People have been fighting over this seaside gem for centuries, and it’s easy to see why. Its positioning at the tip of the Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula, between La Hague and Vale de Saire, has made Cherbourg, France a coveted territory since ancient times, often seen as the “keys to the kingdom” in the English Channel. From the 11th century, France and Britain battled for control of the pivotal port town. It changed hands numerous times, with Charles VII of France gaining control in 1450. The English then pillaged Cherbourg during a surprise 1758 attack, before Louis XVI began fortifying the city and took it back.
Ironically, the two united in defense of Cherbourg against the Axis Powers during World War II, to no avail. Since then, the town has rebuilt realized profound significance that belies its picturesque beauty and quaint charms, as a naval base and seaport bustling with shipments of oil, electronics, metal and other goods for the region. Today, the Cherbourg connection between France and Britain remains, as cross-channel ferries transport visitors from both locales each day.
Next May, when Crystal Serenity’s “Tapas & Truffles” voyage sets sail from Marseille, Cherbourg may reach the top of your “most desired destinations” list as well. A contrasting hub of art and monuments to French and Normandy culture that dates back over a thousand years, and modern industries including nuclear power and higher education, this place will take you back through time. Masterpieces by locally born painter Jean-François Millet are housed in the historic town hall, while the Musée d’art Thomas-Henry boasts its namesake’s immense collection. For more recent history buffs, the Musée de la Liberation pays homage to the struggles and ultimate victory of WWII.
The immaculate gardens and renaissance castle structure of Chateau des Ravalet is open to the public and perfect for picnics in the sunshine. We recommend sampling the local Normandy fare of fresh seafood and pommeau – a beverage of apple juice and apple brandy, melded until they take on a mahogany sweetness. Of course, this is France, which means that mouthwatering pastries, cheese and perfectly paired wines are abundant as you stroll along the yacht and sailboat harbor.
Crystal Serenity makes her maiden call to this charming town on an idyllic 10-day itinerary that visits Barcelona, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Oporto, Honfleur and Guernsey on its way to London/Dover. Join us as we experience this first-ever visit to the communal French town together.