Notes from Puzzle Palace

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Brest, Saint Malo, and another sea day

12 May

Brest France

On this day we opted not to have a shore excursion.  George and I had decided that we wanted to do a puzzle hunt so I went online to see what I could see. Sure enough!  I found puzzle shops!  2 that I really wanted to go to and about 4 more that were optional.  So off we went.

I decided that since we were being bussed into town that perhaps scooting would not be the best thing to do today.  We hopped a bus after we had our nasal swab (still negative) and off we went. I got a kick out of the way they moved house here. 

When the bus let us off, I discovered yet another game shop just across from the drop off point. Of course, that one wasn’t on my list so we decided to take a look inside.  Pay dirt!  We found 13 puzzle games in here that we didn’t have.  It was a lot to carry so we left the puzzles in the shop and carried on to the next one.  

The second shop we stopped at I had vetoed originally because it was a baby store.  We went inside and I found about 8 puzzles I would have liked to have gotten but George said no because it was too much to carry right away.  We agreed that I would run into this shop after we picked up our first purchase.

From here we went to the next game shop which turned out to be just that.  A game shop.  Role playing.  Not our thing so we moved on to the last shop. Once again we found puzzles that we didn’t have.  7 more this time.  We paid for them and headed back to the first shop to get our first purchases.  

George was taking them to the bus stop to wait while I headed back to the 'baby store'.  Sadly, as I was crossing the road I saw our bus and decided to pass on it.  Thankfully I took photos of most of what I wanted to purchase and was able to find them on the internet.  I just ordered them and had them sent to Puzzle Palace. 

Our final stop was for me to buy some of that dangerous milk. This time I bought two liters to go a bit further on. We boarded the bus and our next stop was lunch. Along the way I found a car I'd like to buy for zipping around town.

We had met some fellow guests and had originally planned to eat with them, but when they went on a long walk hunting mussels we opted out.  We found a nice little cafe, had some cheese bread, a salad and the usual glass of wine and a beer and we were happy.  

After lunch we walked back to the ship and the rest as they say is history.  

Friday the 13th of May

Saint Malo

Oh no!  Bad luck this morning upon waking up and seeing the date!  If one believes in silly superstitions that is. We don’t.  

Today our tour was to Mont Saint Michel.  This is a place I’ve always wanted to visit.  I saw it in a book about the crusades and pilgrimages as a young child and decided that some day I would see it myself. Well, today was that day.  

This was an early excursion.  It started at 7:15 in the morning!  I can’t remember the last time I was up that early.  We woke at 6:30, dressed and got ready for the day.  No COVID test as the clinic wasn’t opened yet.  Just as an aside, my friend who came down with COVID was refunded his money for this excursion. Bonus points for Oceania on this one.  It more than makes up for my curdled milk.  

We boarded the bus and had a pleasant ride through Britany to Normandy.  I think it was really only about an hour long after we left the city proper.  My only comment to George was that it was flat.  Very flat.  

When we got there, the bus parked and we waited to get on another bus to take us to the abbey.  Along the route there were some painted cows and I got so excited to look at them I jumped off our transport only to be yelled at to get back on.  Oops.  

When we finally arrived, I was mesmerized.  This place even at low tide is amazing!  It is absolutely huge!  It juts up into the sky as high as one can see.  It is no wonder so many pilgrims come here every year.  If one is to talk to their god I’m sure the sheer height of this place will help god hear one’s prayers.  

We were given our tickets and walked up the steps to the main entrance.  I will tell you now, from the back gate that we entered through to the top of the final steps we climbed it was 266 steps.  Not too bad.  There was some more up and down in the abbey itself, but nothing that was strenuous.  

There is just so much to say about this place.  It is truly amazing.  It’s not ornate like most cathedrals we have seen, it doesn’t have the art of most churches.  This place's beauty is in its shear size.  It is enormous!  There are some lovely carvings on each of the columns, and the way it is built is spectacular.  

There is great beauty to be found in the windows in the abbey.  They are not all the same, but rather of a number of different patterns that repeat themselves throughout the building. 

The statue of Saint Michel on the top is gold plated and taken down every 40 years or so to refinish.  

I don’t remember the order of the rooms but will mention a few of them.  The external cloister was simply beautiful. There was a very lovely green garden surrounded by two rows of pillars.  The upper part had some wonderful carvings, but I noticed that any crucifix or face had been chiseled out.  When I asked about this, I was told it is because the abbey was used as a prison during the French Revolution and they defaced any religious items they could find.  Funny thing.  They left the dragon and the grapes alone. I guess they were only looking for snakes and apples.

There was an entrance room with a massive pair of fireplaces in them, a scriptorium with another two large fireplaces, and finally a guest quarters with a large kitchen stove and fireplace as well. Why is this important? Well, on this day, the castle was cold.  I believe it would have been much more pleasant inside if it had the fireplaces in use.  

The abbey was built on the remains of a small church. The guide showed us the original window and how they built the abbey around the original church.  You could actually see the difference in the bricks used at each subsequent build.  

One thing that was of interest is the elevator.  When I first saw it I thought water wheel but that is silly because of how high up we were.  The elevator was used to bring up food.  That makes sense.  It works like a hamster wheel.  It required 4 men to be inside and run around to bring up the food. That's one heck of a way to haul the food up. There were some other horror stories told about this, but I didn’t hear all of them. 

This place is on a flood plain and becomes an island at high tide. (photos taken from the internet)

At some times, the flood waters will get up to 14 meters high.  We were there on a dry day (obviously).  There are 7 priests and 8 nuns living in the abbey (give or take 1 or 2) and 4 people living on the island itself.  As with other tourist spots, this place is full of restaurants and gift shops.  We had 45 minutes to kill so while George was using the facilities, I went in search of puzzles and found 2.  After that, we had a beer and returned to the bus for the trip back to the ship.

On the way I told George that I didn’t feel bad about not seeing the D-day landing sight at Normandy.  After seeing this, I can imagine what it looks like.  All mud.  I am glad I wasn’t there and feel for those who were. 

When we got back to the tender pier we ran off to mail a letter.  It is very important and although I had mailed it twice from the ship it hadn’t arrived yet.  I was going to do it again, but the girl at the desk told me it would take about 3 months!  What do they do, bring it back to Miami to mail?  Post office it was.  An express mail letter only cost 49 Euros.  Ah well, it was important.

We returned to the ship and spent the evening as always.

14 May

Sea Day

We woke up and got our 5th COVID test (still negative).  The rest of the morning was spent finding excursions for the next few segments of the cruise.  After lunch we played cards with our friends again and while George returned to the room to work on a puzzle, I went for a massage and facial. The massages really are good, and you can’t knock the view.  

Dinner was in Toscana again.  Same old same old sea days.  I did discover though that all of the tray tables were removed!  Oh joy!  No more COVID!  WRONG!!!! Now all of the COVID rooms have a little red dot on the door lock.  You don’t know who has COVID by just looking down the hall anymore.  Now you really need to look.  And I did. I’ll admit it.  I’m curious about whether we should continue to wear masks.  With 25 dots on 3 of the 5 passenger floors…I’d say they will stay on for a good long while.  

Tomorrow we are in Oslo, Norway.  Far from the planned sunny skies but we will survive the cold.  Until next time, Happy Puzzling and Smooth Seas.

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