Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Enchanted Harbours - UK

Once again, we very much enjoyed a cruise with Oceania. This time on one of its smaller ships, the Insignia that carries about 600 passengers. We love sailing with Oceania and always feel extravagantly spoiled! Insignia is comfortable, great facilities, the most excellent food imaginable, the crew outstanding and always available to ensure their guests are well cared for!

As I write this chapter about our Enchanted Harbours cruise, I must acknowledge that on this occasion most of the photos published in this chapter were taken by Jan. I am grateful for the use of these.

Having had a great few days in England - see previous blog, we boarded the Insignia in Southampton. It provided a good opportunity to again visit our friends who live there and who kindly provided lunch before boarding our ship. All was well until we drove to the car hire depot to drop of our vehicle and then John & Sandra would take us to the docks. Under normal circumstances that would not have been a problem. However, we had not reckoned on there being a boating exhibition near the waterfront (of course!). Thank goodness, John somehow piloted us to the depot with a minute to spare as the place closed at 4 pm. From there it was to the docks, renegotiating the traffic jams. We felt just a little stressed! Thankfully, John made it in time. We got the full boarding treatment as it turned out we were the last to board. For that reason too, we carried our own luggage - not a problem. Once on board, it was not long before we set sail. WE NEED A DRINK!!!

 Our Itinerary.

It seemed strange to us that we would first cross the Channel to Honfleur in France and then cross the Channel again that same evening and sail to Weymouth and then via other ports back to France! For that reason, it seems more sensible to talk about our visit to Honfleur at the end of the cruise. Apart from that I want to begin with a most important celebration that happened in Weymouth, because it is........... Happy Birthday to Jeanette. And it is a big-big birthday, the number of which I won't mention here!

We had briefly visited Weymouth in 2010 when we sailed into it from the Channel Island and stayed overnight. This time, we could enjoy it more leisurely. The ship docked at Portland from where shuttle buses took us to the town centre. Weymouth became the centre of attention when the Olympic sailing events were staged here in 2012. It is an attractive seaside resort to where the Brits flock in the holiday season.
 A proper beach, not like the pebble beaches so prevalent in England.

Wandering around Weymouth, we came across a church that was quite different. St Mary’s is a Georgian church which has a  fine Thornhill  painting of the Last Supper. Looking at the painting at the front of the church, one could not help but notice that the painting is displayed in the context of the fundamental beliefs and values that are central to the Church. 

 The impressive Thornhill painting of the Last Supper, displayed in the context of:
The Lord's Prayer, Apostle's Creed, & Ten Commandments
 As expected, plenty of sailing boats all over the harbour.
 An old friend of ours, built in Hobart, Tasmania. The fast wave-piercing Incat!
Too lazy to walk the long way back. We made use of old-fashioned transportation! 
 One way to keep fit and have the pleasure of meeting people like us!
The bonus is keeping fit!
 A closer look at the Concord incat from the other side.

The day has already been full of surprises, recognising Jeanette's birthday. When we returned to the ship in the afternoon and opened our cabin door, Jeanette was greeted with a beautiful arrangement of 12 red roses - actually there were eleven roses, we were short changed by one rose. It did not take away from a delightful arrangement:

We did it in style!

The birthday girl!
But there is more celebration to enjoy......
Looking for more entertainment Siebrand?
A public serenade by two young ladies plus a 3-gun salute?

Perhaps it wasn't to serenade Jeanette, but as far as I am concerned, it was as good as! The next photos are of a celebratory 3-gun salute! The occasion must have warranted it! Did they know it was her special birthday?
Fire !
And so say all of us! Happy Birthday Jeanette!
Finally! A delightful dinner, including a bottle of French Merlot,  
for just the two of us to celebrate this special day. 
The happy smile says it all! 

What a way to celebrate, including this beautiful sunset as we sailed to our next destination in Wales. It was a magic day with magic happenings.
The best entertainment available in the world, provided by the Creator!
Farewell  Weymouth!
Our next port of call was Milford Haven in Wales. Wasn't sure what to expect as the harbour and its town do not have a lot to offer. However, we chose to wander around it, had some lunch, Jeanette had a haircut and we were content. We appreciated the welcome by the Mayor and a harp soloist who we enjoyed listening to and who played sensitively.
Jeannette's haircut!
 Harp music is so soothing & enjoyable!

Modern architecture.

We were really looking forward to visiting Dublin. Even having just one day available was acceptable, though we would have enjoyed much longer to explore Dublin and, for that matter, all of Ireland. We especially wished to see the Book of Kells in Trinity College Library. And that is exactly where we are headed. 
Information available tells us that there has been a library in Trinity College since it was founded by charter of Queen Elizabeth in 1592. We understand that it now holds the largest collection of manuscripts and printed books in Ireland. It is an awesome place to visit and its size is quite intimating for the likes of me.
Trinity College
Meeting some local girls who seemed happy enough to communicate.
Siebrand was happy enoough to join in with an Irish (??) jig?!

Many of my readers will know that the Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created by Celtic monks circa 800 AD. It is one of Ireland's national treasures.  The care taken taken to write each word, the calligraphy, the ornamentation, the rich colours, and the general presentation is awesome. Every detail in each letter must have taken years to complete. An outstanding work and incredibly beautiful!

I was totally mesmerized and found it hard to leave. The book was open at St Matthew 14 that narrates the story of Jesus walking on water. There was also a page open from St Mark's Gospel, chapter 1 which was full of illustrations and symbols that I found difficult to understand, but apparently described in graphic form the message. The colour was rich, the consistency and the artwork outstanding. Truly a masterpiece and God honouring! I loved it and, at that moment, was content with my visit to Dublin, not needing to go anywhere else. 

Regrettably, we were not permitted to take photos and, at any rate, the room where the Book of Kells is kept was quite dark. However, the internet had some public photos of the book and I gladly include a small sample of these: 
The Book of Kells - stunning illuminated manuscript

Having enjoyed the Book of Kells, we found our way to the Long Room, an amazing space filled with books. We were told that this room houses some 200,000 old books!!
Marble busts keep a watchful eye on their treasures!

After all the above, what to do with ourselves? For a start, it was good to just walk among the locals:

Being part of Dublin for the day was good, including have lunch at a place frequently mostly by city workers:

In the end, we found ourselves at the Dublin Castle where we spent the rest of our time.
Dublin Castle

In the castle we enjoyed quite a lot of Ireland's history including the State Apartments, which in the past were the residential and ceremonial quarters of the Viceroys and the Viceregal Court in Ireland.
Beautifully appointed, they include St Patrick’s Hall, the State Bedrooms, the Drawing and Throne Rooms, the Portrait Gallery and George’s Hall. St Patrick’s Hall is the focal point for prestigious State functions, including the inaugurations of Irish Presidents.  Come with us for glimps of these beautifully appointed rooms:

The State Corridor.
The State Drawing Room.
St Patrick's Hall.
The Throne Room - Welcome!!
A very necessary 'throne room'! 
Impressed how well appointed it is!

It is a pity Ireland is so far away. Would love to return and discover it in greater detail, but fear that this is unlikely. For now, it is time to return to our ship and sail the Celtic Sea and through the Bay of Biscay to Bilbao in Spain. Hoping for good weather!

See you in Spain!