Bonjour de la belle France!

When we woke up this morning at 8 o’clock, we were already docked in Le Havre, France.  A quick glance out of the window showed that the skies were grey and cloudy once again; indeed there was a sprinkling of rain.  Docked up alongside us and towering over everything like an ugly behemoth was the RCI ship that we had seen in Southampton, the Anthem of the Seas.

We breakfasted in the Lido self-service restaurant, then pottered around the ship for a while.  By now the rain was lashing down outside and we knew it wouldn’t be much fun exploring the town in this weather.  In any case we weren’t in a hurry; the day was all ours to do what we wanted.

Announcements from the bridge kept coming over the tannoy as the crew were participating in various emergency evacuation procedures, as well as what to do in the event of ‘man overboard’.  Every now and then we heard the shriek of the emergency whistles, as well as the “this is a drill, this is a drill” announcements.  It was just as well we weren’t having a lie-in this morning!   🙂

Around 11.00am we noticed that the rain had stopped, although there was still a brisk, cold wind blowing.  We therefore decided to go ashore for a couple of hours or so, but we packed an umbrella just in case!

Le Havre (which simply translates as The Harbour) is the second busiest port in France, after Marseille.  It had been devastated while under German occupation in 1944, during World War II, in which 5,000 people were killed and 12,000 homes destroyed, mainly by Allied air attacks.  Since then, the area has been rebuilt into a modern town with lots of office buildings, shops, bars and restaurants, all surrounding a picturesque park in the square.

We disembarked the Queen Victoria and saw that there was a shuttle bus waiting to take the passengers into the centre-ville, or town centre.  It cost six Euros each which we thought was quite expensive, but it was too windy to make a walk a pleasant experience, so we boarded the bus and off we went.

We walked along and had a browse around the shops as well as taking in our surroundings.  The last time I had been in Le Havre was in 1971 on a school trip, so I didn’t really remember it at all.  We stopped at an off-licence and bought a bottle of pink sparkling wine; at 7.25 Euros it was cheaper for the bottle than it is for one glass on the ship, so we planned to drink it in our cabin at some point.   🙂

We decided we’d go and have a hot drink so we went into a smart little café, enjoying a nice cup of French coffee before continuing on our way.  By now, the sun was shining and there was a lot of blue sky, although the wind was still unpleasantly chilly.

Around midday it was time for us to go and enjoy une bière so went found a bar-tabac in a street opposite a small park.  We were greeted by a large, friendly dog of indeterminate breed, who was tethered up outside.  There were a few tables and chairs outside the bar, but unsurprisingly no-one was taking advantage of them.  We went in and ordered a glass of beer each.  The dog kept jumping up and resting his head on the bar; the proprietor gave him some treats.  It was a clever dog; it could understand French!    😉

We spent about an hour in the bar, enjoying a second beer.  Then we decided we’d make our way back to the Queen Victoria as it was about a mile to walk.  The walk back was pleasant; we passed many moored-up fishing boats and we experienced the evocative scent of salt and the sea, as well as fish, rope and tar – all those lovely smells of the seaside.

Back on board we made up for the lost hour of sleep last night with an afternoon nap.  Then we went up to the Lido restaurant for a cup of tea and a scone with cream, as we hadn’t had any lunch.

It was then time to start getting ready for dinner.  Tonight the dress code was informal, but it still required Trevor to wear a collar and tie and me to wear a smart or cocktail dress.  I wore a turquoise and orange chiffon number with a pair of orange stiletto shoes with 5” heels.

As ever, we ate a delicious meal at table #429 and enjoyed the conversation with our fellow passengers.  The talk turned, as it always does, to various cruises past, present and future and we traded stories about the different places we’d been to.

Afterwards we popped along to the Clarendon Art Gallery and browsed the artwork for sale, while enjoying a complimentary glass of champers.  The paintings were all original one-offs and some of them were great but with the prices ranging from £520 to over £7,000 for each piece of artwork, I fear they were way out of our price range.  In any case, we don’t have any spare wall-space at home on which to hang them.

Tonight the show in the Royal Court Theatre featured TV household name from the 1980’s,  comedian Tom O’Connor.  We had seen him before on the Arcadia two years ago, and tonight we managed to get seats in the front row.  As expected, he was very funny and it was a great show. So far the entertainment on board Queen Victoria has been very good indeed.

Then we were off to the Golden Lion for the quiz.  Another couple joined our team for general knowledge, but despite scoring 28/30 we didn’t win – the winning team scored full marks.

We finished the evening by going along to the Queen’s Room, where they had a very good live group called “Synergy” playing a lively number of tunes ensuring a packed dance floor.  We had a drink each and listened to the music before we went back to stateroom 4119 and opened the bottle of sparkling wine we’d bought earlier in Le Havre, before settling down for the night.

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