3 September 2012 – The ferry terminal in Cherbourg was comfortable and I did not have to wait long before catching my ferry to Poole in the UK. Aboard the ferry to take me from Cherbourg to Poole. The white cliffs of England as seen from the ferry as it pulled into Poole Harbor. I took a train from Poole in order to get to Southampton where my cruise aboard the MSC Opera would begin. I stayed one night at the famous Dolphin Hotel where writer Jane Austin celebrated her 18th birthday on 16 December 1793 with her brother Frank. At that time, Jane was living with her cousins, the Butler-Harrisons on St. Mary’s Street. According to Jane’s letters, she attended two other dances at the Dolphin ballroom, a beautiful bow-windowed room on the first floor. There is a famous pub nearby called The Titanic because legend has it that six crew members of the Titanic, including three brothers, were drinking in the pub before setting sail and after a few pints of ale, lost track of time and missed the ill-fated passage. As a popular hostelry of the time, it was a favorite amongst crew and passengers alike, but the tale is still cited today as a sign of its lucky influence and the numerous pictures and memorabilia of the times still adorn the walls today. The Duke of Wellington Pub. The 12th century stone house on this site was from 1220 owned by Benedict Ace, one of the earliest named mayors of Southampton, from 1237-1245. The house was damaged in the French raid of 1338, but around 1490 was incorporated into the present building by a brewer, Rowland Johnson, and named it the Bere House. It has remained an inn ever since, but its name was changed to the Duke of Wellington after the battle of Waterloo. It was damaged by enemy action during the 1939-45 war and was restored during 1962-63. The city is home to the longest surviving stretch of medieval walls in England. “In memory of the heroic death of Mary Anne Rogers, stewardess of the Stella who, on the night of the 30th of March 1899, amid the confusion and terror of shipwreck, aided all the women under her charge to quit the vessel in safety, giving her own life belt to one who was unprotected. Urged by the sailors to make her escape, she refused lest she might endanger the heavily laden boat. Cheering the departing crew with the friendly cry of “Goodbye, Goodbye” she was seen a few moments later as the Stella went down lifting her arms upwards with the prayer, “Lord have me” then sank in the waters with the sinking ship.” “The Pilgrim Fathers Memorial. The separatist congregation from Babworth, Nottinghamshire (1586-1604), which moved to Scrooby in 1606, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1608, and to Leyden in 1609, sailed from Delft Haven in the Speedwell, on August 1, 1620, to join the Mayflower, with its London colonists. Here, both ships sailed on August 15, 1620 for the New World. After turning back to Dartmouth, and a second time to Plymouth for repairs, the Speedwell was abandoned, and on September 16, the Mayflower alone sailed to Plymouth, New England, with 102 passengers.” The Medieval Merchant’s House built in 1290. St. Michael's Church is the oldest building still in use in the city of Southampton, having been founded in 1070, and is the only church still active of the five originally in the medieval walled town. The Juniper Berry Pub. This was Jane Austin’s home from 1807 to 1809. It was rented from the Marquis of Lansdowne, who lived opposite in his mock-Gothic castle. The Austen’s garden stretched back to the town walls, affording extensive views of the New Forest. At that time, the River Test, at high tide, reached the base of the walls. The Tudor House and Garden, located in the heart of the Old Town is Southampton’s most important historic building. The timber-framed building facing St. Michael’s Square was built in the late 15th Century, with King John’s Palace, an adjacent Norman house accessible from Tudor House Garden, dating back a further 300 years. The Tudor House has several rooms including a kitchen and bakery which have been remodelled to show what life was like in the house during the Victorian age. The Bargate was constructed in 1180 as part of the fortified walled city. It served as the main point of entry and exit to and from the north. Additional archways were added to the Bargate in 1764 and 1774. The Queen’s Peace Fountain in Andrews Park. The Titanic Engineers’ Memorial in Andrews Park. The Southampton Civic Center which houses the City Art Gallery and Central Library was built during the early 1930s. The west block includes the famous clock tower, known colloquially as Kimber's Chimney, after the former mayor. The clock tower was not part of the original design, but was added later. Before its construction, a balloon was tied on the site at the proposed height to make sure it was visible from various points in the city. Every four hours the first verse of the hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past is played. Before I shaved off my moustache—eating fish and chips for dinner. The next morning eating a full English breakfast in the Dolphin Hotel after I shaved off my moustache. Holyrood Church was one of the original five churches serving the old walled town of Southampton. Built in 1320, the church was destroyed by enemy bombing during the blitz in November 1940. In 1957 the shell of the church was dedicated as a memorial to the sailors of the Merchant Navy. Inside the church, under the tower is a memorial fountain, erected in 1912–13 for those who lost their lives in the sinking of the RMS Titanic, which was removed from its original site in Cemetery Road on Southampton Common. The fountain is supported on four stone columns, with a curved pediment on each side with carvings depicting the Titanic, surmounted by a four-columned cupola. 4 September 2012—Check-in at the counter in Southampton was very fast and easy. By 15h00 we were aboard and in our room. The ship had a special buffet prepared for new guests boarding in Southampton. I can’t complain about the food. Everything was delicious. The MSC Opera has two dining rooms, two dining buffets, a pizza bar, a grill and several other restaurants on board. We had early seating which meant that dinner began at 18h30 every night. We shared a table with a Russian couple from New York who loved talking about money. This is where we sat every night for dinner, La Carevella Restaurant. Our waiter, Alexander was from Croatia and spoke several languages. The boat was practically empty when we boarded because all of the guests were in Southampton for the day. This is the view from the Soleil Deck. That’s the Queen Mary II in the background. Tables on the patio deck 12, La Bohème. This was a great place to sit and have a beer after a long excursion. The promenade on deck 6, Otello was where we had our life jacket and muster station drill. I counted 14 lifeboats. I’m pretty sure that’s enough. All of the decks were named after famous operas while some of the lounges were named after famous singers. This is the Caruso Lounge where the entertainment team provided lots of after-hours activities. I was always in bed resting for the excursion the next day. The library and gameroom. The Cotton Club had jazz music and dance every evening. The La Cabala Lounge had piano and violin classical music every evening. The classical music theme and entertainment on board were very relaxing. This is the Monte Carlo Casino--I don’t gamble so I didn’t go to the Casino except to pass through. They have several slot machines, card tables and roulette wheels. This was where the smokers hung out. This is the Piazza di Spagna Lounge on deck 5 which had all of the specialty shops. This is one of the smaller lounges near the shore excursions desk. My room was 8002 on deck 8, La Traviata at the very front of the ship. It was exceptionally quiet. Great views from the front deck every morning. This is a view of the hallway on deck 8 looking toward the back of the ship. We barely ever used the elevators preferring to use the stairs for everything. The Theatro dell’ Opera was small but very classy. Our evening entertainment took place here with live classical music concerts, opera singers, ballet dancers, vaudeville performers and lots more. I’ll post some photos of our shows later. The grand staircase was a popular place to get ones photograph. Our first stop after leaving Southampton was on 5 September at the port of Ijmuiden, Netherlands. Most people spent the day on excursions to Amsterdam. Since I’ve been to Amsterdam several times, I went to Haarlem instead. It has all of the charm of Amsterdam’s canals and wonderful buildings without all of the walking and getting lost! A wine and cheese store in Haarlem. I spent the entire day exploring Haarlem with a walking map. I was impressed with how spotless everything was—certainly different from Amsterdam. These are some of the traditional houses along the river Spaarne. The white drawbridge is called Gravestenenbrug. The two monumental buildings in the background have stepped gables, dating from around 1630. From 1550 the buildings behind these gables housed the brewery De Olyphant. For centuries, Haarlem was one of the largest beer brewing cities in the Netherlands. A famous Haarlem beer called Jopenbier was reintroduced in 1994 and is brewed according to an authentic recipe found in the municipal archives. We sat outside in the Grote Markt and had a glass. De Adriaan is a windmill in Haarlem that burnt down in 1932 and was rebuilt in 2002. The original windmill dates from 1779 and the mill has been a distinctive part of the skyline of Haarlem for centuries. The Grote Kerk or St. Bavokerk is a Protestant church and former Catholic cathedral located on the central market square. This church is an important landmark for the city of Haarlem and has dominated the city skyline for centuries. It is built in the Gothic style of architecture, and it became the main church of Haarlem after renovations in the 15th century made it significantly larger than the Janskerk. First mention of a church on this spot was made in 1307, but the wooden structure burned in the 14th century. The church was rebuilt and promoted to chapter church in 1479 and only became a cathedral in 1559. The St. Bavokerk is sometimes called ‘Jan met de hoge schouders’ (Jan with the tall shoulders), as the steeple is rather small in proportion to the rest of the building. The tombstones of Frans Hals and Pieter Teyler can be found in the church, which also contains the famous Müller organ, the largest organ in the world when it was constructed between 1735 and 1738. In Moby-Dick (1851), Herman Melville describes the inside of a whale's mouth: "Seeing all these colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its thousand pipes?" Many famous people used this organ, including Mendelssohn, Händel and the 10-year old Mozart who played it in 1766. Painted arches in the transept underneath the clock tower. The Bakenesserkerk is a former church founded in the 13th century by William II of Holland as "Onze Lieve Vrouwenkapel". The white sandstone tower was added in 1520. After a lot of searching, I finally found a pair of wooden shoes that fit me! Just a few buildings in the town center called the Grote Markt. This is the Vleeshal (Meat Hall) and can be recognised by the stepped gable and the striking ornamentation. The city needed a meat hall, as the mushrooming population led to a growing demand for meat. In the seventeenth century, the city council commissioned city architect Lieven de Key to design a finely decorated building using the best materials. He used natural stone, which had to be imported from abroad, and adorned the building with the heads of sheep and oxen, reflecting the original function of the building. The weather was warm and sunny for our entire cruise. After seeing several other places in Haarlem we returned to the ship just in time for dinner in the La Carevella Restaurant. Each and every day we had spectacular sunrises and sunsets. This is the sunset on the night we left Ijmuiden on our way to our next port of call, Cherbourg.
LES GROTTES DE JOBOURG
Le nez is a word derived from the Norse "ness", meaning cape and not as some would think, the French word for nose. The nez de Jobourg is one of the most visited sites along the Channel. The shoreline cliffs are the highest in Europe and peak at over 128 meters. From its adjacent nez de Voidries one can admire the most western tip of the Cotentin peninsula and its breath taking panoramas. During good weather it is possible to see the Channel Islands of Sark, Alderney and Guernsey in the near distance. On July 18, I went with three friends on a guided trip to the famous grottes de Jobourg located under the nez de Voidries which forms a small bay with the nez de Jobourg. The four caves: the “fairy hole”, the “little church”, the “big church” and the “lion’s cave” can be visited as long as one has a qualified guide. Our guide was a man named Cyrille Forafo from the Association EXSPEN who was well versed in local history and legends as well as geology and marine science. In order to visit the caves we had to hike down a narrow path which required us to use climbing ropes and safety harnesses to get us to the bottom and across several small inlets. This was the scary part for all of us. Although we were attached to a safety rope, there was always the chance we could fall into the water and get soaking wet. Using precautionary safety ropes, no one fell into the sea although we all got our feet wet. The path is very steep and the rocks are slippery. Throughout the five hour hike, we explored caves and rock formations stopping every now and then for our guide to show us something and explain its use or its history. It was all very interesting. I learned that the many of the small caves along the coast were used by smugglers during the reign of Louis XIV. Smuggling was a national sport in this area of France because of its closeness to the English-owned Channel Islands. Smugglers would use the caves to store food and goods that could not be found in France but were readily available on the islands. Customs officers, called “les gabelous” were laughed at because they could never find bootleg items in the caves. This was because the gabelous were like cats who did not like to get their feet wet. At low tide, they would explore the caves and find nothing. The smugglers however, knew that the best times to hide things in the caves would be during high coefficients. The most popular product to be sold on the black market was neither cigarettes nor alcohol but silk stockings. The irony here is that the silk stockings were the ones that King Louis XIV really liked. They were all the rage and everyone wanted them. But even though the king liked silk stockings, and 90% of the product could be found on the Channel Islands, trading with England was illegal. Because Alderney is only 16 kilometers away, the illicit trade in stockings became quite popular in La Hague and lasted until 1688 when the king finally authorized the building of factories in France to create these special stockings. The highlight of the tour comes during the visit to the Lion’s Cave where lichens shimmering silver and gold line the walls. It was here that we all ate our sack lunch before exploring the rest of the caves. Many of the caves have their own legends attached to them. For example, some local people believe that there is a tunnel linking the “little church” cave to the church in Jobourg. This is actually impossible as the stone is way too hard for anyone to build such a tunnel. Our guide also showed us the many different types of seaweed and shell fish that thrive in this area and can be eaten as food. My favorite plant was this “crown of thorns” succulent which grows at the base of the cliffs and tastes very much like a mild grapefruit. An excellent source of vitamin C, it can be eaten as is or mixed with a salad. At the end of the hike we returned to our starting point at the parking lot of the restaurant near the nez de Jobourg. Here, our guide showed us several seaweed products that can be purchased from the local health food stores in Cherbourg and Tourlaville. Cyrille Forafo from the Association EXSPEN was an excellent guide and showed us a wonderful time. If you are interested in visiting the Grottes de Jobourg yourself, you might want to visit the EXSPEN website for more information.
Vocable Sainte-Colombe, martyrisée en 273. Dans sa prison, un homme, sur ordre de l’empereur, s’apprête a la violer. Une ourse se jette sur lui. On vient metre le feu à la prison, l’ourse bouscule l’incendiaire. Colombe est finalement décapitée. Son culte est largement répandu en Europe occidentale. En Normandie, douze églises lui sont dédiées don’t quatre dans la Manche. Elle est invoquée pour obtenir la pluie.
L’église de Chef-du-Pont occupe une place importante dans l’histoire de l’art normand par l’importance de ses parties romanes. La nef, fort remaniée en 17 siècle, a gardé sa structure generale, marquée par six arcades d’une grande austérité. La porte qui ouvre sur le mur pignon est ornée, sur l’archivolte supérieure, de pointes de diamant évidées; sur les chapiteaux, serpent et cheval à tête d’homme. La choeur n’a presque pas été touché. Ses deux travées voûtées sur croisées d’ogives se terminent par un chevet plat éclairé par un triplet. L’arc triumphal est en cintre outrepassé. Le choeur est garni, au dessous des fenêtres, d’arcatures qui reposent sur en banc, comme à la trinité de Caen et dans la nef de Rots (canton de Tilly, 14). Elles sont ornées de pointes de diamant évidées - que l’on retrouve sur deux portes murées du choeur et du transept. Des éléments de cette arcature, démontés, ont été remontés au revers du chevet, dans la sacristie. Leurs chapiteaux, comme ceux de l’arc triumphal sont garnis de rinceaux don’t certains éminent de têtes humaines ou bien de crochets et de feuillages plats. L’élément sculpté le plus remarquable se trouve a l’extérieur, sur le tympan d’une porte murée au sud du choeur. On personanage, traité avec un grand sens de movement y terrasse un lion. Les historiens d’art y croient reconnaître le thème de Sampson tuant le lion qui est considéré par les théologiens du Moyen Age comme la préfiguration de la victoire du Christ sure le paganisme. La sacristie a été construite par Robert Gignet de Carquebut, en 1778.
L’autel, rocaille et de très belle qualité, 1776, est très proche de celui d’Amfreville. L’on y retrouve le pélican, traité avec vigueur et accompagné de superbes rameaux de laurier et d’olivier ainsi que de pampers. Les belles portes de sacristie sont peintes en fausse loupe d’orme ou, comme on dit, en “pelure d’oignon”. Sur le tabernacle, agneau sur un autel, épis et grappes de raisin.
Dans le choeur, tombes du Moyen Age.
Bas côté nord: autel et retable en bois peint, 18 siècle; Saint-Sébastien, plâtre.
Bas côté sud: autel et retable de même époque. Curieuse et belle statue de “Vierge allaitant”, plâtre polychrome 18 siècle.
Nef: toile représentant l’Assomption qui a été retaillé dans une plus grande en mauvais état – provident d’un presbytère et, auparavant peut-être d’un retable. Fonts ovales avec consoles opposés sur le pied. Bénitier encastré, pierre 17 siècle.
Mais l’objet le plus extraordinaire ce sont les peintures de la chaire (17 - 18 siècle). La cuve est ornée de cinq losanges et cinq petit rectangles qui représentent, en camaïeu, des personnages don’t l’identification n’est pas aisée, en raison des couches de glacis et des vernis successifs. En haut, sur les losanges, on croit reconnaître le Christ rédempteur entouré de Saint-Pierre et de Saint-Paul; aux extrémités un pape et un roi (ou un empereur). En bas, sur les rectangles, des évangélistes ou des docteures de l’église. On distinguée un boeuf (Saint-Luc) et un ange (Saint-Mathieu).
Nous avons pas vu le lutrin orné d’un buste de prophète – il paraît que celui-ci aurait disparu – ni la belle statue de Saint Jean l’Evangéliste.
Choeur: “une ourse protégé Sainte-Colombe”, signe Mauzet 19.., armoiries: d’azur au lion rampant d’or, au chef d’argent chargé de trois rosés de gueules. Un martyre de Saint-Simon, de même facture, “don de Mme Blondel en mémoire de la famille Roualle”.
Sur le pignon oust, le Christ “don des paroissiens, souvenir du jubilé 1926”
Cimetière: Près l’angle du choeur et du collatéral sud, tombe de Jean-François Laurence “conservateur et curé de l’église, né dans cette paroisse le 30 novembre 1758 et décedé le 11 août 1822. Requiescat in pace”.
On June 23, I attended the Clochers en fête which took place among several churches in the Marais du Cotentin. Because I didn’t want to be shackled to a tour guide and only see one or two churches, I visited about twelve on my own. It was quite an adventure and took me to several churches that were not normally open to visitors during the week. One of these churches was the Église Saint-Candide de Picauville. Saint Candide was an officer in the Theban Legion of the Roman Empire who was murdered in 297 in Valais, Switzerland on the orders of the Roman Emperor Maximian for refusing to fight against the Bagaudae in Valais who were Christians. He was martyred with his companions which included Saint Maurice. Their remains were found in the fourth century by the Bishop of Lyon, Saint Eucherius (449) who told the story of their martyrdom. A basilica was built near the site of their martyrdom which became the Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais. Today, the cult of these martyrs (especially that of Saint Candide) is quite rare—to find a church dedicated to the saint in Picauville, Normandy is rarer still. The church’s tower rises above the transept crossing. The upper part was rebuilt in the 15th century, and resembles the church tower in Périers. It has a pierced railing in the flamboyant style flanked by pinnacles. The octagonal spire is pierced with quatrefoils like those seen on the spire of the church in Carentan. Attached to the south wall of the nave is a large porch of 19th century construction. The chapel at the corner of the transept and the south aisle dates as far back as 1402. The sacristy was built when the choir was enlarged between 1680 and 1702. The large window of the apse is dedicated to the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and is one of the masterpieces of the workshop Champigneulle. The dignity of the figures and the evocation of Roman monuments are in perfect harmony with the seriousness of the subject. A clever composition and choice of colors highlight the principal personage, the saint who adjured Diocletian to stop the persecution of Christians. The covered marble baptismal font dates from 1848. In the southern aisle of the church is a large, beautiful statue of Saint James the Pilgrim of polychrome limestone which dates from the 14th or 15th century.
Abbaye du Voeu, Cherbourg
Exposition 30 JUIN a 02 SEPT 2012 This was a very interesting exhibition at the Abbaye du Voeu. If you are interested in learning more about the artist, please visit his website or take the time to go see the exhibit.
April 10, 1912--My dear friend, Quentin, After a smooth crossing of the English Channel aboard the new White Star Titanic, I am already feeling quite anxious to explore this great wonder of our age. The maiden voyage of this great ship has just begun! Captain Smith came aboard this morning at 7:30am in Southampton and we got underway at 12 noon on the dot. Our first port of call was the French town of Cherbourg. I simply cannot understand why the maiden voyage must begin with a stop to pick up "frogs" and other smelly foreigners! It's outrageous! The greatest ship that England has ever known should be filled with English and not the hoards of Europe's unclean and dreadfully poor.... The weather from Southampton to Cherbourg was windy, very fine but cold and overcast. The ship's name is certainly fitting for I believe it is the largest ship I have ever had the likes of seeing. Every effort has been made to provide an endless number of creature comforts including its own indoor swimming pool and a large exercise room. Closest friend, I fear my wife, Lady Felicity, needs to use some of that equipment soon for she has been gaining weight ever since the birth of our twins, Seamus and Clyde. She does enjoy the fatty leg of cold chicken as a late night snack but I fear she will sink this ship if she continues to "stuff her gob". Say nothing, old chap! Yet, I fear I should have listened to you when you told me not to marry her--this married life does not suit me. I must admit that the constant crying of Seamus and Clyde also has me befuddled and on edge. I've been in a foul mood all afternoon--you must forgive me. The rabble of loud, smelly third class passengers danced jigs all day along the lower deck which did nothing to sooth my nerves or those of my loving wife, the Lady Felicity. After leaving Cherbourg at around 6:30pm for our next stop, Queenstown we watched the orange sun as it set in the west. The views from our covered deck are marvelous! I wish you were with us on this great adventure. I would do anything for the company of a good friend instead of the constant nagging of my rotund Felicity and the twin offspring!
April 11, 1912--Quentin, my dear and honest friend, this ship is extraordinary! As the Titanic was moored in Queenstown and taking on more passengers, I took it upon myself to look around the ship. The Lady Felicity wanted to stay in our room. Who could blame her? It is as elegant as some of the finest London hotels. The wall sconces are divine and offer a great deal of light. The walls are of paneled wood painted white and gilt in gold. The wallpaper is of the finest damask cloth. Felicity has her own chaise lounge chair where she can sit and eat from the box of chocolates you sent to her. Yes, dear chap, they arrived before we left Southampton. Felicity sends her love and thanks you for this delicious treat. I fear I should have warned you about her recent "excess" and advised you send something more appropriate--a crate of lettuce, perhaps? Humor, my dear man! She may be fat but I don't see how eating a crate of lettuce is going to help with her girth. She is finding it more and more difficult to stay appropriately clothed and prefers to throw her dresses on the bed and relax in our room dressed only in her petticoats. The maze of corridors outside of our room is often confusing. I am not sure where I am most of the time--do I go right or do I go left? Earlier, I was walking along the deck and admiring the vast expanse of ocean before me. Perhaps, they did not see me watching them but Miss Winslet (a young lady whose room is next to ours) and a strange man she calls Leonardo were standing dangerously close to the bowsprit. He was standing there, ever so proud with his arms outstretched shouting, "I'm king of the world!" What nonsense! Methinks the little lady needs a lesson about the company she keeps. This Leonardo fellow has no manners and appears quite young and reckless.
April 12, 1912--Quentin, my dear fellow. I must tell someone about my current plight. Felicity's recent weight gain and penchant for all things chocolate has now begun to affect me in the most frightening of ways. Dear chap, my sleep has been quite restless. My rotund Felicity takes up the whole bed and this morning I awoke to find myself on the floor covered in paper wrappers. This is getting to be too much! To make matters worse, she has spent much of the trip either eating on the chaise lounge or relieving herself in our luxury bathroom! The smell is awful. I hurried out of the room just as soon as I could get myself dressed. It's a shame we had to leave Jeeves behind at our apartment in Wembley--I can barely put my shoes on without his help. This morning, I ate breakfast with Mr. Ismay who took several of the gentlemen on a grand tour of the Titanic. We even got a look inside of the second class cabins. There are four beds in each room and the occupants must all share the same wash basin and in some instances, a communal toilet. Other rooms have two beds, a wash basin and a small sofa that converts into additional beds when needed. I must stay that the accommodations here quite remarkable--perhaps I should see if I could change rooms. Laugh out loud. I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits. I've just reached the bottom of the grand staircase and I am sitting in the private library writing these last few lines. It is ever so elegant. The future is here. Instead of writing you a letter, I could have just as easily sent you a telegram on the new Marconi wireless system. Everyone is using it to send messages to friends and family. Still, I believe in the old-fashioned pen and paper. I will place this in the letter box of the Titanic's own post office when I am finished. You will no doubt receive these words when the Titanic makes its triumphant return to merry old England. I am looking forward to our arrival in New York and I understand that we are to complete our crossing in record time. Captain Smith has just told several of the men that we are full steam ahead. As I look out of the port hole, I see several icebergs of different sizes pass by. It's a good thing they made this boat unsinkable! Take care my friend. I will see you when I return to London.