La Coruna and Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

We knew we wanted to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Santiago de Compostela. We decided to use another Ensemble On Location supplier in Spain, Made for Spain, and I must say they also did a great job for us both in La Coruna and Seville. We were met at 8:30 AM by our driver, Pepe, who took us on the 45-minute drive to Santaigo de Compestela. Arriving at the main square, we were stunned to see and hear so many pilgrims from all over the world. The singing, chanting and dancing was thrilling. Our guide took us through the spectacular Romanesque cathedral and we immediately became caught up in the service being conducted by several priests. All during our tour, more pilgrims arrived by the hundreds from different parts of the world, including the United States. Because the cathedral took many centuries to build, the cathedral has a unique gamut of architectural styles, ranging from Romanesque to Gothic and Baroque. We followed our tour with a leisurely walk to the Old Town and came upon an interesting food market, as well as a park with beautiful gardens — an unexpected treat. Pepe drove us to the city where he lives, La Coruna, and took us to the interesting Citadel, which guards the port.
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Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

What a great way to celebrate my birthday! We arrived early in Bilbao for our visit to the spectacular Guggenheim Museum, which gave us time before the museum opened to walk the full perimeter of the museum over bridges and walkways. I got great photos of the stunning building from many different angles. The exhibitions are ultra modern and quite interesting, although I admit much of the art was not my taste. Our friends joined us for a shipboard birthday dinner at Jacques (named after Master Chef Jacques Pepin), one of the ship's specialty restaurants. It resembles a Parisian bistro, and the food and the ambiance were exceptional. Actually, the food at all the restaurants — from the Grand Dining Room to the Asian restaurant, Red Ginger, the Italian Toscana to the traditional steak house, Polo Grill — was fabulous without exception. Oceania prides itself on the food experience on board, and it exceeded our high expectations.
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St. Jean de Luz

Friends at the beach at Biarritz

Friends at the beach, Biarritz

Hotel du Palais in Biarritz

Hotel du Palais in Biarritz

Our eight travel buddies became adventurous and took a public bus to the upscale beach resort of Biarritz, on the Cote Basque. I did not know what to expect, but all of us were very impressed with this Basque city that first came into prominence in the mid-19th century when Napoleon III built a summer palace on the shore for his wife, Empress Eugenie. The palace is now the esteemed Hotel du Palais. The stunning promenade is lined with tamarisks and hydrangeas and some of us walked out to the island of the Rock of the Virgin over a bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, the same man who designed the Eiffel Tower) where a statue of the Madonna keeps the local fishermen safe.
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Le Verdon

Soulac Sur Mer

Irene in Soulac Sur Mer

The Marina docked here, a full 2 hours' drive to Bordeaux. Irene and I had been there before, so we decided to just take the ship's shuttle to the very pretty seaside resort of Soulac Sur Mer Irene was able to get her feet wet in the Atlantic Ocean. There was a small street market, featuring local wine and cheeses, which we sampled, and then toured a 12th century church that has been recently discovered, having been buried under sand for centuries.
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La Rochelle

It rained the whole day, and our tour was cancelled, so we had a very enjoyable and restful day aboard the Marina.
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Concarneau and Pont Aven

Concarneau is a beautiful walled fishing port in Brittany. Unfortunately, this was a nasty day but we persevered. We walked the ramparts and fortifications before driving to the charming village of Pont-Aven, at one time an artist colony which included the likes of Paul Gauguin.
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