Cruise Terminal La Rochelle
Our voyage next took us to the port of La Rochelle midway up the French coast. We had accomplished a lot on our Spanish leg, so when we found out that our berth was some 30 minutes outside the city, we decided to make it an additional “sea day” rather than facing a long shuttle journey. Fair enough we missed out on what several fellow passengers said was a picturesque town, but we had some quality time of our own.
We took to the upper decks initially and look in the nearby Ile de Re. It is beautiful, and the bridge connecting it to La Rochelle is truly impressive. This is a wonderful piece of engineering, and is nearly 3 kilometres long. It is also a great backdrop to the water-bourne traffic below it. It is well worth seeing. We sat and watched the sailboats, and noted the butterflies passing over the ship to and from the island and the mainland.
Ile de Re
We then had some mocktails in an outer deck bar, and headed down to our little sanctuary of peace in the Andersons Lounge. Soon enough, everyone was returning to Aurora, and the “Great British Sail-away” was held. Music on the deck, and the outer portions of the ship bedecked with union jacks. I thought the theme was a bit cheeky when leaving a French port, but good-natured rivalries have their place I guess.
Ready for Sail-away
We sailed away and headed north. Our next stop, Cherbourg. While technically no longer on the Bay of Biscay, it was nevertheless our final stop before returning to Southampton.
A shuttle service was put on for us and it dropped us near the Office de Tourisme Cherbourg. This is a useful little tourist centre. It has the usual assortment of local brochures, some multilingual staff to help with inquiries, and a small but basic souvenir bit with postcards, etc. There are two computer terminals as well, and a limited amount of seating, but this more intended for computer use, or as a wait to see staff. It is located in a good place near the square and makes a good starting point.
It was a very short walk to the Place du General-de-Gaulle and we found it a lively place which offered a great local atmosphere. There is a fountain, seating, cafes, and a great view of the old theatre. The square is the starting point for both a road train tour, and several horse drawn carriage tours came through here as well. This was a family friendly place, with a carousel as well as the tours, and local fish and cheese vendors had their stalls open as well. We bought some really wonderful Camembert which was sold as the cheese monger’s (le specialiste fromage) own brand, and a huge wedge of Port Salut, which we later ate with baguettes.
The square is a place to get a cup of coffee, and just soak up the local culture and atmosphere.
Horse drawn tours
The theatre is an impressive building with a wonderful facade. But the Cafe du Theatre was rather underwhelming. It did seem popular (or at least busy), and offered some indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating gave good views of the fountain, carousel, and life in the Place du General De Gaulle, but the service seemed hit and miss, and the drinks rather dear for the quality. The latte was a bit bitter, and the tea rather average.
Theatre (cafe to left)
After leaving the square we returned to the ship. But not before seeing the Cite de la mar. This is a museum and aquarium which is housed in the old cruise terminal. This huge space is directly along side the Quai de la France, where cruise ships still dock. It is therefore super convenient for cruise passengers, in fact the entrance to the museum was literally metres from our gangway when we came off the ship. The complex also has a French nuclear submarine which can be explored.
Back on board we made our preparations for our return to Blighty. It was an super cruise, and one which made me feel warmer to P and O.