Saint Maló / Mount Saint Michel, 4/20/2023, National Geographic Resolution
National Geographic Resolution
Europe & British Isles
National Geographic Resolution is up for all challenges. To dock in the city of Saint Maló, it is necessary to go through a lock with a mere 1.5-meter safety margin on each side. Captain Heidi and her crew of magnificent sailors expertly crossed the lock.
After arriving to the beautiful city of Saint Maló, some of us walked around the little shops and bought souvenirs. Hundreds of such shops are found among the city’s walled streets.
Others headed towards Mont Saint Michel, famous for being a fortress that can only be accessed at low tide. When it rises, the sea is in charge of defending this place that looks like it is from a fairytale. We walked through the streets and admired the architecture of such a place.
The sun was present all day. At sunset, Captain Heidi and her crew crossed the lock with the last rays of sun and headed for the Channel Islands.
It was time to say goodbye to Brittany and France and to begin our adventure in the United Kingdom.
The population of Wales is 3.1 million people and nearly 10 million sheep. Besides sheep, Wales is known for its rugged coastlines, mountainous national parks, melodic Welsh language, a rich mining history, and more castles per square mile than any country on Earth. After breakfast, we were given a short lesson on the Welsh language from our local guides before we disembarked from Zodiacs in the town of Holyhead. Holyhead is located on the island of Anglesey. It is a hiker’s paradise, part of a 200-km long Anglesey Coastal Walking Path. Luckily for us, hiking was one of three options for the day. Guests could also choose to explore Caernarfon Castle and Beaumaris Castle, two of King Edward I’s Iron Ring of Castles and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Guests could also learn about the slate industry in Wales and explore Snowdonia National Park and the UNESCO World Heritage Landscape of Northwest Wales. For those of us who chose to hike, we headed out with packed lunches on a 3.5-hour long hike of approximately 10 km along the Anglesey Coastal Walking path. Our guides were part of the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Team before retiring, and they shared stories of daring rescues. We returned by Zodiac for a light teatime. Our day ended with Captain’s Heidi Norling’s Farewell Cocktail Party and a wild trivia night hosted by the expedition team. Our trip on National Geographic Resolution flew by.
Crossing the vibrant blue bridge into the lush botanic garden of Tresco Island this morning felt like entering a tropical oasis – a delightful surprise on this remote English isle. Located twenty-eight miles off the southwestern tip of Cornwall, Tresco is just one of the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago that few are lucky enough to visit. Despite the peace found in its gardens, the treacherous reefs surrounding the isle have sent many a sailor to an early death. The Valhalla Museum, also located in the gardens, displays a collection of beautifully painted figureheads recovered from ships that ran aground near the isles. During our private tour, expert gardeners shared their knowledge of the enormous range of flowering plants. They inspired us with their passion for caring for this magical place. They explained how the North Atlantic Drift, an extension of the Gulf Stream, keeps the island unusually warm for its latitude. The garden is further sheltered by a protective wind belt of hardy trees. In the early 19th century, British politician and philanthropist Augustus Smith purchased the island and began to cultivate his romantic gardens around the ruins of an abandoned Benedictine abbey. The 17-acre gardens now boast 20,000 plants from 80 different countries, including subtropical plants from Mexico, Chile, South Africa, and the Canary Islands, all brought back to England by British travelers throughout the years. Red squirrels scampered up the trees, and pheasants wandered through the carefully planned lawns and flourishing flower gardens. After a brief downpour, the sun came out in full force, beautifully illuminating the droplets on the leaves and allowing for some stunning photos. We all left with huge smiles and a deep feeling of calm as we made our way back over the dunes to the Zodiac landing. During our relaxing afternoon at sea, we were treated to a wine tasting with copious amounts of fruit, cheese, and desserts. Afterwards, Joe Holliday provided entertainment with his presentation on the geology and plate tectonics that created the Europe we know today. Our delightful day aboard National Geographic Resolution ended with our Guest Slideshow. We enjoyed sharing memories of our voyage during the quiet evening before our final full day of adventure in Wales tomorrow.
This morning, we awoke on National Geographic Resolution in front of Penzance, a small coastal resort town in Cornwall in the southwest of England. We departed the ship for morning activities. Some guests went on a hike along a coastal sea cliff and to see the historic zinc mine ruins of Cornwall. This area was home to the biggest metal mining industry in Europe for thousands of years, with miners using the best mining technology throughout millennia. Guests learned about the tough working conditions, including tunnel collapses, breathing hazardous dust, and handling arsenic with bare hands. The most fascinating aspect of this story was the fact that 500,000 Cornwall emigrants moved across the world in the 1800s, spreading their knowledge about mining technology and methods in places like the Appalachians, California, Australia, Africa, and India. Another group went to St. Ives to walk around this beautiful coastal town that is known for surfing beaches and an art scene. A third group of guests walked through the beautiful town of Penzance, including the pedestrian street and the promenade along the beach. They visited the Penlee house, a mansion that houses an art museum and a gallery. For lunch, we all gathered in the historic Queens Hotel overlooking the beach. Guests had a sumptuous buffet of Cornish food, including pasties, fish and chips, and scones. A music duo performed local Cornish music with its Celtic sound and string instruments. An acapella singing choir performed a series of Cornish songs. To top off the cultural event, we observed folk dancing as musicians played. After lunch, we separated again for afternoon activities. One group went for a long, five-mile hike across the moors and natural landscapes of the strangely-named Lizard. Another group walked around the village. Throughout the afternoon, guests headed back to the ship to enjoy the amenities. The sun came out and those on the ship admired the sunlit Penzance coast and the offshore island abbey of St. Michael’s Mount. After a delicious dinner, we gathered in the lounge to hear historian Simone Edgar Holmes discuss castles throughout Europe and the world.