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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Silversea: Sailing on the Silver Cloud through the English Channel (Part 1)

Article and photos by Karen Lewis 
I had the most wonderful experience cruising through the English Channel on Silversea's Silver Cloud. Upon arrival at the dock, we were escorted to the registration desk, by a gentleman in English formal wear who then accompanied us to our stateroom where our butler was in waiting. Although the Silver Cloud is one of the fleet's oldest ships, it far exceeded my expectations. The ship is small, quaint and cozy, with friendly and outstanding personal service.

Our first port of call was Plymouth. We tendered into port then took a bus to the Royal Theatre across from the main shopping market. While walking around the outdoor market, we made our way to Drakes Circus, a large and modern indoor shopping center.

We then walked a few minutes to the Barbican, which displays the beautiful history of this old city with art stores and antique shops. Plymouth Harbor also exhibits where the Mayflower departed for America in 1620. The stairs that led to the Mayflower are located on the wharf of Barbican. At the top of the staircase is a memorial dedicated to the pilgrims.

I had the pleasure to enjoy the spa service on board the ship. Starting the cruise with a manicure and a deep tissue massage added to my relaxation as well as enjoyment of the cruise. The manicure was very good and the massage was one of the best I have ever had,  I actually fell asleep!

Our first formal night gave us a taste of the quality of service and food we would enjoy for the remainder of the cruise. Every course had its own special touch of excellence and the portions were moderate and incredible.

The next port was St. Helier, which is the largest of the twelve parishes of Jersey, on the English Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy. We took a bus tour around the island along the beautiful coasts dotted with parishes and towns. The scenery and the lush flowers were impressive, especially the 10-inch hydrangeas. We stopped to capture photos and to visit the Jersey Pottery Factory, a great spot to pick up some gifts and souvenirs.

One of the special activities on board was a cooking demonstration as the ship set sail. The demonstration was conducted by the head chef, Mario. The guest chef on board was Pascal, originally from Normandy, who now has a restaurant in Newport Beach, California, Traditions by Pascal. The different styles of cooking as well as their sense of humor were entertaining and informative. While chatting with Pascal about our plans, he had suggested that while in Rouen, we should dine and experience the Cathedral where they project Monet's works onto the building.

The next day we took the early tour into Rouen. It is a wonderful, charming city with an elegant touch of ancient architecture. The medieval half-timber houses line the cobblestone streets near the Cathedral. The embellished giant clock in this area adds to the unique charm of this wonderful city. This is also where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in 1431. A contemporary church stands in her remembrance with a concrete and metal cross showing the exact spot the burning took place.

The Cathedral is an absolute must-see. Built over hundreds of years, the vastness and detailed exterior, as well as the interior are just amazing. It has a unique history. During World War II the Germans had invaded the city and the Americans were bombing it. An architect involved with the church had all the stain glass windows removed and hidden. He then filled one area (the most likely if bombed to collapse the entire structure) with sand bags from floor to ceiling, which saved the church when it was bombed. 

Come back tomorrow for part 2!

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