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
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.
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.
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
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.