© Ray GoodfellowEaster with Brittany Ferries – April 2014

22nd April 2014 - Article published. Please be aware that this is a rather 'image heavy' post so may take a while to load, especially on slower internet connections or mobile devices. A number of Instagram images from this journey have also been uploaded to my Instagram account and can be viewed by clicking here. Once again a big thank you goes to Paul Cloke for his company on what was a very enjoyable trip ~ Ray

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Introduction

Last year myself and Paul Cloke undertook a couple of voyages with Brittany Ferries from Poole, Portsmouth, St Malo, Cherbourg and Caen. As we enjoyed this experience so much the last time and with a couple of weeks off work in the run up to the Easter break it seemed like a nice way of getting a break and getting away for a day.

This time we decided to travel overnight from Portsmouth on the Bretagne to St Malo and then take a gentle no hassle journey through the Normandy countryside up the coast to Caen for a return to Portsmouth on the Normandie. This would be our first time on the Normandie as on the two previous occasions we travelled to/from Caen we have sailed on the Mont St Michel.

As with previous journeys we had plenty of time before our 2015 departure to St Malo, therefore we decided to head over to the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel from Southampton to East Cowes for a couple of hours. This gave us the opportunity of experiencing the recently refurbished Red Falcon and to take a few photographs on Southampton Water.

As with previous voyage reports this is mainly going to be a captioned photo story of the actual journey and I do have to warn you in advance that this post, just like the last Brittany Ferries voyage report, contains photos of food! (I can see a pattern developing here) Some rather nice food if I am honest!

Southampton – Cowes – Southampton

I departed Dover for the outskirts of London to meet Paul by train at 0730 and by 0930 we were on the road heading for Southampton. This was actually an hour ahead of schedule as I was awake early, I usually am when I know that I am travelling, some may say I was a little eager, personally I am going to say “No Comment”. It was actually a good thing that we did leave early as the Easter traffic on the roads was heavy and by the time we had made it on to the M3 things were at a crawl and eventually came to a grinding halt due to an accident.

We had originally planned on catching the 1300 sailing from Southampton to Cowes but this was starting to look in doubt as we had been in stop start traffic for an hour and a half. We eventually made it to Southampton docks at 1300 and parked up. Thankfully for us the Red Falcon was running behind schedule so we did actually make our desired sailing. Upon boarding we were advised to find a seat as they were expecting 700 passengers on this crossing.

The weather in Southampton was glorious with lots of sunshine if not a little chilly due to a Northerly wind. We departed at 13:20 and soon we were underway down Southampton Water passing P&O Cruises Oriana which was on her berth having arrived earlier that morning.

The Red Falcon has recently received an extensive upgrade to her passenger accommodation with a new lounge which has been built on what was previously her sun deck. The internal refit has been completed to a very high standard with contemporary fixtures and fittings and she is looking in great shape. One of the drawbacks of the refit is that her forward outside viewing area has been significantly decreased in size and the new sun deck which has been provided above the new lounge is closed in the forward facing direction to enable the crew to see out of the bridge. Being a double ended ferry means that this reversed at each end of the journey, so in essence only the rear sun deck is open.

We were only in Cowes for a quick-lunch break before heading back to the mainland on the Red Eagle. The sailing back to Southampton was a lot quieter than the outward sailing and we practically spent the whole journey outside on the forward facing deck. During the journey we were passed at close quarters by a 142,000 ton container ship heading for the sea. Coming face to face with a ship this size made our little ferry feel very small indeed!

© Ray Goodfellow

The Red Falcon leads the Hapag Lloyd container vessel Basle Express down Southampton Water

© Ray Goodfellow

The 142,000 ton Hapag Lloyd container vessel Basle Express heads down Southampton Water

© Ray Goodfellow

The 142,000 ton Hapag Lloyd container vessel Basle Express heads down Southampton Water

© Ray Goodfellow

The Red Falcon heading for Cowes on the Isle of Wight

© Ray Goodfellow

The Red Jet 4 is seen heading up Southampton Water for Town Quay

© Ray Goodfellow

P&O Cruises Oriana seen berthed at the Ocean Cruise Terminal in Southampton

© Ray Goodfellow

P&O Cruises Oriana seen berthed at the Ocean Cruise Terminal in Southampton

© Ray Goodfellow

The Crystal Serenity, Eurocargo Salerno and the Grande Italia berthed in Southampton

© Ray Goodfellow

The Red Eagle approaches her berth in Southampton

© Ray Goodfellow

The Crystal Serenity berthed at the City Cruise Terminal

© Ray Goodfellow

The Hyundai Hope viewed at Southampton’s newest container terminal

Portsmouth – St Malo – MV Bretagne

After our arrival in Southampton from Cowes it was time to hit the road for our drive to Portsmouth and all too soon we were arriving at the Ferry Port to check in for our sailing overnight sailing to St Malo on the Bretagne. Once again Brittany Ferries came out very competitive with their day trip offer. In total we paid £150 for a car plus two passengers, that was with an outside club 4 berth cabin on the way out and a 2 berth inside cabin on the return leg from Caen, at £75 each I consider it be very good value for money. Trying to find a hotel on the South Coast over the Easter period would have been around the same price and we had the added bonus of a nice relaxing ferry crossing and a nice day in Normandy.

Security opened at 1815 and after a brief wait we were soon marshalled in the lanes waiting to board the Bretagne. It was evident that this sailing was going to be quite busy but then again not a surprise at Easter. When you consider the sheer volume of traffic that passes through the Port of Dover this time of year it’s hardly surprising.

After boarding the vessel we made our way to our cabin, ironically it was exactly the same cabin we had when we last travelled on the Bretagne and then headed up on to the outside deck to witness the sun going down over Portsmouth harbour. After some liquid refreshment we headed off to get changed ready for dinner and then headed back out on deck to witness our departure from Portsmouth.

© Ray Goodfellow

The Bretagne seen on her berth at Portsmouth International Port

© Ray Goodfellow

The sun setting over Portsmouth harbour

© Ray Goodfellow

Raising a glass to absent friends

After witnessing our departure we headed to the Les Abers a la carte restaurant for dinner. From our previous experience of this restaurant we were looking forward to the meal, some may say it’s the highlight of the trip and for me it definitely helped make the journey very enjoyable indeed. We were seated straight away and having studied the menu before leaving home we soon placed our order and were waiting in the beautiful surroundings of the restaurant. Just as the last time we travelled on the Bretagne we opted for the set price menu at £30.80

Starter

Variation autour de la coquille saint-jacques – scallops prepared and served in different styles

Starter

Pressé de tourteau, céleri coco – pressed crab with coconut and celery

Main Course

Filet mignon de porc laqué, miel et sésame – Glazed fillet  mignon of pork with honey and sesame

Cheese Course

Camembert en boite, chutney de pommes et de poires – baked camembert with apple and pear chutney

Dessert

Profiteroles a la vanille et au chocolat – profiteroles with vanilla ice cream served with cream and hot chocolate sauce

Once again Brittany Ferries and the Bretagne lived up to their reputation in providing the finest food and service available on a ferry. I have eaten a lot of ‘ferry food’ in my time and nothing compares to what I have experienced on this ship. Yes it wasn’t a cheap meal, it was a treat to celebrate Easter but that saying “You get what you pay for” does apply in this case. After a couple of drinks in the ‘Gwenn Ha Du’ lounge it was time to retire to our cabin as it was going to be an early start the following day.

After a very comfortable nights sleep I awoke at about 0545 and started to get myself sorted out. We were due to arrive in St Malo at 0715 and I was awake well before the customary 1 hour to arrival wake up call. A quick walk around the deck showed that we were not far from St Malo.

After a continental breakfast from the La Gerbe de Locronan café I headed up on deck to try to capture the sun rising over the ancient city of St Malo. Whilst out on deck on the approaches to St Malo we were passed by the ex SpeedOne of Speed Ferries now operating for Condor Ferries as the Condor Rapide duly making her way to the Channel Islands. We docked slightly ahead of schedule and were soon disembarking the ship and heading into St Malo. A French friend of mine and recommended a position on the hill to the south of the ferry terminal which gives good views of the ship on the berth so we headed here so I could get a few snaps.

© Ray Goodfellow

Sunrise over St Malo

© Ray Goodfellow

Sunrise over St Malo

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The Condor Rapide gets underway to the Channel Islands from St Malo

© Ray Goodfellow

The Condor Rapide gets underway to the Channel Islands from St Malo

© Ray Goodfellow

The Condor Rapide gets underway to the Channel Islands from St Malo

© Ray Goodfellow

The Condor Rapide gets underway to the Channel Islands from St Malo

© Ray Goodfellow

Panoramic image of the old town of St Malo and the port

© Ray Goodfellow

The classic Bretagne funnel and name board shot, sorry had to be done….

© Ray Goodfellow

The Bretagne on her berth

© Ray Goodfellow

The Bretagne on her berth

© Ray Goodfellow

The Mont St Michel

© Ray Goodfellow

The Mont St Michel

After an hour in St Malo we hit the road to start our journey to Caen and our 1630 departure to Portsmouth on the Normandie. We didn’t really have a timetable or plan for this part of the journey so took a nice slow journey around the coast until we reached the Mont St Michel and then we stopped in a delightful French town of Pontorson for a coffee and a break before continuing our journey to the city of Caen. We reached Caen in plenty of time and then we did the classic British in France routine, we headed to the supermarket to stock up on those french essentials of cheese, bread and cold meats.

Caen – Portsmouth – MV Normandie

After our little shopping trip it was time to head to the seaside town of Ouistreham (the ferry terminal for Caen). We checked in quite early and then headed into the terminal for refreshments and to use the free WiFi that is provided for ferry passengers. After an hour we saw the Normandie come into the port and swing on to her berth. After another hour we were called forward and boarded the Normandie. We were directed to a mezzanine car deck and to say that it was a bit tight would be an understatement, there was literally centimetres between the top out our car and the deck head. Although this was going to be a daytime crossing we still decided to book a cabin as it was only £10. At least it gave us somewhere to put our belongings and to get our heads down for a few hours.

This is the first time that we had travelled on the Normandie and I have to say I am very impressed with the vessel. In essence her layout is identical to that of her route mate the Mont St Michel but dating from 1992 she is a little older but she is clean, well-kept and a very well-appointed vessel. We departed the port of Ouistreham on time at 1630 and after watching our departure we decided to get a couple of hours sleep as it had been an early start.

Feeling refreshed after some sleep we headed to the ‘Riva Bella’ self service restaurant for some dinner. Again the food on Brittany Ferries is reasonably priced. I had a main meal, dessert and two drinks and it came to £12. After an hour of sitting in the restaurant watching the world go by I headed up on deck to try to capture the sunset as we approached the Isle of Wight. It wasn’t as impressive as the previous night but it was still photogenic. The rest of the voyage was spent on deck watching the sun go down over Portsmouth. As we approached Portsmouth the Bretagne was seen departing for another overnight crossing to St Malo.

© Ray Goodfellow

The Normandie preparing to sail to Portsmouth

© Ray Goodfellow

The Normandie preparing to sail for Portsmouth

© Ray Goodfellow

Mid Channel

© Ray Goodfellow

Mid Channel

© Ray Goodfellow

Sunset at sea

© Ray Goodfellow

Sunset at sea

© Ray Goodfellow

Sunset over the Isle of Wight

© Ray Goodfellow

Sunset over the Isle of Wight

© Ray Goodfellow

The Portsmouth skyline at dusk

© Ray Goodfellow

The Bretagne is seen departing Portsmouth for St Malo – that was us 24 hours earlier

Conclusion

Again this was another good experience of travelling with Brittany Ferries. Both vessels were brilliant. The Normandie just like her running mate the Mont St Michel is ideal for the length of crossing she sails on, she has extensive facilities and is very comfortable. One of the things I like about the Brittany Ferries fleet is each ship has its own identity, the ships are not built around a corporate brand, they are built around a theme and it gives each ship its own unique atmosphere and flavour.

I will admit that I do have a bit of a soft spot for the Bretagne having travelled on her twice now. I just like this ship, she feels homely and it will be a sad day when she leaves the fleet in a few years time. I hope I get to sail on her again in the near future.

I would also like to take this opportunity of thanking Paul Cloke for his company and for being my personal chauffeur during the trip. Finally a big thank you to the crews of both the Bretagne and the Normandie for making this yet another memorable trip to and from France with Brittany Ferries.

Best Wishes

Ray

 

All photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 550D and a Canon IXUS 132.

This article and unless otherwise stated, all photographs featured in this article are the copyright © of Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos) 2014, All rights reserved.


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