Thursday morning my 17-year-old daughter Britton and I leave London for Southampton, where we’ll step aboard the lovely Silver Whisper.
We have an exciting itinerary, with two ports of call in France, including an overnight in beautiful Bordeaux (Silver Whisper is small enough to dock alongside in the city center), four ports of call in Spain and ending in Lisbon.
I’ve included the full itinerary below. If you’ve been to any of these ports and have tips for us, please let us know in the comments section below. Clicking on the links in the table will take you to Avid Cruiser’s Port Profiles if you’d like to learn more about these ports.
|26 Jul 2012||Thu||Southampton, UK||18:00|
|27 Jul 2012||Fri||Day at Sea|
|28 Jul 2012||Sat||Bordeaux, France||16:00|
|29 Jul 2012||Sun||Bordeaux, France||17:30|
|30 Jul 2012||Mon||St Jean De Luz||08:00||23:00|
|31 Jul 2012||Tue||Bilbao, Spain||08:00||20:00|
|01 Aug 2012||Wed||Gijon||08:00||18:00|
|02 Aug 2012||Thu||La Coruña, Spain||08:00||18:00|
|03 Aug 2012||Fri||Vigo, Spain||08:00||14:00|
|04 Aug 2012||Sat||Lisbon, Portugal||07:00|
We’re excited about our tours. Of the ones we’re sure we want to do, I’ve taken the descriptions straight from Silversea’s website.
But we’d like to do one more. Can you help us decide? Check out the shore excursions here, and let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Here are the tours we’re doing:
UNESCO Village of St Emilion
29 Jul 2012 | 4-4.5 Hours | Morning
Explore the Old World history and landmarks of St. Emilion during a half-day sightseeing excursion to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Depart the pier for the scenic, approximate one-hour drive to the vineyards of the Pomerol and St. Emilion regions. The celebrated vineyards of St. Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are among the most famous and attractive destinations in the Bordeaux region. The vineyards reach all the way up to St. Emilion’s 13th-century town walls.
St. Emilion Walking Tour
Upon arrival in St. Emilion, take a guided walking tour of the village and its underground monuments. Along the way, visit landmarks that include the Collegiale Church and its magnificent, 12th-century cloister, the 12th-century ramparts, the marketplace and Eglise Monolithe, the largest underground church in Europe. Adjacent to the church, the catacombs include a charnel house and numerous sepulchers dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.
Additional sights to be seen include a natural grotto known as the Hermitage, the Cadene Gate and the King’s Tower. After your guided visit, some free time is made available to explore the village and browse the shops at your leisure before re-boarding the coach for the approximately one-hour drive back to the pier.
30 Jul 2012 | 7 Hours | Morning
Discover Ernest Hemingway’s connection to Pamplona during this Silver Shore Collection.
Depart the pier for the scenic, approximate 1.75 hour drive to Pamplona. Ernest Hemingway first visited Pamplona in July 1923 during the San Fermin Festival. The city’s atmosphere and the Running of the Bulls made such an impression on Hemingway that he chose the fiesta as the backdrop for his first successful novel, The Sun Also Rises.
Hemingway returned to Pamplona on eight more occasions and his association with Pamplona converted a simple local festivity into one of the world’s most famous celebrations, as well as a destination for thousands of foreign tourists.
Old Town Walking Tour
Begin your walking tour of Pamplona at the Plaza del Castillo, the centre of the Old Town. Hemingway frequented many establishments here, including the Hotel La Perla, where he would watch the bull-running from, and the Café Iruna, one of his favourite haunts. During a refreshment stop here, see a bronze, life-sized sculpture of Hemingway.
Plaza de Toros and Hemingway Monument
Next, proceed to the Plaza de Toros bullfighting arena. The Hemingway Monument, a 17,637-pound (8,000-kilogram) block of granite, stands in front of the bullring and was dedicated to the writer by the city of Pamplona in 1968.
Cathedral and City Hall
Stroll down the famous Estafeta Street en route to the 15th-century Cathedral that overlooks the city. Take in panoramic vistas from atop the city walls located behind the Cathedral at the Baluarte de Redin. From here, follow the Street of Pilgrims, or ‘Rua de los Peregrinos’ to City Hall. Built in 1756 with a Baroque façade, City Hall is the launch site for the ‘Chupinazo’, or rockets that mark the beginning of the San Fermin Festival.
Shopping and Tapas Lunch
At the conclusion of your walking tour, some free time is made available for shopping and independent exploration before a tapas lunch. After lunch, re-board your coach and commence the approximate 1.75-hour drive back to the pier.
Bilbao & Guggenheim Museum
31 Jul 2012 | 5.5 Hours | Morning
Explore the history, art and architecture of Bilbao during this picturesque excursion to the Guggenheim Museum, and a walking tour through the Old Quarter.
Depart the pier for the scenic, approximate one-hour drive along the estuary, then pass through the industrial outskirts of Bilbao and take in the splendid view from Mount Artxanda. From here, continue down the city’s main thoroughfare, Gran Via, which reflects Bilbao’s 19th-century mining and industrial prosperity.
Upon arrival in the heart of the city, proceed for a visit to the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art. Built by renowned architect Frank O. Gehry, this masterpiece in flowing titanium and limestone reflects Bilbao’s heritage with its suggestion of maritime shapes and sails. The building is covered with over 35,000 titanium tiles and pieces of glass strategically placed to catch the natural light. After your guided tour, some free time is provided to explore the museum at your leisure.
Next, re-board your coach for the drive to the Old Quarter, or ‘Casco Viejo’, located on the right-bank of the Nervion River. During your walking tour, see the 14th-century Gothic Cathedral, Arriaga Theatre, Plaza Nueva and the Bilbao Ria, which separates the old and new cities.
Some free time is also made available to browse the chic boutiques, perfume stores, cafes and restaurants at your leisure before commencing the approximate 45-minute drive back to the pier.
You are so lucky to be overnighting in Bordeaux, and to be docked right in the city. I was on Oceania MARINA in late May/early June, sailing from Rome to Dover, but MARINA (at 66,000 tons) is too big to get up-river at Bordeaux, and she had to dock two hours away by bus. There is so much to see in Bordeaux, both in the beautiful 17th-18th Century centre, packed as it is with great restaurants and exquisitely beautiful buildings, but in the wine regions which surround it. You are going to St Emilion, but if you have the chance you should try to see the vineyards and great chateaux of the other side of the river, the Médoc. There you have famous chateaux like Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Leoville-Barton, Pichon Longueville (Le Baron and Comtesse de Lalande), du Tertre, Palmer … the list goes on.
In Bilbao you will be fortunate because the Guggenheim, itself a stunning, exciting building, currently has an exhibition of David Hockney’s Yorkshire landscapes. They aren’t to everyone’s taste, but for me some of them are fabulous: brilliant, primary colours, huge multi-part “paintings” and smaller, more intimate pieces. The exhibition was originally shown in the Royal Academy in London, but the dramatic setting of the vast Guggenheim rooms really displays the paintings to great advantage. I’m sure you will enjoy it.
I just discovered this post and it’s far beyond 2012, but in case anyone would be looking for more tips, I thought I’d chime in. I visited the Basque region on a Rick Steve’s tour in 2012 which included Bilbao. If you go to the Guggenheim, I recommend eating lunch at the restaurant there, it was exquisite. They would not let our entire group of 25 come in, but my spouse and I went on our own and no problem getting a table. I would return there in a heartbeat, fantastic.