The dock workers in Le Havre were on strike, so we went to Cherbourg instead. This is a little town on the very northwestern tip of France; it's not very big, but it seems to have a lot of hotels and tourist information. Andrés and I got up early and headed into town a little before 8:30. The shuttle dropped us off by the tourist center downtown. From there we could see a big rocky cliff, covered in trees, with a fort on top. That looked like a good target, so we headed towards it.
On the way, we went through the public gardens, a very nice little park with decorative plantings, streams, a bandstand, various memorials, an aviary, and a sea lion. We happened to be there just as the sea lion and its hanger-on, a rather clever seagull, were being fed.
The road up the hill was also pleasantly park-like -- very green, lots of trees, cute little red-throated bird. The fort at the very top is being used as a liberation museum, all about WWII. We didn't go in (because we didn't have euros yet and we're apparently a lot less interested in WWII history than most people who visit Normandy), but we poked around the outside and enjoyed the view from the hill.
Back in town, we found an ATM and then got drinks (sirop avec l'eau; menthe for me and orange for Andrés); tasty beverages and a nice little people-watching break, including the rather perplexing parade (a strike or protest of some kind, we think).
Our next goal, as targeted from the conveniently commanding high vantage point, was the botanical gardens. We got there about noon, just in time for the museum and greenhouse, like everything else in France, to close until 2:00. So we checked out the surrounding park and went to find lunch. After much wandering, we found a créperie which did us good -- galletes burre (plain crepes with butter), crépe complete (cheese, egg, and ham for Andrés, tomato for me), dessert crépe (1 chocolate, 1 raspberry jam -- and boy did we have a time working that out, waitress to Andres to me [she was very patient with us]). Fantastic stuff!
After lunch, it was only 1:30 or so, so we went to look at a church, a statue of Napoleon, and a long line of confusing flags while we waited for the museum to open.
The botanical gardens were the estate of Emmanuel Liais, mayor of Cherbourg circa 1900. The Museé d'Histoire Naturelle et d'Ethnographie houses his private collection, possibly bulked out with later acquisitions. It was very much in the old curiosit cabinet style, although with some attempt at order -- the first floor had one room of badly stuffed birds and mammals, including some very scary rats, extremely thin squirrels and guinea pig, and "That's a baboon?! Oh, okay, I guess it is a baboon," seashells, and rocks, followed by a second room full of badly dried and in some cases shellacked reptiles and pickled snakes, followed by some fish, ocean invertebrates, and a few whale parts, followed by vast quantities of tightly packed beetles and butterflies in the hallway with the staircase. The second floor held human artifacts, mostly spearpoints and such, arranged by continent. There were a lot of skulls, too, scattered here and there without much explanation.
Once we finished with the museum and greenhouse, we were pretty wiped out. We meandered back to teh ship, stopping only for one more church, the buying of postcards, and frequent sitting down. We got back to the ship about 4:30, past the gauntlet of free cider and cookie samples (tasty), just in time for a nice lie-down before dinner, which was also tasty.
Then things went downhill. We met up with everyone at the theater for the after-dinner show, which was supposed to be a comedian/singer. He, um, wasn't. He had a nice enough voice, if only he'd picked decent songs, but the man just wasn't funny. ("I've figured it out -- when he stops, he thinks he's made a joke.") The first 15 seconds or so of the dentist's drill impersonation were amusing, but everything he tried was terribly labored and slow, and he kept trying to unneccesarily translate between US and British terms. His jokes were, when they were first told hundreds of years ago, amusing enough, but his delivery killed them all dead. He could tell the one about the nun, the rabbi, and the dominatrix, and it would take ten minutes and not be funny. Andrés and I bailed partway through and found some excellent large round windows to recline in and watch the waves, the coast of France, and other things much more entertaining than the entertainment.