Street stalls and harbour scenes ease the Mal de mer

May 15, 2013

Hop It

BONJOUR CAPTAIN: This local celebrity caught my attention in the centre of Cherbourg.

Sea food fair

OCEAN HARVEST: Some of the fresh fish and invertebrates on display at a fishmonger on a side street in town.

Olive stand

LOCAL PRODUCE: Dave Russell looks at some of the fresh produce on the display counter of a local grocer.

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LEAVING PORT:  This is a view looking back from our ferry towards Cherbourg Harbour, as we return to Poole.

 

Viking ship

LIVING HISTORY: A replica Viking boat is moored up in Cherbourg Harbour and generated a lot of interest from passers-by.

 

IT is quite an effort to visit France in one day but a friend and myself embarked on the challenge earlier this month.

Cherbourg is a four-hour ride on Britannia Ferries from Poole and thanks to a special offer by The Bournemouth Echo; I received a call from Dave Russell to make a decision to go at 48 hours’ notice.

So setting the alarm for 5.50am in the morning, I forced myself out of bed, throw on some clothes, grab a bite to eat and make the 30-minute brisk walk to Poole Ferry Terminal.

One of the experiences that struck me was the difference in time needed to shuttle the passengers from the terminal to the ferry. At Poole it amounted to a one minute trip covering 200 metres and it was rather wasteful and futile and at Cherbourg, it was at least half a mile away and practically needed.

The sea can be rough at times and on the trip out, a French gentleman of senior years stayed sedentary for three of the four hours, seemingly unable to move for fear of the mal de mer. The clientele varied from retired couples and well-behaved schoolgirls to middle class bikers.

The Britannia Ferry has eight decks with a hold for HGVS and motorists, and its seventh floor self-service restaurant was very well frequented by customers.

It is twinned with Poole and is situated on the Cotentin peninsula of Lower Normandy. Cherbourg absorbed the town of Octeville on 28 February 2000. It’s the second most populous area in Normandy after Caen.

The city features a race track called La Glacerie; La Cite De La Mer, a large museum dedicated to the scientific and historical aspects of maritime subjects and La Musee de la Liberation, dedicated to the history of the Second World War.

Cherbourg is an American Civil War heritage site by the United States’ Civil War Preservation Trust. The waters off shore were the scene of a battle between Confederates and Union warships in the Battle of Cherbourg of 1864.

The town has a park at the bottom of the fortress hill and houses a botanical collection as well as a mini-zoo. It is a kaleidoscope of colour when the flowers are in bloom. High on a rocky hill is the Fortress that dominates the town. It has panoramic views of the harbour and town and looks out towards the English Channel.

The Nazis occupied the coast during the Second World War and fortified the coast to prevent invasion. The second Battle of Cherbourg in June 1944 followed the Normandy invasion by sea with the allies capturing the city on 30 June.

Appearing on the streets were butchers, bakers, grocers and fishmongers display their wares on the street and compared to Poole, they were more numerous and there were no large retailers such as Tesco and Asda in sight. The French appeared to value their small niche producers more than they do in Dorset and this seemed to reflect a more closely-knit community.

The day ended with a party waiting at The Quay Inn to hear the adventures of our intrepid explorers Dave and Matt. We finally made contact, an hour later than planned. So instead of a pint of bitter or lager, a cup of tea and a glass wine sufficed.

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