My transatlantic crossing was peaceful, but lonely after the hubbub of Washington, DC, and Miami. We saw few other ships. Patty, the other passenger, however, was good company. We talked about books, places we’ve traveled and loved. The Jamaica is a quiet ship, almost monastic. The days rolled by, I read and wrote and longed for West Cork. When we passed the Lizard, at the bitter end of England, I recalled the old sailors’ wisdom that marriages celebrated in England weren’t binding once your vessel passed the Lizard. Sailors don’t need lawyers.
I loved Le Havre, a really French city, which emerged from the rubble of WWII. It has gardens, restaurants, and a wonderful beachfront featuring a chip shop which has survived since the 1920s. I stayed at the Hotel Carmin and will again. It is clean, comfortable, and friendly – great pied a terre in lovely Le Havre. The truth is I love France, particularly along the Atlantic coast. There is a national aesthetic which you see in every shop window, balcony, and garden. The French ‘get’ beauty like no other culture.
I left Le Havre too soon, spending a traveling day on trains going across the French countryside. The land is fertile, the farms productive. I understand the Anglo-French dynastic wars. Normandy is worth fighting for. So was Catherine of Valois, Henry V’s war bride. Of course they held hands. No matter the political consequences of the Battle of Agincourt, theirs was a love match before the young king left France. Shakespeare got that right.
I crossed the English Channel in a gale aboard the MV Oscar Wilde, Irish Ferry’s overnight boat between Cherbourg and Rosslare. I confess, I am incurably romantic and loved the raging storm. My cabin was cozy and quiet, the restaurant Bernival surprisingly good. A night spent on Mother Ocean beggars description. Take the Oscar Wilde to France with someone you love. You’ll never forget it.
Before stepping back into my real life, I had breakfast aboard ship at the Bernival. A full Irish, naturally.
And, I am home.