Cruising Europe on the Oceania Marina

July / August 2011


Traveling with Pat's brother Dick and wife Jann, we flew to London a few days early to see some plays and do some sightseeing.  We really enjoy London's walking tours, this time featuring the Mayfair area.  The tour guides are always animated and knowledgeable. Our cruise commenced in Dover so we got a look at the white cliffs as we sailed out.


Our first port of call was Amsterdam.  We opted for a canal boat tour to give us an orientation (and a nice external look at the Marina).  We took a city bus to the Van Gogh Museum - well worth the trouble to find this fine collection of the artist's work.  A taxi driver drove us back to the ship, passing through, but not stopping in, the city's well-know red light district.  The really do have red lights.    In the pictures below you will see various means of transport including trains, canal boats and bicycles.



Ever since we saw the movie In Bruges we knew we had to visit this well-preserved medieval city.  We saw the bell tower and the Church of the Holy Blood which were featured prominently  in the film.  Belgium is noted for its chocolates, so our first stop was the Chocolate Museum.  We enjoyed the samples.  Everything you would like to see or do in Bruges is easily accessible by foot, including a must do canal boat excursion.  There is a lot of activity around the central square, including folk dance troops.



Just off the coast of France, the Channel Islands are very English.  It's as charming as depicted in The Sweet Potato Peel Pie And Literary Society.   Occupied by Germany for the entirety of World War 2, the island is dotted with reminders including fortifications and especially in the Occupation Museum.  A tiny church constructed using shards of Wedgwood china is a highlight.



I must confess I had never heard of Honfleur before the cruise.  What a pleasant surprise.  We enjoyed moules e frites (mussels and French fries) at a waterside cafe.  The weather was perfect for eating outdoors.  Honfleur exists as a vacation destination and art colony.  Walking though the gallery district is entertaining.


St. Malo

There's not a lot to do in St. Malo other than walk around the walled city.  It exists on the tourist map because it is the nearest port to the famous Mont St. Michel church.  The church is one of a kind.  You've probably seen it on a post card surrounded by water.  Our visit was on low tide so there was no problem getting to the church itself.


La Rochelle

Here is another one of those coastal cities that is not very well known by Americans.  The main attraction is a large city park where everything is happening, and a string of forts that were constructed in the 1600's. The towers are well-preserved.  We met a young girl in the park as she was getting her hair braided.  She was vary mature and outgoing.



Our ship was too big to visit Bordeaux via river, so we had to disembark at Le Verdun, then take a two hour bus ride to the city. Other than being stuck with an annoying tour guide the trip through the wine country was delightful.  The city is a treasure.  It is France's third largest city and home to many parks and gardens.  There is even a well-preserved Roman ruin just off the main drag. We joined up with the Brown's, a nice Australian couple with whom we shared a cab in Bruges, for a self-guided walking tour.



A scheduled stop in Biarritz was skipped so we got to spend two days in Santander, Spain.  We hired a driver to take us to Bilbao for a visit to the amazing Guggenheim Museum.  This necessitated a drive through the Basque country where the scenery is very appealing.  As far as the art collection is concerned , the majority is too avant-garde for our taste but the building is something to be experienced.  In fact our favorite art work is just outside the museum - a floral puppy created by Jeff Koons.  Our second day was spent checking out the historical sites and beaches.  we were not disappointed.