Biarritz darling…..sounds posh, and it is, but that’s where this second part of my blog live from Oceania Marina in Europe should have hailed from. Unfortunately the port from which you access the famous French surfing spot from, St. Jean de Luz, is one where ships anchor….and due to the swell, the captain deemed the us of tenders too dangerous so we upped anchor and continued on our way to Le Verdon, the port for Bordeaux.
Aside from our disappointment at missing Biarritz, it’s been a fascinating few days for sure. First we explored the beautiful Portuguese city of Lisbon on a stunning day, walking its cobbled streets, climbing up to the famous landmarks including Castillo Jorge, and enjoying a cold beer in a local “placa”.
After that, Marina headed out into the Atlantic and some inclement weather. Although the skies were deceptively blue and without a cloud to been seen, the seas were very rough and winds were gusting to 65mph at times. But it’s a good test of a ship’s metal and Marina handled it well, even if her design makes her a bit top heavy. Unfortunately it was also the first of only two sea days on a busy itinerary, so it didn’t turn out to be a sea day lingering on deck in the sun.
Back to food, briefly. We had booked ourselves into Red Ginger, another of the ship’s alternative venues which fuses many Asian cuisines into a highly eclectic menu. Before we’d gone beyond the first course we knew we would have to come back for more. This was really some of the most innovative and high quality cuisine we’ve encountered at sea.
Appetisers included a sushi and sashimi combo, which was melt-in-the-mouth fresh, followed by salads including a crispy duck and watermelon which was to die for. As for mains, choosing proved to be tricky, but we opted for an old favourite, red curry chicken, and an elaborate lobster pad thai, both of which were superb – the curry even made as spicy as we like which is usually around magnitude 8-9 on our heat richter scale.
So, on our bumpy sea day we had to abandon our plan to enjoy the deck and a spot of relaxing on either one of the super-comfy double sun loungers (a great idea Oceania), or hiding away in oases on either side of the pool one deck above as it was way too windy and chilly. Instead we explored some of Marina’s other facilities while idling the time away until dinner, which was going to be at another alternative venue, the Italian Toscana.
If you are up too late for lunch in the buffet, as we were, you can eat at Waves Cafe on the pool deck, which offers salads, burgers, hot dogs and toasted sandwiches done in style. The Margau burger, for example, is a piece of fresh seared tuna served with salad in a gourmet bun. The ship also has a nice cafe, Barristas, overlooking the pool deck and conveniently situated between the library and the internet cafe. It’s a lovely spot, but a shame they don’t serve coffees in a cup, only takeaway containers.
The shops down on deck five are also very upmarket, selling designer watches and jewellery, clothes, beauty products and so on….haven’t actually been in there yet, but have only passed by. As for the bars, favourites so far include Martinis, with its classic menu and contemporary design, for our pre-dinner cocktail of the day, a Manhattan, we headed up to Horizons. This is the bar with a view, and it was fascinating watching the rough seas before heading to dinner.
On our sea day we ventured to another alternative restaurant for dinner, Polo Grill. It has the design of a classic New York steak house with lots of dark wood and red leather upholstery, and a menu of sumptuous dishes including a wide variety of steaks, seafood and surf and turf options for those who can’t choose. Like all of Marina’s dining venues, it proved to be one to return to, and the maitre’d has promised to seat us again before the cruise ends if we can wait until late.
Today our port of call was Le Verdon, the port serving Bordeaux, and from here there are two main touring choices – the city of Bordeaux and the wine country, or the local beach town of Soulac sur Mer, which was in the throes of an annual festival Soulac 1900. It was a difficult choice, but we decided to go local.
The town was picturesque, with a pretty beach front, lots of bars and cafes heaving with people, and locals dressed up in Victorian costume – it was all very lively, festive and traditional French fun. There was a circus, a traditional market, bands playing and a chanteuse on stilts singing Edith Piaf hits. We spent half a day there enjoying the festivities with the locals and wine shopping…well, we were in Bordeaux!
Back on the ship later, Li Na had one the women’s French Open final in Paris but a late rainstorm thwarted our plans to eat al fresco at The Terrace Cafe. Oh well, it’s back to the main dining room for us….hardly shabby given the menu at our last visit and they always manage to find us a cozy table for two with a view….that’s life on Marina!
The next part of this blog will be on Tuesday after a few more French ports of call including La Rochelle tomorrow, Concarneau on Monday and St. Malo on Tuesday, unless the swells rule out the latter. And beyond that there’s still two great capitals to come – Paris and Copenhagen. Happy Cruising!