Even from Deck 5 (forward) I can hear the anchor being deployed as Le Soléal lingers off the coast of Guernsey this morning. That's a sure sign that we will be tendering into the port city of St. Peter Port.
In the Middle Ages, Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, was a notorious haven for pirates. By the 19th century it became famous as a summer resort for wealthy Victorians. But, its easy reach from Normandy made it a strategic target when it was seized by German forces during WWII. Fortifications, bunkers, pill boxes and observation towers built by the Nazis are still present on the island.
Tauck offered four different excursion choices in Guernsey and I chose the most physically demanding: the "Cliff Top Hike and Gin Tasting." After a short tender ride from the ship to shore, we met our local guide, Gill. She escorted us to a minivan for a 15-minute ride to the starting point of our hike.
Our hike begins atop the cliffs of Guernsey, with a clear view of the city below and La Soléal anchored in the distance. The walking path soon narrows, allowing only single-file hiking.
Guests choosing this excursion should be in good physical health. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are a must. There is uneven terrain, rocks and many steps. I was wearing a brand new pair of Skechers and was surprised how well they performed. Tauck claims that it is a Level 4 activity and I would certainly agree.
Our first rest stop was a WWII German bunker.
This was the first time most of us had ever had the opportunity to go inside an actual bunker, and it was quite interesting. After our brief bunker visit, the hike continues down the path and around the island. The wildflowers along the hiking path are in full bloom.
Gill would periodically stop along the trail to allow guests a chance to catch their breath and take a drink of water as she described the terrain, or the significance of what we could view from the current vantage point. I have to say, the views were incredible. And, we had the benefit of perfect weather.
By the end of the hike, I was ready for a rest. The hike was truly exhilarating and Gill kept a good pace. I have been in need of some exercise, and I got it! Our hike ends at Bella Luce, a luxury boutique hotel where they distill their own gin.
When we enter the bar at Bella Luce, a bartender is pouring each of us a gin and tonic using one of their own house gins.
We all sat at a large table in a private dining room and enjoyed our late-morning gin and tonic. Soon, a representative of the hotel shows up and begins educating us about gin. She went into great detail about how gin us distilled, and how different gins will have different flavors based on the spices used in the distilling process. Who knew?
We were given the opportunity to taste four different gins, and I was surprised at how different each one tasted. You really can tell a difference. I am not a gin drinker, but I have a new appreciation for the spirit after this tasting. It was one of the most unique and educational tastings I have ever attended. As we departed the tasting room, we were invited to view the still that is currently in use to make a batch of house gin.
All in all, today's excursion was one of my all-time favorites. Great weather, good exercise, beautiful scenery and a little booze at 11am in the morning. What more could you want? Sadly, this is our last day aboard Le Soléal, but the trip is not over. Tomorrow, we will be in Portsmouth where we will disembark. Still more to come.