This post originally featured on Maison Cupcake.
For peak holiday times, you have to book very early to get a cabin on the overnight crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo. It’s not cheap but when you consider how pricey a Dover Calais crossing can be during school holidays (£90 each way sometimes) and bear in mind the extra petrol costs, motorway tolls and an extra night staying in a hotel to break up your journey, actually the £200 extra you are likely to pay for the longer crossing becomes more tempting.
We’ve previously travelled on the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. Big mistake. Driving down the Cherbourg peninsula is like going from Dover to Birmingham without motorways. It’s a long, dull drive. Plus you’ve only had four hours sleep on a six hour crossing (they wake you up at 5am British time, an hour before you get into port at 7am French time).
However the Portsmouth to St Malo crossing is around ten hours and arrives in port at 8am French time so you get more sleep and do less driving. It’s a win win situation, especially if you have a toddler who doesn’t like sitting in the back of a car for more than two hours at a time (less if hungry).
So with much excitement we boarded Brittany Ferries’ Bretagne en route to L’Ile de Re which would be four hours further drive from St Malo the next morning.
The Spinnaker Tower and harbour side bars
Out on deck. It’s windy but plenty of room to stretch your legs.
“We don’t need a window” I told my husband.
“But Teddy could have looked out of it at the sea.”
“It’s cheaper to not have a window and we will be asleep when we’re in the cabin anyway.”
I hadn’t quite bargained we’d be down in the hull of the boat. I didn’t even know that was possible but you go down in a lift below the car deck to reach your cabin.
The food is much better than Dover to Calais routes. There are salads and cheese plates as well as hot dishes.
The desserts looked very tempting too.
My husband had fish and chips which admittedly in this light looks like the meal from the Secret Nuclear Bunker post.
The photo of the chocolate-mousse-to-die-for is rubbish. Imagine though if you will, that scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta tells Samuel L Jackson that “it’s the little things” that make Europe special i.e. the glass of cold beer in the cinema, mayonnaise on the fries etc.
Well the little thing that I thought made these chocolate mousses special was that they were served in china ramekins. A totally unnecessary touch since they were in plastic pots as well but it’s these details that make eating on a French ferry company more special than the service station service you get from the British equivalents.
Off to bed.
“It’s rather nice” said my father, impressed it had a telly. You get TVs on the St Malo crossings although you only get a radio on Caen crossings.
The bathroom was predictably tiny but serviceable. It reminded me of the scene on the train in Sex and the City where Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall are travelling with Amtrak to LA and have a toilet situated underneath their shower.
So down in the bowels of the ship how did I sleep? Not very well. How much this was to do with feeling like I was in K19: The Widowmaker and how much to do with fretting that Ted would roll out of bed I’m not sure.
That said, since taking this crossing we’ve travelled mostly on the Portsmouth to Caen evening crossing, and even though we don’t need to go to bed, for having privacy and access to your own bathroom, somewhere quiet to sit, somewhere to drop your bags, I’d highly recommend hiring a cabin even for day time crossings (they’re half price in daytime too).
On this occasion I was struggling to sleep and fancied pacing the decks in my slippers, even if it meant dashing down a corridor that looked like another scene from Titanic, the one where Leonardo has been chained with handcuffs to a pipe and Kate dashes off to get help. But I couldn’t as my husband and father were on the top bunks and there was only I to stop Ted rolling out.
Which he did, with a loud thud, head first at 4.30am, following by much more relentless loudness i.e. crying. None of us went back to sleep after that but then they wake you an hour before you get into port anyway.
The view of St Malo’s city walls and pointy buildings as you arrive in the morning is delightful.