We woke up fairly early despite our long trip to Cherbourg and headed down to breakfast. The breakfast at the hotel was fairly standard fare but included soft cheeses and a Normandie speciality that neither Glenda or I was game to try. After breakfast we decided to see how far it was to the ferry port, so we set off. The port ended up being quite a hike and we felt for those that had done the distance with all their luggage. We checked our booking at the Irish Ferries desk and made some enquiries re the best time to check in before our ferry departure. After a quick tour of the ferry port, we headed back into town looking for a McDonalds which we had seen from the train station, but we couldn’t find it. Walked the streets taking photos in particular of the church and generally just soaking up the town’s ambience.
We stopped for an early lunch but after being told in French that what we wanted was not available until midday [at least that’s what it sounded like], we had just a coffee and a pot of tea. Walked the streets a little more before we both hit the wall and decided to grab a taxi back to our hotel. Once back at the hotel we found out that there was a cafe across the road at the Cite de la Mer [City of the Sea], a combination museum, aquarium and experiential learning centre devoted to the marine environment. So we wandered over for lunch and a quick look around. The Cite de la Mer is located in an old departure hall for the transatlantic liners such as the Queen Mary that used to ply the Atlantic between France and the USA. After lunch we wandered down to see the Redoubtable a former French nuclear submarine, now included as part of the Cite de la Mer. While there, we noticed our ferry was docking so we wandered along the pier and took some photos before slowly making our way back towards the hotel. Spent some time just sitting in the sun on the harbour walls and watching life go by before returning to our room. We watched a little TV and had a well deserved nap, before heading down for dinner and an early night.
The next day, we had a late breakfast, packed up our luggage and then decided to go to the Cite de la Mer and pay to go in. 18 euros each and we were in. First up we decided to get a closer look at the Redoubtable. Grabbing an audio unit we made our way through to the entrance at the stern of the submarine. We made our way slowly through the submarine and marvelled at those that lived in the quite cramped environment for months at a time. The nuclear power unit had been removed for safety reasons, but the rest of the submarine was pretty much as it was when operational. Once the tour was over we wandered amongst the aquariums for a while and then amongst the exhibits devoted to the oceans before heading across to the experiential area for a virtual trip under the seas. We joined a group of about 40 people doing the same thing and were split into 4 groups for the tour. Those of us that spoke English were issued with an English audio unit so that we could listen in English. First up was an introductory video hosted by a futuristic French woman who was dressed in a very 60s style outfit. Then we moved through a series of ‘training exercises’ designed to introduce us to the different aspects of the voyage ahead. After learning various hand signals for scuba training, being subjected to the darkness of the deep [accompanied by a little UV light for dramatic effect] and standing in a room that moved and tilted slowly to test our balance, we were sheperded into our submersible. Like a sideshow alley ride, we were dropped into the ocean and came across sperm whales, giant squid, lantern fish and various other deep sea life before returning to the surface. Leaving the submersible, we were besieged by virtual reporters eager to hear the story of our trip. They then replayed our journey back through a “news report” including lots of footage taken of us by hidden cameras as we made our way through the exhibit. All a bit twee but good fun.
By the time we had finished the mission it was time to head for the ferry, so we returned to the hotel for our luggage and grabbed a cab to the ferry port. We joined a lot of other travellers waiting for the ferry gates to open. After sitting in the cafe for a bit, we joined the queue and got to talking to the couple behind us. They [Con and Angela] had been caught in Spain by the volcano disruption. Once the gates opened we went through immigration, onto the ferry bus, up the lift and then onto the ferry. Our cabin on deck six was comfortable with two single beds, an ensuite and a small built-in table. We dropped our bags off and went to have a look around the ferry. It had 2 bars, 2 cinemas, a shop, 3 restaurants and a bistro. We spent some time out on deck waiting for the`ferry to leave, but it was too cold so we went back inside for a drink. When we got to the bar, we ran into Con and Angela who introduced us to two other couples also on their way back to Ireland after being caught by the flight disruptions.
When the ferry did eventually leave, we went back up to the outside decks to watch it leave the Cherbourg harbour and to watch the sunset. Ironically for us, as we negotiated the outer harbour and were finally on our way to Ireland, we were farewelled by the sight of jet trails overhead.