Day 4 - Guernsey, Channel Islands
Tuesday, July 21, 2015: We awoke to clearing skies as we approached the island of Guernsey, part of the Channel Islands.
|The ship's excellent webcam showed us what was happening at the front of the ship.
|We made our first trip to the buffet restaurant for breakfast. The size of the ship, number of passengers, and multi-room, criss-crossing, bottleneck layout of the buffet made it a highly unpleasant experience. Waiters brought beverages instead of letting us get them ourselves, which caused delays as we waited for our beverages and as other waiters asked us if we wanted beverages in the meantime. It was probably meant to be good service, but after our second experience in the mess, we swore off of it and never went back again.
|Guernsey is a port that requires using tenders. We had read a previous person's blog about getting to the tender ticket location shortly after arrival, so we did the same. We not only got onto the first tender without battling any crowds, but we got to enjoy a seat up top in the sun without any of the claustrophobia that normally accompanies a ride in a tender. Score!
|By this time, the sky was brilliant blue and St. Peter Port looked beautiful in the distance.
|We arrived at Albert Pier at relatively low tide, ...
|... because it was apparent that this dock level was often underwater but wasn't currently. That had changed by the time we returned later.
|Here's Victoria Marina.
|Queen Victoria & Prince Albert landed here on 24 August 1846 so they built a monument to that fact.
|This is Town Church, right next door to Albion House Tavern. It allegedly is recognized by the Guiness Book of Records for being the closest church to a pub in the British Isles.
|This is the Liberation Monument, a lovely bench and obelisk. It's beautiful but it's not until you read the meaning behind the design that the full power hits you. We happened to read the unassuming little sign tucked behind the bench on the left in this photo.
|It says: "Commemorates 50 years of freedom since the Island's Liberation from German Occupation. The obelisk comprises 50 layers of Guernsey granite. The top layers represent the trauma of the Occupation. On Liberation Day, the 9th May each year (and only on that day) the obelisk casts a shadow whose tip travels precisely along the curve of white granite seating. The shadow points towards inscriptions marking significant events of Liberation Day 1945. The monument is accurate to 1 millimeter, and just five seconds in time. It marks the place where islanders met the liberating forces and rejoined their freedom. Its design is specific to this spot. Nowhere else, and for no other date, would it have this exact shape."
|Inscriptions along the bench indicate important events of Liberation Day. This place on the bench reads: "7:15 AM Surrender accepted on HMS Bulldog."
|From this angle, the design of the shadows becomes clearer.
|Along the back of the bench at this end is a wonderful quote: "... and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today" - Winston Churchill.
|Behind the monument is a traffic circle with a flagpole, said to hold the flags of countries represented in the harbour at the current moment.
|We weren't expecting it, but we collected another piece of Titanic memorabilia when we encountered this plaque along the seawall. "In commemoration of the 14 Guernsey men and women who lost their lives when the RMS Titanic sank on 15th April 1912."
|The VisitGuernsey.com website publishes a series of walking tour maps, so we picked "Walk 1: Seafront Promenading, Wartime Bombings, and Historic Gardens." After our walk along the waterfront, it took us uphill along a couple of narrow wall-lined lanes, ...
|... to this overlook with views of the town and our ship in the bay. This was built in 1922, ...
|... to commemorate this: "Their majesties King George and Queen Mary, accompanied by Princess Mary, on board the royal yacht arrived in the roadstead on Sunday July 10th 1921 and visited all parts of the island on the following day."
|We sauntered down Churchill Avenue through Cambridge Park, ...
|... and down Cambridge Park Drive, ...
|... past Victoria Tower (which was closed for restoration), ...
|.... and the Priaulx Library, ...
|... en route to Candie Gardens. We encountered the first of many statues of Queen Victoria. This one was erected in commemoration of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee (1837 - 1897).
|Every garden needs a greenhouse, and this one was filled with flowers waiting their turn to be placed outside.
|The Gardens are situated on a downward slope so it is a popular route for locals who walk to their jobs in the city.
|The flowers were beautiful, ...
|... especially these dahlias.
|Let's go take a closer look at these gentlemen.
|He's a handsome fellow.
|Check out this huge butterfly constructed of flowers.
|The Guernsey Museum on the grounds had not opened yet because it wasn't even 9:00 AM yet, but we sat and had some water and snacks on the benches and enjoyed the perfect weather and views for a few minutes. Starting out so early meant that we had the entire gardens all to ourselves, which was nice.
|On the huge lawn in front of the museum, an impressive statue of Victor Hugo enjoys the view as well. Our little mascot, Orchy, was there too.
|The former Church of St. James is now the St. James Concert and Assembly Hall.
|We spotted this donkey statue in a building on LeFebvre Street. It was part of the Guernsey Donkey Parade in 2011. We saw a second one later in the day but didn't catch a photo of it.
|Here's High Street looking back at Lloyds Bank.
|Here's a quick shortcut from High Street to the waterfront.
|We continued down High Street to Town Church, the heart of the downtown area for visitors.
|Imagine being so important that anytime you visit a place, they have to build a statue or monument, or punch a hole in an old building to insert a plaque. "This stone commemorates the fourth visit to Guernsey of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, 30th May 1984."
|Here's the aforementioned Albion House Tavern. The main bus station was just a block away, ...
|... and as we arrived, a circle island bus was waiting for new passengers. At only one pound per person for an 80-minute drive around the entire island, it is the best tourist value around.
|Guernsey is absolutely charming. Seriously. There isn't a single scene anywhere on the island that isn't the prettiest it could possibly be, including every house everywhere.
|The countryside is filled with cute little farms, towns, and churches.
|Plus it has the great advantage of being close to the ocean, no matter where you live.
|Ahhh, the beach.
|These little towers were dotted all around the island. Called loophole towers, these were built in the late 1700s as defense against attacks from France.
|It's easy to see why so many Brits and Europeans like to vacation here.
|Brace yourself for disappointment. We saw exactly two Guernsey cows on our trip. They were standing in the same field as these two non-Guernsey cows. Our photographer did not capture them, so our only option is to look at these two non-Guernsey cows and pretend that they are brown and white Guernsey cows instead.
|Here's a charming church cemetery, ...
|... and here's a charming golf course, ...
|... and here are some more charming loophole towers.
|We rounded the last corner of the island and St. Peter Port came into view.
|When we returned to the bus station, Debbie had certainly earned a trip to the public toilets. A brand new experience awaited her at the sinks: an all-in-one handwashing experience. You simply place your hands in the cavern, and then you will receive soap, then water, then air. It was baffling at first, but the next time she encountered one of these, she used it with confidence.
|Prince Albert presides over the Albert Marina, just behind us in this photo. That's his wife's marina visible here. Yeah, hers was a little bigger, probably because she was queen and all.
|We were exhausted from all the walking we had done so we stopped at a seaside cafe called the Boathouse, with a wonderful deck right next to the water.
|Here is the flag of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.
|Since it was still too early for lunch to be served, we ordered crepes with preserves and fresh Guernsey cream. Oh yeah.
|Up in the sky, we saw one red balloon go by. Obviously, 98 were missing.
|Charming flowers along the waterfront. We cannot convey enough how adorable this whole island is.
|Even their license plates are cute!
|The tide had come in by the time we went back to Albert Pier and the platform we had seen earlier was now underwater.
|We waited on shore a few minutes longer so we could skip a full tender and wait for the next one. Our reward was another ride back up top in the sun.
|We passed Castle Cornet, one of the places we would have enjoyed seeing. We could have easily spent a couple of days here. Right about here is where Debbie expressed disappointment that she hadn't had a chance to try Guernsey gâche, a traditional fruit bread that is a local specialty. This point will become important later in our story.
|There's our majestic ship.
|Our cabin was on the deck below the SeaWalk, near the far right of this photo.
|As we waited to disembark, water droplets fell from the freshly washed SeaWalk above, so we made a game out of trying to catch them. We were really quite good at it.
|Once onboard, we decided to get a closer look at the SeaWalk. It is a curved walkway that juts out of the side of the ship.
|It's a really cool feature but there is absolutely no privacy for the people who have cabins on the five decks below it, especially those just below. We had read about this problem in advance so we chose a cabin far enough away to remain private.
|The main feature of the SeaWalk is that the floor is made of glass. No matter how much your brain knows that it is safe, your eyes tell you to be concerned. Here's the view straight down to the Promenade deck, or so we assume, since we never found that part of the ship to be open.
|We had a Cruise Critic meet-and-greet at our scheduled time of departure from Guernsey.
|One of the organizers had invited the officers to come meet us, and seven of them attended. There were introductions all around.
|We met several of the couples who would be joining us on our food tours later in the trip.
|As a door prize for being the first ones to arrive, the organizers (sisters Debbie and Wendy) gave us a loaf of Guernsey gâche so Debbie got to try the local specialty after all.
|Sail out was delayed due to some missing passengers, which means that we got to enjoy it after the meet-and-greet was over.
|Some of us got to enjoy it more than others. A foot massage on the balcony of a cruise ship -- this is truly being on vacation.
|In the dining room for dinner, it was the first of two formal nights during the cruise. Princess was offering their 50th anniversary menu, featuring classics from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. We learned what Duck Terrine is (a liver sausage-like thing) and what Turbot is (a fish of some sort).
|Most nights, we skipped dessert, but this was one of a few that we stayed for, on the strong recommendation of our waiter, Liudmyla. This is a chocolate raspberry mousse with vanilla creme brûlée and shortbread, a part of the Chocolate Journeys program Princess was presenting as part of their 50th anniversary celebration. It was exquisite and we were glad we stuck around for it.
|After dinner in the atrium, the glasses were stacked for a champagne toast later in the evening. Looks a little stressful, doesn't it? We didn't stick around for the celebration since we don't like crowds.
|As Tom was removing his jacket after dinner, he found two Grain Belt beer bottle caps in his pocket. We puzzled over where they could hae come from and then Tom pulled out a Macalester College napkin and the mystery was solved -- he had last worn the jacket at Debbie's college reunion the previous month.
As our ship meadered to our next port of Cobh, we spotted lighthouses in the distance. Here's one.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy