Brittany Ferries

7 Reviews

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Date of travel

December, 2016

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Actually, a River Cruise is not the correct name for this but the format doesn’t allow me any other way to list it. Brittany Ferries are insistent that it isn’t a cruise, it was a Ferry crossing and a trip down the Seine.

It was a one-off for Brittany Ferries, a trip on its Pont-Aven ferry boat from Portsmouth to Rouen, crossing the Channel and then sailing down the River Seine to moor at the delightful town of Rouen for two nights. We left Portsmouth at 6 p.m. and with a choice of restaurants we opted for the main La Flora where we had a superb meal accompanied by great wines (at very reasonable prices – I would say the equivalent of pub prices). Next morning we were already on the river and in the midst of stunning scenery as we sailed past villages, fields populated with Charolais cows and horses, steepled churches and occasional groups of young people who waved to us vigorously from the banks.

Moored up in Rouen the boat ran a shuttle service into town every twenty minutes. Many opted to eat in town that night (Rouen being blessed with some great restaurants) while others just went in for the afternoon, returning to the ship for dinner. Among the sites in Rouen is the famous Cathedral, a favourite of the Impressionist school of painting, and the lesser known but no less attractive church of Jean d’Arc set in the medieval square where she was burned at the stake. The square has a wonderful market where I was tempted by the many cheese stalls and where i bought quite a few cheeses as we had booked a room with balcony so they could safely be left outside and the smell didn’t permeate our room!

Next day there was an optional coach tour with Guide to Honfleur. I’d been to Honfleur many times but never in January, but it still didn’t disappoint. What was surprising was that it was as busy on this Saturday in January as it had been in mid-summer when I was last there. It never changes. It was the scallops season so I had a wonderful meal of Coquilles san Jaques with some great wine. With crepes to follow it left me with little room for my New Year’s Eve Dinner that evening.

There was a lot of activity on board that evening, two sittings for dinner, cinema open for the die-hard cinema fans, bars in full swing, bands, entertainers, carnival hats distributed by the ship staff, brilliant dinner with equally brilliant wines, and everyone mixing in well. We somehow got attached to a group of very happy people and about 12 of us occupied a corner spot in one of the lounges and saw the New Year in with Auld Lang Syne as though we’d known each other for years. A truly memorable evening.

Next morning we sailed up the Seine again and either side of the rive was covered in a heavy frost, so thick we presumed at first that it was snow. The fields, houses, churches and trees, were covered in white, making the whole thing look like a postcard. I took a lot of photographs, but unfortunately, the whiteness of the frost has caused them to be underexposed. But that doesn’t matter. I shall never forget the sight of the delicate leaves covered in frost, the sturdy fir trees weighed down by it and the green fields wearing their blankets of pristine, sparkling white frost.

This was the second year that Brittany Ferries has run this particular one-off trip but they hope to do it again next year. I too, hope to do it again next year. A lot of people on board were people who love parties but whose families have moved far away, whose friends don’t celebrate the date, or who otherwise found themselves at a loose end for 3 nights.

If you like the idea look out for it next year.


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