Thursday, August 29, 2013

St. Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands - Day 8

The fantastic weather from yesterday has followed us to the Channel Islands. We are very lucky as this is another tender port and sometimes the wind and / or rough seas will prevent cruise ships from visiting. When we booked the cruise I had originally planned to disembark here instead of Dover and was granted permission by Princess. However, several weeks into the summer season it became apparent that many cruise lines had to cancel this port stop due to poor weather. I made a Plan A and Plan B for what to do if the port was cancelled during our scheduled day here.

After crunching the numbers it was going to be a significant hit if we didn't make it to Guernsey. The prospect of cancelling non-refundable ferry tickets, train tickets plus hotels on Guernsey and at Mont Saint Michel was adding up to a serious deficit.  The writing so to speak was on the wall. A month prior to the cruise I reluctantly decided to cancel the disembarkation on Guernsey and stay on the ship. Instead of spending time on the Channel Islands and in Brittany, we would stay in Paris for 2 nights. I know, a small sacrifice!

Arrival in St. Peter Port, Guernsey
So it was with some regret as we pulled into St. Peter Port with the gorgeous weather that I thought wistfully of what we would be missing by only spending a few hours here and unable to fully enjoy the island. I know I should be thankful for what I have rather than what I do not. We were very fortunate we could anchor and tender. As we will probably only get a "taste" of what Guernsey has to offer I planned to just relax and go with the flow. Oh, but as we found out later what a taste that would be!

Harbor St. Peter Port
Following breakfast, as we did yesterday we took an early morning tender to shore. The day started a bit hazy but the cloud cover soon dissipated. Since we will be touring on our own we will be able to enjoy exploring at a leisurely pace.  My mother is certainly thrilled about that part! We arrived at the dock near the right side of town if facing the island from the sea.

Immediately upon our arrival we spotted the left luggage area at the end of the pier. I had wondered if this existed since the hotel I had originally booked and later cancelled required a check out fairly early.

Left Luggage St. Peter Port, Guernsey
It was nice to know we could have checked out and brought our luggage here for the ferry I had planned to take the Condor Ferry at 1:30 pm the next day. As we will be back on the Ocean Princess later today I will save this reconnaissance for another time.

St. Peter Port, Guernsey

St. Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey. The island is officially a "Bailiwick"and is not part of the United Kingdom. Guernsey is however part of the British Crown but has its own autonomy in government affairs.
Along with Jersey, Sark, Herm and a few other outcropping this area is known as the Channel Islands.

Guernsey has its own currency but UK coinage is accepted. It is important to note that Guernsey notes and coins cannot be used outside of the Channel Islands.
Coat of Arms

During World War II Guernsey was under the occupation of Germany. These were very tough times and a fictional account was depicted in the highly acclaimed book, "The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society". It is an enjoyable read.

The island has a total land area of 24.5 square miles. Guernsey is only 31 miles west of Normandy, France. Condor Ferries offers high speed catamaran service twice a day to St. Malo which takes only a couple of hours.

Our main event of the day is enjoy a walk through the Old Town area and then to tour Hauteville House, the former home of the infamous exiled writer Victor Hugo. I completed an application online to make sure we would be admitted as tickets are limited to 10 people per hour. One amusing item on the form was our promise not to be bare chested and to wear shoes! Happy to say we will comply on both accounts. Since we had to tender I selected the tour at 11:00 am. However, once ashore I realized that the one at 10:00 am would work better.

Old Town, St Peter Port
We took a leisurely stroll through the Old Town's cobbled streets heading south. It was still early so the shops were not open yet.

We enjoyed looking at the store windows and the displays. This area was very upscale and attractive.

Great display of boxes, clocks and jewelry

Venetian Puppets with bits and bobs
The streets in the Old Town are rather narrow and provide a small village ambiance. We needed to make a quick dash at one point as a delivery truck tooted its horn and we had to move aside.

Walking uphill
The further we walked the shops became more interesting. It was nice there were not many cars or trucks.

Great Leopard Combo
I thought it was interesting to put a sign in the window with things that were not on sale. The leopard hat was tempting but the shops would not open for another hour or so.

Great street
Since the journey was uphill my mother was already starting to lag after only 25 minutes! I thought to myself as short as our visit is on Guernsey it was going to be a long day after all. Mother said her knees were killing her which is not an uncommon complaint. However, this time her anguish seemed more palpable. We stopped several times to let her rest.

Real Estate Office
If we were interested in moving to Guernsey we found a good place to start.

Selfridges 8% sale
Now as I glanced at the attractive St. Peter Port scenery, I was thankful mother with her bad knees would not be climbing the steps at Mont Saint Michel. I would never have heard the end of it!

Nice building for the bank
We were now at the end of the street. At the corner there was what appeared to be a government building. We paused again to figure out which way to go.

I had a map with me but still inquired to a passersby as to the direction to Hauteville House. The roads twist and turn here and it wasn't clear if we had lost our way.

Very nice square
Rest assured we were on the right track and after a few more hills (yes hills!) and stopping to let mother rest, we made it!

As we turned the corner, Hauteville House is the second building on the left, located at 38 Hauteville Street..

Hauteville House
The white facade is basic and belies the gems hidden inside. We went to the closed door and knocked. A young woman answered and we asked about our tour and changing the time. I showed my printed confirmation and after checking with the front desk we were told it would be fine to do the 10:00 am tour instead and to enjoy the garden in the back for 10 - 15 minutes. I was very happy they could accommodate us earlier.

We walked around back to the lovely garden which had an abundance of flowers and trees. It was almost like a mini-park.

Hauteville House Garden
The garden is bigger than it initially looked and delightful. The mild climate allows gardens to do quite well here. The gardener was fast at work prepping the fountain area. Mother sat on one of the benches while I enjoyed a symphony of the floral bouquets. I just wish I knew the names of the foliage. Everything was laid out exquisitely and the composition was enhanced by each individual element.

The garden is U shaped and goes around in a circle. The little dirt path is impeccably maintained and it was a treat to enjoy. I am glad we arrived early or we may have missed this part if pressed for time.

At the corner of the garden we had a hazy view of the harbor and the Ocean Princess. It was turning out to be a very nice day. Temps were in the high 70's.

I made my way around to the other side of the garden. The landscape design was just as nice on this side. The large trees really made the garden feel more expansive too.

As I made my way back to the front I walked past the sign for the garden which is in French, English and German.

The rear of the house was also quite interesting. We were told later that the spiral staircase was added in the 20th century as a fire escape required by law.

Rear of Hauteville House
I noticed a few people who work here were using the back door to the house.

Back Door Hauteville House
As our tour time approached we walked around to the front entrance and entered the main hall of the building.

Victor Hugo and Hauteville House

Victor Hugo lived at Hauteville House for 15 years during his exile from France from 1855 to 1870. He made his way to Guernsey after a brief stop in Belgium and 3 years on the Island of Jersey. His outspoken political views did not take kindly to the French regime of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte and he needed to find a new home. He moved his entire family including his longtime mistress, Juliette Drouet to Guernsey. He ensconced his mistress in a nearby house a few blocks away.

Fortunately Victor Hugo was not hard for cash as the success of his poetry in "Contemplations" allowed him to purchase this former Corsairs house up on a hill with outstanding views. He then set out as most new homeowners do and redecorate. However, Victor Hugo took this to a whole new level.

In 1927 Jeanne, Victor Hugo's granddaughter and three of his other relatives donated the home to the City of Paris who maintain and run the home as a museum.

While we were waiting in the front hall a British couple walked in and inquired as to the price of the tour. They balked at the 7 pounds and left. It is a shame because I think the price is quite reasonable and once inside it is a cornucopia of design that almost anyone would enjoy.

Soon others arrived and joined our small group. Most pre-reserved the tour in advance as we had. There were about 12 people on our tour although I thought they limited each one to 10. Our guide was Julia and she was delightful. It must be hard doing this tour again and again but she was enthusiastic and seemed to genuinely enjoy it. Tours are available from April to September, Monday - Saturday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. For more information you can send an email to: 

Julia explained a bit about Victor Hugo, his personal life, published works and his love of design. Most people are only familiar with Victor Hugo's skill as a writer and his rebuke against the French regime. Julia asked how many of us had read "Les Miserables" or other of his works and only a smattering of hands went up. I wasn't one of them either I am afraid. The more I learned about Victor Hugo though, the more intrigued I became.

The tour began with a peak at the kitchen area before entering the billiard room.

Kitchen area
The billiard room was quite interesting with a somewhat Moroccan style with the long covered sofas. The room has lots of family photos. The French pool table is called "Carom Billiards" and has no pockets in it.

The family portraits in the room included one of his favorite daughter who died at 19 when her boat overturned on the Seine. The art in the room was eclectic too. We were told Victor Hugo made the ones pictured below himself with coffee grinds.

We were lead into an adjoining room which held a large cabinet with a fireplace and a mirror.

I don't think Victor Hugo ever met a tapestry he didn't like. Even the ceilings were covered with them.

The oak table looks very similar to one that I own. Mine was reclaimed from a barn door which we were told is the case as the one here.

Once he went into exile on Guernsey there were only so many hours a day he could spend writing. It was interesting to hear how Victor Hugo would go to the antique markets and house sales to find his treasures on the island to decorate his home.

Oriental Paper screen above the door
The Oriental influence of the screen above the door was a nice surprise.  At the time Victor Hugo was decorating his home the Oriental style was all the rage and very popular.

I was able to get a good photo of the room as everyone departed to next area.

Detail of tapestry
The next room we entered was missing its ceiling tapestry. It is being restored.

The mixture of all the elements was well balanced. This room had a view out the back to a terrace and the harbor.

Our next venue was the kitchen area. Victor Hugo very creatively decorated it by covering the ceiling with china. Hoping they are very secure!

Pantry / Kitchen ceiling
Julia explained that the glass objects in this plaque are the discarded remains of glass blown bottle tops. Another great DIY idea!

We next entered a part of the house with tons of Delft ceramic tiles. Victor Hugo loved incorporating his name though out the home with his initials. You could spot them everywhere!

The Delft tiles were masterfully arranged. They created a bright and airy room.

Julia explained that Victor Hugo was against most standard conventions including monogamy, religion, politics, you name it!

"The End of Religion"
I loved this little area of ceramics with the little dog.

The tour continued upstairs on the second floor. This stairway leads to the bedroom area, reception rooms and the library. Above the stairs is a skylight. Another room is actually built directly over it!

The steps were quite easy to navigate even for mother who doesn't like stairs. At the top we entered what more closely resembled a jewelry box. There are two reception rooms, with the Red Room being the most spectacular. The incorporation of the damask, silks, gilt and tapestries was almost overwhelming. It may be a bit over the top but I love the ornate style. The items came from France and Asia.

The Blue Room on the other side had a sitting area and was more subdued.

The embroidered paneling was very impressive. It even was continued on the ceiling.

The brightness of this area was a nice contrast to the ground floor.

We were told the statues came from Asia which Victor Hugo purchased from a ship captain.

The composition of the room is well done with the combination of rose colors and blues and greens. The concave eagle mirrors make the room feel quite regal too.

The table in the center used to be a door.

Tapestry detail
We had another view of the skylight as we walked across to the next room.

This room below was designed as Victor Hugo's bedroom but he had a strong dislike for it and hardly ever used. The bed actually has an area that slides forward with a trundle. A few of us snickered that that might have come in handy for Hugo's mistress who lived nearby.

The opposite side of the room looks like a magistrate chamber with its large desk and chair. It was not used for writing. The bed was also only slept in once.

The room is a bit dreary but does have a fantastic view.

The last two areas to see were the library and the enclosed rooftop writing area. The library was basically a hallway on the landing with some very old books.

Valuable Encyclopedias
Perhaps in a few hundred years the 1969 Encyclopedia Britannica set my grandfather purchased may resemble these.

It was said Victor Hugo placed the books here so they would be available to his staff. Sounds like he was a very kind man.

Perhaps the most impressive area of the entire home is the area known as the "Lookout".

The Lookout
This is where Victor Hugo would stand for hours at the windows on either side of the room crafting his masterpieces. Apparently he would write in the freezing cold during winter or the blazing heat of the summer looking out to the islands of Sark /Herm and further to France composing his works.

It really is a fantastic room. The lightness and the view were marvelous. The upholstered sofa is where he would rest. To the side hidden away is an area that resembles a shipman's cabin. It was here that Victor Hugo slept. There were also little cupboards for him to hide away a waste basin and his clothing.

The view from the lookout was terrific. It was here that Victor Hugo composed his famous works "Les Miserables", "Notre Dame de Paris" (known to English readers as (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and "Les Travailleurs de la Mer", (Toilers of the Sea). In fact his writing career was the most productive while living on Guernsey.

Below are Victor Hugo's own words to describe the view:

Et cependant, pensif, j’écris à ma fenêtre,
Je regarde le flot naître, expirer, renaître,
Et les goëlands fendre l’air.
Les navires au vent ouvrent leurs envergures,
Et ressemblent au loin à de grandes figures
Qui se promènent sur la mer.

And still, deep in thought, I write at my window,
I watch the tide come in, go out, come in again.
And the gulls slice though the air.
Ships unfurl their sails before the wind:
Seen far off they remind me of giants
Who stroll up and down on the sea.

The tour had now come to and end and we descended to the ground level and thanked Julia for a great tour. I am very glad we spent our few precious hours on Guernsey seeing this home.

It was a little past 11:00 am and we did not have to be back on board the ship until 2:30 pm. I was hoping to still visit the Castle Cornet area and also make a stop at Candie Gardens. However, we had more pressing matters at hand as mother was very tired and desperately wanted a glass of wine and a nice lunch. Luckily I had researched the various tables on the island and knew where to go.

As we turned the corner this was not it!

We passed a few other establishments during our walk to toward the quayside including a large Thai themed restaurant. They were doing some road work and you had to be careful where you walked.

We were up on a hill so the walk down was pretty easy. We glanced in some shop windows on the way.

It was not long before we were at the quay level and walking along the street with views of the harbor.

Nice church
We were the only ship in port today but not the only visitors. There were tons of people about.

Main Street
I stopped at the Tourist Info kiosk to ask directions to the restaurant and it was just two blocks up. The good news is we soon arrived at our destination but unfortunately it was still too early for lunch.

Le Nautique
Le Nautique has very good reviews on Tripadvisor and the view is supposed to be very nice. It is Michelin rated (not starred) but we deserve a good meal, don't we?

As it was a bit before noon time we looked at the menu outside and then walked up the stairs to the entrance to find out what time we could be seated.

Le Nautique Bar
The staff we actually finishing up their own lunch but allowed us to enjoy a drink in the bar until they were ready. Mother had a glass of wine and I had a club soda. I also made a trip to the restroom facilities which were very nice. I love the Dyson hand air dryer machine. It is so much nicer than the ones in the U.S.

About 20 minutes later we were seated at a lovely table with a fantastic view. We couldn't sit directly at the window because it was reserved. We still could see quite well out the windows from our table.

The decor of the restaurant is very light and refreshing with beamed ceilings and white stucco walls. There is maritime paraphernalia hanging on the walls but it is rather discrete.

We perused the menu (they offered a regular menu and a more reasonable special lunch menu) and made our selections which also included several glasses of wine. I am glad we didn't order a bottle when I saw the size of it! Just kidding!

Delicious Sicilian Wine
Mother loved the red wine from Sicily. It is very reasonable too at only 8 pounds per glass. After the wine was served I walked upstairs to get a better view of the harbor and Castle Cornet in the distance. I had a feeling this was going to be the closest we were going to get to it as mother no doubt would prefer to return to ship following lunch. As we need to tender back she didn't want to rush through our meal as we still needed to allow a little extra time.

Harbor and Castle Cornet in the distance
The view must be even more spectacular at night. I took a few more photos of the dining room just before more guests arrived. The room was about half full by the time we ended our meal.

There were some rather interesting businessmen at the next table discussing high finance. I think one of them was Flemish and the other two were from the Netherlands.

The view was mesmerizing. The server came to prepare the table for our meal and to inquire if we wanted more wine. But of course!

I admired the serious looking shellfish utensils and enjoyed the yummy butter with the soft bread. It was not long before our meal was served. Mother had the prawns with green curry which looked delicious.

Prawns with Green Curry
My dish was the lobster salad. Oh my! It looked outstanding.

The size of the lobster tail and claw were huge. I loved the presentation and being able to partially shell my own lobster was a plus. The sauce on the side was a bit like mayo but more flavorful. It tasted similar to Heinz Cream Sauce that comes in a bottle. This was one of or perhaps the best lobster I have ever eaten. Coming from New England that is saying a lot! I loved it!!

I savored each and every bite. I told the maitre'd how fantastic the lobster was and he remarked that in New England we get Blue lobster which actually is not exactly true but I didn't debate the matter. After finishing the lobster I went upstairs for a second time to wash my hands. I enjoyed using the Dyson dryer again. I took photos of the view from the second story. There are about the same amount of tables here as where we are dining but they only use this room at dinner time when it is busier.

View from the second floor
I arrived back at our table just in time to contemplate the dessert menu. I knew what dessert my mother was going to order from the lunch special menu. Everything sounded so good on the main dessert menu that it took some time to make a final decision.

We placed our order and then talked about what to do following lunch. Mother said since we only had an hour it was it best that we go back to the ship. I was not surprised by this and saying I would join her later I wisely knew was not an option. She would just sit there worrying the entire time I would miss the ship!

The dessert brightened things up nicely though. Mother had the Apple Tatin. This is one of her favorite desserts and today's offering did not disappoint.

Apple Tart Tatin
I selected the apple and plum crumble with maple walnut ice cream. Yummy!!

Apple and Plum Crumble
We both enjoyed our desserts and relaxed before settling the bill which I charged on my visa. We never had to get cash to use on the island. Another plus. Having enjoyed a fantastic meal, we soon departed Le Nautique and started walking back toward the quay.

We walked past the very cute tourist info building. Once outside I realized the walk to the Castle Cornet would only take 5 minutes but mother really couldn't walk anymore. Defeated, I agreed we should just return to the ship. We passed this marker commemorating the 60th anniversary of liberation from German occupation along the way.

I would have enjoyed seeing some the museums to learn more about the German occupation on the island. I will certainly do that next time.

We walked to the embarkation area for the tender but it was not there and we had to wait in line for about 20 minutes. I am glad we are on a smaller ship. Doing this with 2000+ people would not be fun. One other issue was one of the wives of the crew was there with her screaming 3 year old son. You could not blame the little boy for his behavior but the mother was rather clueless and didn't discipline him. My mother said a few unkind words to the mother and I tried to keep her a good distance away which wasn't easy. If anything, my mother definitely believes in discipline!

When my sister and I were eight years old and about to enter a jewelry store on Newbury Street in Boston our mother threatened us to behave or she would "kill us". Yes, we believed death was a possibility and didn't say a word. We were statues. Another memorable time was when my sister was 10 and didn't hold the door for my mother walking into a shopping mall on a cold winter day. My sister was told to stand outside in 25 degree temperatures until we returned. I couldn't believe she was actually still there, almost a Popsicle nonetheless when we we came back an hour later. Needless to say, my sister never forgot to hold the door ever again!

Cruise Pier
As we tried to ignore the screaming child, finally the tender arrived and we all scampered onboard. The mother with the child was nearby but on the opposite side of the boat. We had a nice trip back to ship. It was sad to leave Guernsey so quickly. I wish they didn't have to depart until 5:00 pm.

Once back on the ship mother went up to the room and I went to the pool area to take photos of our departure. The pool and deck area were very busy with everyone enjoying the great warm weather.

Pool area is very busy with the warm weather
Lots of people were standing at the aft enjoying the sailaway from St. Peter Port.

I decided to go up one deck to get a better view.

Deck with running / walking track
I had the area all to myself to take photos. We were not wasting any time as we were sailing away at a fast speed. I think this is either Sark or Herm in the distance we are passing.

I then turned back to Guernsey for a final look.

I stood out on deck for another 15 minutes before returning to the room. As this is our last night on the Ocean Princess the cruise is coming to an end. This is our third cruise on Princess and only the second time on Princess we have finished up at the designated disembarkation port. One time we disembarked in Grand Turk and flew on a little mosquito (small plane) to Providenciales. Like Victor Hugo I am not a huge fan of conformity either.

I went back to the room and was busy charging my devices. I got ready for our 6:00 pm dinner but we arrived a little late to our table. Almost everyone else was already in the dining room. Menus were quickly dispatched and we immediately made our selections as to not delay the servers from their schedule.

I wasn't that impressed with the menu but it didn't seem terrible either. Just not that exciting.

I started off with the watermelon and feta salad. It was light and refreshing. My mother had the squash soup which she said was delicious.

Watermelon and feta

The dining room seemed especially lively tonight but we were not sure why. Perhaps everyone was excited for the end of the cruise.

Our main dishes were served 15 minutes later. I had the linguine with white clams and my mother had mussels. Both dishes were excellent.

Linguini with white clams

It turned out to be quite a pleasing dinner after all. We had never eaten in the main dining room on the last night of a Princess Cruise. We were looking around and noticed the waiters getting ready to march into the dining room carrying trays, What was this all about?

Waiters getting ready
Looks like something is about to happen! All of sudden there was shouting and hollering, I think some music too as the waiters paraded out of the kitchen hoisting platters of Baked Alaska.

Everyone was waving their napkins in the air. They were all very excited! Our waiter Budi paused so that we could get a photo of the main attraction.

Budi and the Baked Alaska
It was a very nice looking Baked Alaska and tasted good too!

After dinner we decided to try the evening entertainment again. Tonight's performer was a young male singer from Montreal. He had two first names which now escape me. He was okay but mother was not impressed and was greatly disappointed in his attire. He was wearing a grey silk/satin suite which was in dire need of pressing. Needless to say we did not stay until the end of the show.

We went back to room and finished our packing for disembarking in Dover tomorrow morning. We will be catching the morning train to Paris where we will spend two nights. I took a few photos of the sunset for our final night onboard.

It was a great cruise. I just wish it was a day or so longer. The next post will be about our first day in Paris.


  1. What a delightful, and beautifully presented review. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your comment! We had a wonderful time on Guernsey. I just wish it was a bit longer!