, traditional buildings, bell tower, monuments,picturesque streets, artists. Art galleries, largest wooden church in France, castle that fortifies the town. River cruises come through here also, docked as many as 3 nights in row …. to see all the points of interest (D-Day beaches, American cemetery, Bayeux Tapestry, Giverny to see where Monet was inspired). Galleries and museums to view artists’ work Monet, Boudin, Corot, Dubourg, Jongkind, and others who gathered to paint in this area in the past. Nestled between Seine estuary and plateau of Pays d’Auge. Temperate climate, high of 18 degrees today expected.

Known for pan-fried frogs legs, foie gras with caramelized apple, cooked oysters with a leek fondue and Champagne sauce, accompanied by varieties of cheeses as local food choices. “Tip included”… “Service compris” in the price of the meal or snack. 17th century salt warehouses now used for exhibitions, previously used to salt cod brought from Newfoundland!

Lots of gardens to enjoy, souvenir shops and galleries. As in many parts of Europe shops close from noon to 2 pm. We can expect to take a walk then up the mont, and on to the beach to dip our toes in the sea before returning to the ship.

Tonight is the White Night party on board Azamara Journey, music, food, dancing on the deck in the beautiful surroundings.

I hope all is well wherever you are. Thanks for following along, we are enjoying bringing you with us wherever we go.

Pamela

Cherbourg France 5 June 2019

Bonjour my friends and family followers,

We arrived in Cherbourg France this morning at 8 am local time. I was still sound asleep. Still feeling a bit jet lagged and tired at times ….

I have no excursions throughout this cruise. Today a lot of guests are attending to the D-Day landing sites of Normandy or Juno beach excursions, so the ship is fairly quiet.

This port seems like a city, with an old town area near the waterfront. Shuttles provided by Azamara. I am in need of a suitcase as mine was smashed on the flight to Barcelona. I had hoped to get another Italian made bag, Carpisa, however have not found any of that quality as yet.

The shuttle, I was advised, takes and picks up at a mall with a Carrefour super Mercado. I am able to locate a great suitcase, same color as mine and larger so that all my items will fit in. I have not purchased anything else yet and don’t intend to either. The shuttle brought me back to the ship with the new suitcase and now I can relax that item is off my to-do list. Suitcase was on sale, although I did not know that, and no tax in France. (In Spain and perhaps Portugal the tax is 21% on all purchases made in those countries.) I am relieved and pleased that my shopping is complete.

After a little rest we will head out to walk the old town. We can walk safely from the ship, maybe a ten minute walk and it looks like there is a pedestrian bridge to try also :).

Le Pont Tournant crosses over the Bassin du Commerce. There is a large nautical museum including submarines and aquarium, located next to the cruise terminal. Railway station 2 kilometers from the cruise terminal, almost three hours train ride to Paris.

There is Tourism Information booth at the terminal, and Seabourn has a ship in port also. We are docked at the Quay de France. A person can rent electric bike here for 20 Euro per day. Not my choice, walking is my plan. Many pedestrian only narrow streets tucked in behind the waterfront. There is also a small tourist train for 5 Euro departing every 15 minutes. For those who need a rest from walking and still want to see the port, this is a welcome activity.

Bayeux is apparently a charming well preserved old town, Renaissance and medieval buildings, cobbled streets and beautiful surroundings. Famed Bayeux Tapestry can be found there.

This port is an important military and fishing area, although there is also a very large marina. Apparently this is an artificial harbor, the largest in the world, they say. The coastline of Normandy boasts plenty of sandy beaches, like we saw yesterday, and in this area, dramatic cliffs.

Looking forward to a stroll in the old city later this afternoon. Mary and I are working on a monochrome jigsaw puzzle of Venice up in the Living Room (10th floor). On Oceania this is called Horizons, and there is wifi, games, dancing, and great scenic views can be seen from the windows on this deck.

Tomorrow is Honfleur France for the day, with plenty of excursions related to Claude Monet and his artistic life and home. This area referred to as “quintessential French seaside town.” Sounds relaxing and beautiful. White Night celebration on board that night.

Stay tuned for more of this picturesque and beautiful cruise.

Love Pamela

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Saint Malo France, 4 June 2019

It was a laid back day, slow start and plans altered.

With the tendering process commencing at 1 pm, everyone of the guests was a priority over us :). The suite guests can disembark whenever they want; the guests signed up for tours with Azamara were next priority. Next priority to the guests who had pre-arranged private tours on land. Last, was our group, flying by the seat of our pants, hoping for a taxi to take us around.

By the time we got out of the tender boat, there were no taxis and no tourist options for us to grab hold of. We opted to walk inside the walled city of St. Malo and I am so pleased we did. Relaxed, one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen on this trip or any other. Beaches, greenery, clean, contained, cobblestone walk ways, steeples, window boxes, shutters, roof-tops and look-outs. Easy walking, no maps required. Several hours of photos, walking, smiling and enjoying the ease of the day. Not hot, not cold, no rain and fluffy white clouds allowing sparkle of sunshine on the water, and streams of sun beams through to the village.

Young school-aged students with matching yellow ball hats so their adult supervisors could keep track, speaking french and climbing over rocks and taking turns at look-out view points. Few tour groups were overheard, speaking french also. Many alleyways we were the only pedestrians and photos reflected the stone archways and architecture of this beautiful walled city.

I was hoping for ease and easy world, on this trip …. today I received and even had time to meditate some in the waiting queue and then in the little tender boat for 15 minutes or more at a time.

I had received a few emails from my work clients and passed on the information to the manager who is tending to my caseload in my absence.

Sending hugs and best wishes to my mom, daughters, husband and friends who are following along. Wish you were here to enjoy this day. I think of you all often ….

Take good care and stay in touch.

Love Pamela

Ps. Tomorrow, Wednesday 5 June 2019 is Cherbourg old town. Fishing port, monestary, 35,000 residents, private yachts. Cool day expected 17 degrees. Shuttle bus every 30 minutes from 9 am or 10 minute walk from pier. We will be in port 8 am to 8 pm. French cuisine for our dining pleasure and 10 pm we will support our friends as they enter Karaoke contest :).

St Malo, France 4 June 2019

St. Malo France

Tuesday 4 June 2019 we are tendering in to Port of St. Malo off the Brittany peninsula on the north west corner of France. An old walled city, with quiet cobblestone alleys, maze of narrow medieval streets lined with shops, restaurants, spas, churches and gates to the outside of the walls. Tides are important here, reminding folks to pay attention as they are coming and going by sea. As we sail in closer, we see small uninhabited islands, fortress and lighthouse structures. Very exciting as the vistas keep changing and more of this location is revealed.

The landmark of interest is Mont St Michel, the large 17 acre property, legend has it, inspired by Archangel Michael in the 8th century. It took several centuries to build between 11th and 16 centuries, and suffered many collapses. It is a full km out of sea and the tides have a strong variation of 4 to 6 feet, which means that when the tide comes in, some areas can be covered (even parking lot!). Warnings and instructions to respect the timing of the tides are provided to tourists taking in this historic site. Two causeways have now been built for easier access, costing some 200 million dollars to build. The structure is some 300 feet high.

In 1869 the prison (along with dungeons) that was located on the island of Mont St. Michel was shut down, the Abbey still remains on the site. The tapestries and frescoes are gone, the walls bare.

Cathedrals, castle houses and extensive gardens remain and attract tourists. Restaurants serving galettes and crepes, savory and sweet along with seafood offerings (local oysters, fish and mussels) accompanied by cider, popular fares in the Brittany region. Picturesque, this area feels inspiring to artists and visitors alike.

Marcia deSanctis writes about this place in her book 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go. I hope she does not mind me borrowing her words as the description she gives is marvelous and awe-inspiring and I keep re-reading it to myself and aloud ….. “Mont-Saint-Michel inhabits its bay like a monarch occupies its throne. It is arrogant, aloof, arrestingly dignified. All a person can do is supplicate before it. When it comes into view floating in the sun or rising from a great sea of vapor, you can’t help but see it in the context of the interplay between our own human strengths and weaknesses, an effect that sometimes occurs when confronted by works of sublime genius. Strength from the faith and gall to think man could—and did—build an abbey atop a sharp granite outcrop in an angry sea whipped by some of the strongest tides on earth, corralling all the knowledge in Christendom of stonemasonry, mathematics and engineering. As for frailty, where do I start? The briefness of even the most extraordinary lives, and how temporal we are compared to this stone edifice and the rock it stands on, the ocean it rises from, and the God it was built for. The abbey might be just a lovely relic if not for the milky expanse of the bay in which it sits. Each can only be understood in relation to the other—the ocean’s perilous strength against the architectural beauty and vice versa. For centuries, the faithful and the curious had to take caution and wait for low tide to venture across the sand to the Mont. The natural causeway was built in 1879, but even then, people continued to get swallowed by quicksand and swept away in the tides that change, in Victor Hugo’s words, “at the speed of a galloping horse.” Today, there are still dire warnings posted and the occasional rescue of someone with too little fear of the currents.”

“The abbey can look opalescent and pink or swarthy and glowering, and its countenance can alter in minutes”….. “at the turn of the 20th century, someone called it “the most beautiful kilometer in France,” and the moniker stuck. From this vantage point, the Mont looks confident in its realm, a fairy castle that rules the waves.”

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Update, no taxis available to get to this site of Mont Saint Michel, all tours booked up. St Malo was beautiful, photos on facebook!

Tomorrow, Honfleur, with population of about 9,000. This has been an artists community since 1027 and remains an important port city.

Stay tuned!

Pamela

Sea Day. Monday 3 June2019

Wavy day at sea today, between Portugal and France, traveling in excess of 512 kms. Beautiful sunshine, windy and wavy on the sea.

Today we went to brunch. Seas were rough however I was able to spot whales and dolphins aplenty. This is the half-way point of the cruise, we did laundry and enjoyed some decaf coffee, started a jigsaw puzzle of Venice (edge pieces are complete), listened to guest lecturer, dined in the Windows Cafe and very much enjoyed gluten free varieties of Indian cuisine. After dining with our friends Rachel and Monica we all did a couple of kilometers on the walking track on 10th floor. At 945 pm the cruise director put on a great performance, Eric deGray.

In the morning I have an appointment with Azamara Canadian Business Development Manager at 9 am. After perhaps more walking on deck. The plan is to arrive at St. Malo for tender after 11:30 am, depart from ship at 1 pm.

Some Places in France, to go …… June 2019

Quote from 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, by Marcia deSanctis … “France is diverse, sprawling, magnificent, flush with architecture, culture, style, royalty and religion, soaked in sauce Béarnaise and Bordeaux reds.” There is much to see and experience that is uniquely French, and I love France-land and culture.

“In Paris, it’s important to allow yourself to be lured—by instinct, a spectacular sound, or by any kind of hunger. You will never regret it.”

Good night to all, hope you are enjoying the cruise as much as I am 🙂