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  1. I’ve just returned from a Brittany Ferries holiday just outside St Malo, where we stayed in a very pleasant Apartment overlooking the beach. We had originally planned to stay in Les Sables d’or Les Pins, but due to various factors this had to be changed and so therefore did our crossings. I hadn’t sailed on Bretagne since 2010 and so I thought a crossing during her thirtieth year was a must, but we also wanted to visit the D-Day beaches since we had never done so before. In addition to this, I also wanted to try out a new route, as well as the much talked about ‘Visentini’ vessel, so we elected to return via Le Havre on the Etretat. Bretagne to St Malo – 14/10/19 We arrived in Portsmouth in plenty of time to see her arrive from the comfortable surroundings of the Still and West. Having made our way along to the port just after 19.00hrs, we waited to board for at least thirty minutes before eventually being called forwards and directed up to deck 5. We soon found our cabin, no. 6502, which was a very clean and well-presented four-berth ‘club’ class complete with TV and Kettle etc. After a brief visit to the perfume boutique, we made our way to the front of the self-service to see if I could remember how to get out on to the bow; fortunately, I could and we found ourselves to be the sole passengers watching our departure from this unique vantage point. Once we were out in to the Solent, it was time to think about dinner and we had decided to eat in Les Abers if we could. I was also keen to have a drink the Yacht Club bar, since I’d always found it to be closed on previous crossings, so we had a pre-dinner beer there. I liked this area a lot, especially once the Pianist arrived, and thought the ‘Lighthouse’ style lamp behind the bar was a very nice, striking feature. What was less pleasant was the amount of dust and dirt around the brass (?) window frames, but hopefully this is something which can be rectified at her forthcoming refit. Our meal in the restaurant was wonderful, with excellent food and service to match. The sailing was quite busy and there weren’t many empty tables to be seen. We opted for the buffet starters and desserts, and my main course of Halibut with Chorizo was just perfect. Many people sing the praises of this particular restaurant and it’s easy to see why, it has a timeless quality to it and is, I think, slightly more enjoyable than the similar Le Flora on Pont-Aven. We finished off our evening in the Gwenn Ha Du bar where there was still a few people scattered around. Whilst sat with our drinks the young entertainment manager came up to us and asked if we were enjoying our crossing, if we’d enjoyed the food, entertainment etc and where we were going to; presumably he’d been instructed to carry out some market research, in any case we gave him glowing reviews which he seemed more than happy with. After a very comfortable night’s sleep in what proved to be a remarkably rattle and vibration-free cabin, the familiar music proved a very abrupt awakening. I opened the curtains to see us very slowly approaching St Malo and so, after a quick Coffee, I made my way up to see us gradually edging on to the berth. Shortly afterwards we made our way back down to deck 5 where we waited for around 25 minutes before we were underway and off in to France. Nine years after my last sailing on Bretagne, it really was great to be back. Overall she looked to be in excellent shape and I was particularly impressed by how well presented our cabin was, especially given some of the negative comments I’ve read over recent months. I’m a big fan of this ship and I really hope she will be around for us all to enjoy for at least a few more years. Etretat to Portsmouth – 22/10/19 In many ways it would have made more sense for us to have taken an afternoon or overnight sailing from Ouistreham, but since we’d never used Le Havre before or sailed on a Vissentini, we decided to give it a try. Getting to Le Havre was an interesting experience, particularly driving over the Pont de Normandie. It seemed to take a long time to get to the docks but since Le Havre is quite a large city this perhaps isn’t too surprising. We found the Brittany Ferries signs easily enough and were soon checked-in and parked in the boarding lane. After about 15 minutes of waiting, we were called forward to board. I’d read various reports over the years about the parking arrangements for cars on this type of vessel, so was prepared to have to park on the upper deck near the funnel, however I was struck by just how steep the ramp was – definitely a first gear job. Having parked up we made our way inside via long corridor which led to the reception area on deck 5. We had booked an outside 4-berth cabin for the crossing but it was explained to us at check-in that rather than using our boarding cards, we would need to obtain a code from reception in order to open the door. The cabin itself was very pleasant, clean and spacious, with attractive wooden bunk-beds; it was more than adequate for our needs. Navigating our way around Etretat was not difficult and did not take long either since all of the passenger facilities are on deck 5, with the cabins on deck 6. We made our way out on the outside deck at the stern on deck 6, past the many ‘pet friendly’ cabins. Whilst it had been largely warm and sunny, a layer of mist had descended around the port which made viewing our surroundings difficult, in particular the adjacent cruise ship AIDAMAR. Despite this, I thought Le Havre looked quite impressive and definitely worthy of further exploration on a future visit. Etretat left her berth shortly after 17.00hrs and once clear of the breakwaters sounded her fog horn a few times as we headed out in to the Channel. We spent most of the crossing in our cabin, in the bar area or out on deck. The atmosphere on board seemed very quiet and relaxed and we actually found it the perfect way to ‘chill out’ at the end of our holiday. Around 7.00pm we went along to the self-service restaurant to see what was on offer for dinner. I ordered the beef complete peppercorn sauce, chips and vegetables and have to say it was delicious, certainly one of the better meals I’ve enjoyed at sea. The restaurant clearly does not have the ambience or glamour of Les Abers, but it was never intended to; Instead what it did offer was a very good meal, reasonably priced, with pleasant service and comfortable surroundings. All too soon the Isle of Wight came in to view and it was not long before we were passing the Spinnaker tower and heading towards the berth, adjacent to the Mont St Michel which we had seen in the distance for most of the crossing. Once back at our car, it became clear that we would be required to reverse some distance in order to drive back down the ramp; this was a first for me and this was one of those occasions where a reversing camera is useful. I did wonder why we had not been asked to reverse in to position when boarding, particularly since the deck was less than half full. After a brief delay whilst waiting for Border Force to check our passports, we were away and off in to the night. In conclusion then, two very pleasant crossings on two very different vessels, but both seemed to suit their individual roles very well. In my opinion, both offer the hospitality which distinguishes Brittany Ferries from the rest, albeit in different ways. Would I sail on Etretat or one of her sisters again? Definitely.
  2. Bretagne has been a familiar sight in Portsmouth for over 25 years, and this weekend she is celebrating her 30th birthday. She was the first fully commissioned cruise-ship for Brittany Ferries and a great achievement for a company that was relatively new. Since being launched from the Chantiers de L’Atlantique in St Nazaire, she has become a moving tribute to the hard work and determination of the Breton farming cooperative that started the company, bearing the same name as the region in which the company began and their headquarters still remain. Bretagne is one-of-a-kind, thanks to the work of a Scotsman named Alexander Goudie. Described as a floating art gallery, three hundred original pieces of art are displayed on-board in honour of Brittany. Ceramics, drawings and paintings were all passionately designed around a region he adored. Regular travellers on the Bretagne are well-versed on how to make the most of the crossing, beginning with a drink in the piano bar, followed by a meal in Les Abers restaurant, lovingly described as the place to eat on the English Channel. Happy and full, passengers retire to a comfortable cabin for a good night’s sleep ready for their arrival in St Malo. So, please join us to raise a glass to Bretagne, for she is a jolly good ferry which nobody can deny!
  3. Whilst waiting to depart Portsmouth today. And view of one bed!
  4. Managed to get up early enough to get some shots of Bretagne departing this morning, interestingly she had a drone following her all the way out of St Malo past the small islands was a perfect day for it. It’s MS Europa in the background of the first shot thankfully no big cruise ships docking.
  5. Back in October, we had the phone call that all parents fear: "Your daughter is in our Critical Care Unit and her condition could change at any moment. You may want to consider coming to see her". And so the phone was hot, amongst other things for booking crossings. Outbound we had to settle for Dieppe to Newhaven, and the little Transmanche ferry coped valiantly in the wild seas that night. But as our daughter's condition improved over the following weeks, we granted ourselves a ten-day return home, sailing in each direction aboard Bretagne - our first crossing on board this vessel. It pains me to read elsewhere on the forum that this fine ship is due for replacement. No other cross-Channel ship we've been on attains this class of public space. The central atrium with its beautiful portrayal of Breton customs was nothing short of stunning. The merits of Les Abers restaurant are well-known to members here, and I can only reinforce the impression of beautiful French presentation and cooking, with frankly excellent value in the buffet menu. The professionalism of the dining room staff is a sheer delight - how wonderful to have food and wine served so correctly, especially after the amateur sloppiness encountered so often in UK hotels and restaurants. (During one short break we took near Chester, in a three-star hotel aspiring to greater things, the Maître d' couldn't even find a corkscrew, and I had to lend him my Swiss Army knife!) Brief wanders around the ship revealed the tasteful fixtures and fittings, and quickly established Bretagne as a strong favourite. She had actually struck up an emotional attachment with us! She has a character of her own. This last weekend, we again returned home to France from Portsmouth, but this time travelling aboard Pont-Aven. Again, this was a first experience of this ship. The La Flora restaurant struck us as pretty much the same as Les Abers. In fact we recognised some of the same staff from Bretagne, and indeed at breakfast this lead to a shaking of hands. We ate very well, enjoying the same high standards of cuisine and service for both dinner and breakfast. But outside the restaurant we felt that Pont-Aven was less charismatic than Bretagne, with the dull brown showcases running along the decks more functional than decorative. She seemed to be more of a mass-transportation device than Bretagne, with a far less impressive central area, where neither lift was operational, unfortunately. Aboard Bretagne we used 2/4-berth outside cabins; on Pont-Aven we had a Club cabin (5488, I remember). I don't really consider the Club cabins to be worth the extra. My wife watched one TV programme, but we didn't use the tea/coffee making facility at all. So BF have two new fans for Bretagne; Pont-Aven we liked, certainly, but she remains more anonymous. I certainly hope we'll have more crossings on Bretagne. We'll be back in the UK for our daughter's discharge from hospital, to help ease her in to domestic life and help her feel safe with stairs and using the bathroom. That's going to be within three to five weeks, we think. Sadly, Bretagne doesn't take up the route again until 28 March. Looks like we'll have a second opportunity to get to know Pont-Aven better.
  6. I just wanted to share some photos from my new vantage point in Gosport since I started working for the National Coastwatch (NCI) based in Fort Blockhouse. 'Pont-Aven' departing Portsmouth for Santander (21/03/17) 'Baie de Seine' departing Portsmouth for Le Havre (21/03/17) 'Mont St Michel' departing Portsmouth for Ouistreham (06/03/17) 'Amorique' arriving in Portsmouth from Ouistreham (05/02/17) More to follow as I get them....................!
  7. Just returned from a weekend trip in St Malo. Outbound Outbound, we travelled Friday overnight on the Mont St Michel to Caen, departing at 22:00. We wanted to try a new ship and dad was happy to drive down the following morning. We arrived in Portsmouth relatively early, and had to wait for check in. It was funny seeing the number of cars for the Pont-Aven to St Malo turning up last minute. By the time we had gone through security, Pont-Aven had departed. The crossing was as expected, rather busy being a Friday night and Etretat delayed from dry dock. Thus, there was a good number of Lorries waiting to board. We were parked on the mezzanine platform Deck 6. We had a bite to eat in the Self-Service, and had a quick explore before heading to bed. By the time we had booked the crossing, all 2 berths had been booked out so we had to book a 4 berth inside. However, this was better as we were on Deck 9 rather than Deck 7. We had a very comfortable quiet night sleep and at times, it didn’t feel like we were on a boat! Arrival was early, but this was a sacrifice we made. After a quick croissant (we didn’t use the new order night before service), we were soon off the boat and on the road. We contemplated having a look around locally, however it was dark and early, so we decided to hit the road. Return We enjoyed a nice day in St Malo on the Saturday having a walk around and a bite to eat in the Intra-Muros. Popped into E.Leclerc for some bits. We returned on the 10:30 day crossing on the Bretagne. We woke up early on Sunday morning to see her arrive. I thought the crossing was going to be quiet, but there was good number of cars waiting. In fact, Deck 5 was almost full. After some breakfast, we went for a sleep in our 2 berth inside cabin on Deck 8. Had a wander on the outside decks and sat in the bar. For dinner, I wanted the lasagne which was on the menu but unfortunately they didn’t have any left. However, the ‘plat du jour’ was Beef Bourguignon which I had enjoyed previously. I even treated myself to one of the desserts. Arriving in Portsmouth, the front deck was closed off, so we stood towards the front of the starboard side of Deck 9, just below the bridge. Disembarkation was swift, and we were soon off onto the M275 home. Thoughts We were very impressed with the Mont St Michel. The ship is modern, comfortable and as I said, it didn’t feel like we were on a boat. The cabin was quiet but then we were on deck 9! The ship is well laid out and nicely furnished. We would certainly travel on her again. I also really enjoyed the crossing on Bretagne, I always do, she never fails to disappoint! Noticed some new carpet in places and some new panelling around the ship including new panels to indicate what was on each deck. It was nice to see she is still being cared for.
  8. Andy

    Bretagne dressed overall

    Bretagne dressed overall on the occasion of 40th anniversary of Portsmouth International Port and 30 years of Portsmouth/Caen route.
  9. Andy

    Bretagne dressed overall

    Bretagne dressed overall on the occasion of 40th anniversary of Portsmouth International Port and 30 years of Portsmouth/Caen route.
  10. Came across this on the interweb, dating form 2010. A great shot taken from Bretagne's helipad (Cantabrian mountains in background). https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/pic/?o=1fs&pic_id=822542&size=large&v=3
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