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.

La Rochelle

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

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.

Please view my gallery from this trip.

Saint Malo, Mont St. Michel, Dinan

Eight of us (the Kurlands, Brechers, Papkas and Irene and me, all close friends for many years) decided in advance to use the services of Descouvertes, an Ensemble On Location provider in France to plan a full day excursion to Mont St. Michel and Dinan. Our terrific guide met us at the tender pier at 8:30 and we immediately drove to Mont. St Michel.

Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel

After a gorgeous drive through the Breton countryside, we had a sudden, totally dramatic view of the abbey of Mont St. Michel off the coast. Rising over 500 feet above sea level, Mont St. Michel rests on sand banks, where the daily tidal changes can be as much as 4-6 feet. The visit to the abbey and walking up the steep narrow cobblestone streets was truly a trip highlight.

After, we drove to the picturesque town of Dinan, one of the best preserved medieval villages of Brittany. Had a fabulous lunch of Moules et Frites.

Please view my gallery from this trip.

Honfleur

My friend Ben Papka and I decided to tour the Normandy beaches, famous for the June 6, 1944 landing of Allied troops. Irene opted to tour Honfleur and Deauville with friends. The beaches were fascinating. An excellent guide provided just enough detail to put the events of that fateful day in proper perspective.

Arromanches

Arromanches and the pre-fabricated harbor carried across the Channel.

Our first stop was at Arromanches, the site of an amazing engineering feat — an artificial harbor pre-fabricated in England and transported here (600,000 tons of concrete and equipment), enabling the Allies to bring supplies ashore. We visited the Landing Museum before going to the Pointe du Hoc, where a heavily armed German battery was destroyed by American troops in a heroic assault on the first day of the invasion. The troops had to climb steep, forbidding cliffs to get at the German batteries. The view from here also provided a unique perspective of the rugged terrain of Omaha Beach. We then visited Omaha Beach, the scene of the bloodiest battles of that day. We went on to St. Laurent — just behind Omaha Beach — where 10,000 American are buried. This is a very beautiful spot, so peaceful today and so moving.

Please view my gallery from this trip.

Getting there was the hardest part.

Things started on a sour note when our American Airlines flight from JFK to Heathrow was delayed 2 1/2 hours. I was “hosting” a group of 30 and I wanted to board the ship early to handle any issues that might come up as our travelers arrived — but, with the delay, this was not to be.

Marina christening

We were at the Marina's christening 1/2011.

On arrival, I also managed to grab the wrong bag from the carousel (a first in all my years of travel!) and didn’t realize it until I received a phone call from the airlines alerting me. We were only 1/2 hour from Dover when I got the call so we decided to continue to the ship and have my driver return to Heathrow to return the wrong bag. My bag was put on an Oceania bus to be brought to the ship along with some other passengers, and got to me without a hitch.

We arrived on the Marina without further delay and met with the concierge, Javier (who was extremely helpful to me and our group for the entire sailing) to go over the Alice Travel cocktail party planned for August 12.

Please view my gallery from this trip.