Sunday June 29th ~ Guernsey, on board the Ruby Princess
I’ll fill you in a little on the past two days and how we got from Canterbury to now being on board another cruise ship.
On Friday it was time to figure out our transportation to get us from Canterbury to Southampton. We walked over to the West end Train station to get our tickets. The least expensive route (by quite a bit) was to avoid going into London. Our journey would require taking three different trains, but the price of £19.9 per person was a great bargain.
We wrapped up our stay in Canterbury with a spur of the moment picnic. Just beyond the train station was a farmer’s market and the urge to see what they offered encouraged us to take a look inside. We found a lovely selection of fruit, cheese and local wine to choose from. We ended up with a “proper” Stilton Blue cheese, ripe cherries, apricots, blueberries, peaches, a small toast cracker that had raisins and cranberries baked in it and a bottle of red wine.
As much as we enjoyed our time here, it ended on a bit of a sour note with the hotel. It is a long story, but the short version is that the rate we had been quoted for our stay when we arrived and checked-in was not what we ended up being charged. Tim offered to pay for the room when the price was quoted and the room booked, but the front desk agent said we would need to pay later.
There are evidently several complaints on Trip Advisor about the reception desk, so I will just add my two cents worth to use caution if booking the Abode Hotel. The location could not have been any better, but the pricing mix up and their refusal to correct it left us frustrated and disappointed. They do have one very helpful person on the front desk, Alex, who bent over backwards to be courteous and helpful, but unfortunately he is the low man on the totem pole here and was not able to do anything about the pricing issue.
Early Saturday we walked 10 minutes from the hotel to the train station with our small suitcases rolling along the uneven bricks. Train number 1 of 3 took us from Canterbury to Tonbridge. We had the train car all to ourselves!
The transfer was simple, just walking across the platform to the next train. Next leg took us to Redhill for our final transfer (this time we had to walk down a flight of steps, cross under the tracks and then back up another flight of steps to get to the correct platform), and train #3 bringing us to Southampton. From there we got a taxi to the cruise port for just over £6.
We arrived in Southampton to take a 12 day British Isles cruise on the Ruby Princess. This ship is huge compared to the Ocean Princess that we just took on the Norway trip. It has 19 decks and we have just started to explore. I’ll try to take some decent pictures of some of the highlighted areas over the next few days.
It is now Sunday and we had our first port stop today on the island of Guernsey. Our ship is too large to dock, so after setting anchor, we used the tenders to get ashore at St. Peter Port Harbour.
Guernsey is a small island located in the English Channel, just 40 miles off the coast of Normandy, France and only 80 miles from England. Hitler set up a military base here during World War II until the island was liberated in May, 1945. Although an allegiance to the crown, they have a separate government and their own currency.
This was also home base for Victor Hugo while he was writing two well know works, “Les Miserables” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
Fun Fact: According to the Princess Port Guide,
“The Guernsey cow hails from this Island. The milk is golden, regarded as the worlds’s healthiest and most delicious. It has an unusual amount of beta-carotene. The breed started around 1700. Every year, locals stage the Guernsey Cow Parade. Artists create decorated statues, which are sold for charity.”
I read a wonderful book a few years back where the story took place on this island. I don’t have any Internet service at the moment and am writing “offline” but have to look up the name. It was one of the best books I read that year and can remember suggesting it to several others to read. The title was something like “The Guernsey Literary Guild and Potato Pie Society??? (Update: The title is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows)
Many of the port tours that Princess offers are priced (in my opinion) way too high. The tours here in Guernsey started at $79 (USD) per person for a three-hour walking tour in St. Peter Port town. We decided to just explore on our own. Time was limited here, as we arrived at 7:00 am, but last tender back to the ship left at 1:30 pm.
First stop was the Information office to pick up a map and get a couple of recommendations on what to see in the three hours we set aside to explore. Castle Cornet, on the point was the first suggestion. Having just been to Dover Castle a few days earlier, we were not sure that was high on our “want to do” list, so walked a bit further through town, of course snapping a few pictures along the way.
What strikes you immediately are the massive amount of flowers – EVERYWHERE. This must be the most ideal climate because every building had numerous large hanging baskets and/or window boxes with multi-colored blooms draped down. The granite walls along the harbor had pots and baskets every few feet.
We spotted about 30 people from the ship lined up at a bus stop. After inquiring, found out there was a local bus that circled the island and took about 1.5 hours. That sounded interesting, however after standing for about 10 minutes waiting for a bus and the awaiting crowd swelling to around 50-60, we realized that not everyone would fit on the bus, and we did not want to waste our precious time standing in line and then perhaps not getting on board, then have to wait for another bus. On Sunday, this line only runs once every hour.
So, off we went again…
Around the corner, I spotted three more busses just waiting at the curb. They were not the ones that went all the way around the island, but I soon found out that each one made a loop of one sort or another. Finding the least full bus, I asked the driver if we could join him for a ride to see part of the island. His particular loop took about an hour he said it would cost us £1 each.
Within a couple of stops, the other passengers had disembarked and now it was just Tim and I plus our driver, Phil. We moved to the front for an even better view and Phil began to tell us about the area as we drove along. He told us about the real-estate prices, some history of the section, pointed out certain buildings, several large green houses that used to be used to grow tomatoes (a one-time large crop here), and kept a look-out to try to show us a witches house. We passed by individual garden plots, and small fruit/vegetable stands at the side of the road that were operated on an honor system – take what you want and put the money for the item(s) into a box.
Phil told us the local strawberries are his favorites and that they are the sweetest of any he has had. A couple of minutes later he stopped the bus along the side of the road, walked over to a stand, bought a carton of strawberries, got back on the bus and offered Tim and me a sample so we could try them. They were DELICIOUS. He said we could go and get some if we wanted, so Tim hopped off, picked out a container, left his money and got back on the bus.
I was surprised by the number of Victorian style homes we saw. That style was quite popular and we passed by rows of them. Reminded me of San Francisco, but without the steep hills. Reaching the other side of the island, we got to see a rocky shoreline, some smaller beach homes.
Some of the roads were very narrow, and if another car was approaching, the bus (or the car) climbed up onto the curb and drove along what I would consider the sidewalk area until we passed. At intersections the word “Filter“ was often painted on the street. I asked what that meant, and was told that in England (as in the States) the car on the right has the right-of-way, but here in Guernsey, whichever vehicle reaches the intersection first gets to go first.
Our hour ended too quickly, but one last bit of information Phil gave us, was to point out a path that would lead us down the beach a way to some stairs for beautiful views of the castle, ship and harbor.
Once again, being OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES gave us an amazing experience – our own private bus tour with a friendly driver/guide, delicious strawberries, and wonderful views.
Back on our own two feet, we followed the path he suggested, past more flowers in a variety of colors and enjoyed seeing the harbor from on high.
A walk then to the fort for a quick look and to the end of the pier where the lighthouse stood guard allowed us to take a couple more pictures of our ship at anchor before returning via a tender boat in time for a late lunch.
Our next port-of-call will be Cobh, Ireland
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for an empty bus, a driver named Phil and sweet, juicy strawberries. Thank you Guernsey for a delightful day!