"Fish, Ferries and Frigid French Women" Top 5 Page for this destination Cherbourg by antistar

Cherbourg Travel Guide: 86 reviews and 240 photos

A Story

"Cherbourg was filled with the smell of fish when we arrived in the early hours of the morning. I was surprised by the number of multicoloured apartment blocks around the town, and it made the place feel a lot bigger than it really was. Ioan practiced his French on a black man selling sunglasses in the town's market. He swore that by calling him sir, and using his most polite, but basic, French, the guy had responded as if nobody had ever treated him with such respect before. He bought a pair of cheap mirror shades, to go with his shock of bleached blonde hair. Ioan was now dressed to impress, with a crumpled black short-sleeved shirt and a pair of thin cotton knee-length shorts in a mess of colour that I'd bought in Indonesia. The shorts didn't quite fit him, being a much bigger lad than me, and they stretched over his pale white legs, which were stuffed into a pair of huge black shin high army boots.

We pitched the tent at the camp site some distance from town, and there we drank the bottle of the free wine our ferry tickets had awarded us, watching the old men play boules in a tiny courtyard lit in the same yellow as the halogen lamps that French cars use to pierce the night. Later we took a walk along the coast in the pitch black of the evening, nearly falling over two Dutch guys sitting on a bench looking out over the sea to England. They were drinking too, as there was little else to do in Cherbourg, and were complaining bitterly about how difficult it was to bed French women. "They don't ***", he stated in his gruff Amsterdammer accent. Their sexual odyssey was next to lead them across the channel to England, where they'd heard the girls were much easier.
" - from my travelogue.

Things I Loved

The smell of fish in the morning.


It's hard to be disappointed when your expectations are so low.


The town, on the northern edge of the Normandy peninsula, is a key ferry port on the Channel, daily taking in ships from Poole and Portsmouth several hours away across the water. This gives the place a lot of hustle and bustle for its size, especially around the market place. As a haven for Nazi U-boats during the last great war, it was heavily bombed by the Allies, but it retains a pleasant harbour front, and a certain amount of charm. There's not a great deal to see, however, and most people will want to move quickly on to the next destination, in Normandy and beyond.


Being such an vital port on the channel, Cherbourg's history is inextricably linked with military and conflict. The port was initially a Roman settlement, but the French community of Carusbar or Carusburc had developed by the 11th century. Surviving several sieges by the British over the subsequent years, it was finally captured in 1758, and its port was destroyed. The city was captured again in 1940, this time by the Germans, and it played a very important role in the war, housing the German E-boat and U-boat submarines in huge concrete pens, built to protect them from Allied bombing.

  • Last visit to Cherbourg: Aug 1995
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (10)

Comments (5)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Mar 21, 2008 at 3:18 AM

    Enjoyed reading your "Accidental Pilgrim" travelogue! I've never been to Cherbourg, but I'm curious because my father embarked there in January 1928, bound for New York with an immigrant visa.

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Dec 2, 2007 at 12:08 PM

    I used to do a lot of hitch-hiking in my younger days too, so I really enjoyed your gripping and humourous T'logue experiences! Being a seaport and with that magnificent Maritime Museum, Cherbourg sounds like it is right up my alley!

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Dec 21, 2005 at 3:02 AM

    fantastic travelogue!

  • themajor's Profile Photo
    Jul 30, 2005 at 6:17 AM

    My dear chap, how dare you break a VT tradition and write a literate and entertaining travelogue! Surely you be filling your pages with cat and baby pictures? A splendid dip into Cherbourg, mais o sont les parapluies?!

  • Jan 24, 2005 at 6:52 AM

    loved reading the travelogue. Sounds like the perfect trip (when thinking about it afterwards, not while being in that situation!). hopefully your friendly helpers will read it some day, too!


“Treat hosts like your girlfriend, and never tell them how wonderful the last one was.”

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