Waking up refreshed after yesterday’s mammoth 11-hour tour, today is going to be more relaxing. We are in the beautiful French port of Honfleur situated where the River Seine meets the sea and today is an annual holiday. First however a light healthy breakfast in the buffet restaurant. The coaches have already left with their passengers, so tables are available on the open deck in the sunshine. Fresh orange juice followed by scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, soft bacon, baby roast potato in peppers, corned beef hash and baked beans. Ok, ok, at least the orange juice was healthy and the scrambled eggs light. Back to the cabin to collect camera, iPhone and money, and I am heading for the gangway on deck 5. The sun is shining from a clear blue sky and the shuttle bus is waiting to take me on the short journey to the centre of Honfleur. As we near the town centre the streets are thronged with tourists and visitors, buildings are flying flags, pendants and decorations. We pass a large Ferris Wheel with queues waiting for a ride before arriving at our parking place. Walking from the coach, I pass a stall selling nugget, the aroma of which sets my taste buds wanting. I resist the temptation, but with difficulty. Two large river cruise boats are moored. The Bizet and Botticelli. Walking past is an opportunity to see on board the lovely state rooms with their huge picture windows, the elegantly laid out dining rooms that anyone would be delighted to dine in.
I am now almost in the centre where the small picturesque harbour is full of small boats flying their various forms of decorations. The quayside cafes and restaurants are packed to capacity. Not a spare seat anywhere. No wonder the owners and waiters are wearing huge smiles. The aroma this time is coming from the bowls of ‘Moules’ being devoured by the diners, washed down by large glasses of white wine. Again I resist the temptation to hunt for a spare chair but my will power is getting weaker so time to move to another area. I see a church spire and head towards it as one of my favourite past times is visiting the local churches. This turns out to be the Church of St. Catherine, built in the early 1400s. The church bells are housed in a separate building. Built of wood that has been well-preserved, I enter the main doors to be greeted by flags and decorations. There is a large congregation and the priest is singing a beautiful French ballad style song with guitar backing. The sound is wonderful, and I can’t resist moving further forward and listening. Discreetly, I take a seat and turn on my small recorder and tape this wonderful song. It transpires that this is a mass christening. A further lovely song follows, I have never heard anything like it and am transfixed by it. The baptisms of the babies held by proud parents follow. Speaking with others from the ship who has found this church, I discover they are enjoying it as much as I am. Leaving the church, I make my way back towards the throng and the ‘Café Society’.
Scores of motor cyclists have arrived at their gleaming Harleys, Hondas, Suzuki’s and other makes. A ‘Merry Go Round’ is being enjoyed by children and an ‘Organ Grinder’ complete with toy monkey is performing. The time passes quickly, and soon it’s time to board the shuttle bus back to the ship. This is a blessing as today is the Annual Mariner’s Day when the local mariners gather on the river and celebrate by decorating their boats and sounding their sirens. A fire tug can be seen sending large plumes of water high into the air. Our ship responds with its own whistle, which is so loud it drowns out the others.
Time for some relaxation around the pool and a glass of chilled Chardonnay, the wine of the day.
Dinner time approaches, and tonight I have decided to give the main dining room a miss as the buffet is putting on an Indian Night. And what a night it turns out to be. Again, excellent food. Lamb Rogan Josh, Pork Vindaloo, Aloo Gobi, Taka Dal to name but a few and all washed down with? Correct, a few glasses of wine. If only all Indian restaurants were this good. A little after 9pm, you can feel the slight throb of the engines as we prepare to sail. A few minutes later we are moving away from the quayside towards the centre of the river where we turn, head west into the setting sun and the open sea to our next port of call, Boulogne. Tomorrow is another tour, so it’s an early night, read my kindle and then lights out.
This article was written for the 70th anniversary of WW2 in 2014. The ‘Past to Present’ cruise has sailed, but do visit the Azamara website for similar upcoming voyages.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Azamara.