Where on Earth is Cherbourg? You’d be right to ask. Cherbourg is a mid-sized town in France, at the very tip of the peninsula that the Channel Islands are close to. It’s got a population of near 45,000 people, and is a busy ferry and sea port. You might be wondering why I’ve picked this as a “place to go”, but as a resident of Poole (Cherbourg’s twin town), I feel like I should publicise our connection to this town to the rest of the UK. Cherbourg’s history of seafaring brings it into close connection with Britain, for example after leaving Southampton, the ill-fated ship Titanic made its first port of call Cherbourg.
If you live in the Poole/Bournemouth area, you’re lucky enough to be able to take day trips to this historic town. The boat is nearly 4 hours each way, but you get 4 hours in Cherbourg itself. Time to explore! After walking a short way from the port, you’ll come to Cherbourg’s old town. Here you’ll find the theatre, town hall, marketplace and plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes to look around in. Remember to take your Euros with you – you might end up doing a “patisserie tour” and buying something from every delicious French bakery you pass.
Speaking of food – isn’t that what you’re here for? If you’re lucky enough to be in Cherbourg on market day, a vast array of treats await you. As well as a baguette, you’ve absolutely got to get yourself a fresh, traditional crepe from one of the stands. You’re in France – do as the locals do! Nutella crepes are hugely popular in France, and apparently you can’t get them just right in the UK.
On your way back to the port, you’ll find a huge shopping centre opposite. It contains a number of clothing outlets we don’t have here in Britain, so if you like shopping you could easily spend a few hours here. The main attraction here, though, is the gigantic Carrefour (that’s a big European supermarket chain). Sounds pretty dull. Not so! Stock up on all your French cheeses, chocolate, bread and other goodies. This place is like heaven for anybody who loves food. The best thing is, it’s all so cheap! An average French baguette in the UK will cost you around 80p. In Carrefour, it’ll cost you half that price, for a better quality bread. French people don’t take substandard baguettes, so you can be sure of the quality. While you’re in there, do something useful and practice your French - by reading the labels and attempting to chat to the staff. Time to put that stuff you learned in school to the test!
Cherbourg’s main museum and tourist attraction is the Cité de la Mer, or “SeaCity”. This museum celebrates Cherbourg’s long history with boats, and it also contains the world’s largest publicly open submarine, the Redoubtable. This submarine was one of France’s only submarines that carried nuclear weapons in the Cold War, so it has a very important place in modern French history. You’ll be pleased to hear the nuclear bit is now gone, and has been replaced by a hollow tube. Phew! The ship is also absolutely massive, and is worth seeing for that alone.
It might not be as well-known as Calais or Caen, but France’s other “C” (Cherbourg) is worth a quick stop, at the very start of your journey on the Continent.
Image from: http://uk.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/European-Destinations-of-ExcelleNce/cherbourg-cotentin