Saturday, September 29, 2012

Goldring Travel's 2012 Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Pride - Part III (Storms A Brewing...And A Double Rainbow!)

We sailed out of Dover with sunny skies and calm seas as we started our fourteen day cruise on the Seabourn Pride.  

It was a most pleasant evening.  We popped up to the Sky Bar shortly after departure as the ship began her very slow transit to Le Havre, France.  It was then time to freshen up for dinner.  Having spent a good bit of time with some of those on the 2012 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise in Dover, I was up for a nice dinner alone with my wife. 

We arrived at The Restaurant for dinner at about 8:00 p.m. and, surprisingly, there were no tables for two.  We were advised it would be about 20 minutes before there would be any; not a problem as we were just as happy to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail in The Club.  But only two sips later our table was ready…and both the food and service was impeccable.  (To be honest, there were a couple of hiccups in the dining room that affected a few guests should not have happened, but that aside it was a wonderful evening.)  After dinner we wandered over to the Sky Bar, settled into the comfortable sofas (a new addition for us) and I had a nice scotch and a cigar.

The next morning we awoke in Le Havre, France to some rather unpleasant weather.   There was rain and wind and more rain and wind, so many of us declared it a “sea day”.  I really didn’t have any plans as I was looking forward to resting up after a rather hectic schedule leading up to the cruise.  But in the afternoon the wind and rain quieted so we thought we would spend a couple of hours looking around Le Havre.  Honestly, it would not take more than a couple of hours (save if you went to the museums…one of which I heard was delightful) as it was a dreary Sunday and everything…and I mean everything…was closed.  We did stop at the local mall to pick up some things we forgot, but the mall was small and the prices were high, so it was back onto the complimentary Seabourn shuttle to the ship.

Apparently, because we were overnighting, the dress was Resort Casual  for the second night in a row.  We dined with a couple that has been on every Food & Wine Cruise and love the entire Seabourn experience…including knowing that when they board, the gluten-free breadsticks, bread and adjusted menu will be provided without them saying a word.  (As a note of interest, on this cruise my client is the only person who requires a gluten-free diet and for Seabourn it requires special preparation for one guest every single day…and it is done without hesitation or cutbacks.  More breadsticks?  No problem!)  A fantastic dining experience and my wife’s veal was one of the best preparations I have ever tasted. 

After a bit of a too long of a night we were up and ready to…encounter gale force winds and incredible rain yet again.  We had made plans with some others in our group to venture over the Honfleur, France and decided to brave it nonetheless.  That is right up until it got so bad that they had to close the gangway 10 minutes before we were going to leave.  (We had arranged for a taxi to take us there and then pick us up two hours later for 125 Euros). 

Well, the winds quieted and the gangway opened about noon, so we decided to give it a shot.  Our taxi driver was still waiting for us and the four of us were off.  (One thing to note is that the cruise terminal is ridiculously located, so it takes you about 10 minutes just to get to the other side of the port.)  As we drove the skies started to brighten and by the time we arrived in Honfleur there was almost sunshine.  Our taxi took us to the Church of the Mariners

and then to a lookout point that, incredibly after our weather, had a fantastic view. 

It was then on to Honfleur for a walk around and moules & frites (mussels and French fries).

As our car pulled the blue sky arrived with a very welcome brilliant sun.  We visited an ancient wooden church (used more for praying than showing off, to be sure) and strolled the streets peaking in some very interesting art galleries and chocolate shops (way too expensive…and my wife was very happy with her bags of just purchased English chocolates!)

A shop specializing in Calvados caught my eye.  Calvados has never been a favorite of mine, but I figured it is the Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise and calvados is about as typical of the region as anything could be.  This shop had just about any variety and style of calvados you could imagine.  So we had a little tasting and eventually settled on a 20 year calvados to have as part of our Food & Wine Tasting on the last sea day.

We then strolled the restaurants lining the quay and settled on one that was actually not my first choice, but they were serving skate that one of our friends wanted.  Sitting at two small tables we enjoyed a three course meal for about 20 Euros; the star of which was, of course, mussels in wine and garlic with a touch of cream with a couple of glasses of Muscadet wine.  (the oysters weren't too bad either!)  Yes, I did eat the entire pot of mussels and dipped the baguette in the juice that remained.  It was a surprising and wonderful day.

As we departed LeHavre, the captain announced that we would be having some seas on our way to St. Peter Port, Guernsey and that we should secure everything in our suites.  This is not a good sign!  He also advised that we might need to skip our next port due to the seas, but that we might be able to overnight in the following port of Falmouth.

We dined with Captain Jensen along with another couple from our group and an Australian couple we had met on the Seabourn Sojourn during last year’s Food & Wine Cruise from Quebec City to New York.  It was a very enjoyable evening, though I have to say Captain Jensen’s Danish accent was a bit more challenging than the Norwegian ones I have encountered.  He is a very pleasant and good natured man, thought I really didn’t have enough of a chance to chat with him as much as I would have liked.

The next morning around 6:00 a.m. the Captain Jensen had the Seabourn Pride poke around the island trying to see if there was any way we could tender to the island.  About 7:00 a.m. the engines were put into full gear and, unfortunately, we missed St. Peter Port.  There were a number of very disappointed guests, but I believe they were firmly outnumbered by the number of guests who were feeling the ill-effects of some fairly rough seas.  (Though with 140 repeat Seabourn guests, it was a fairly hearty showing about the ship.)

So it was to be another sea day and I was very happy.  (My wife, however, still gaining her sea legs…and stomach…was of another mood!)

As we approached Falmouth, England about 4:00 p.m. the seas calmed, the wind subsided and the quaint bay and town came into view.  With spirits rising (and my wife rising out of bed), plans to “hit the town’ were made.

And then I was told that our Shopping with the Chef was cancelled by the fish market we were going to visit.  No real excuse, but months of planning, all the preparation by Chef Kurt Timmermans and Culinary Operations Manager Bjoern Wassmuth and myself were tossed out the window by David Seabourne, of Seabourne Fish Market with no real excuse or reason.  It was going to be a wonderful event, but it was what it was and doing business with the Seabourne Fish Market in Cornwall is not high on my list of companies with integrity to do business with.  Chef Kurt was so concerned about finding an alternative, but as my quick dash into Falmouth soon confirmed, another option being arranged at the last minute wasn’t going to happen. 

But when traveling expecting perfection is unrealistic...unless, of course, you are looking for a spectacular double rainbow as we approached Falmouth Harbor!

What did we do in Falmouth? We got over it, worked on some alternative plans and had a great time.