From the National Geographic Explorer in Europe
Sep 29, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer
At Sea, Bay of Biscay, France
Today we enjoyed a day at sea after our very full days of exploration in Normandy and Brittany. As we sailed out of the English Channel we passed a number of ships of all kinds moving in and out of this, one of the busiest traffic lanes in the world. Once we rounded the Pointe de St Mathieu and Pointe du Raz at the western end of Brittany, we sailed south into the Bay of Biscay with the wind and the swell on our stern. A number of seabirds sailed along with us. We had a beautiful passage south and enjoyed a number of presentations on the North Atlantic Ocean and its effect on European weather; on Napoleon, in preparation for our visit tomorrow to the Isle d’Aix where he was held briefly before his exile in St. Helena; on the Celts; and on the region of Poitou Chartentes, our destination tomorrow.
Days at sea always provide a welcome respite during which we can organize our thoughts and our photographs from the preceding days and contemplate what we have seen. One of the characteristics of Europe which is in contrast to our experience in North America is that, in Europe, diversity of language and culture is a primary driving force, whereas in the United States and Canada, especially, we like to emphasize cultural absorption and consolidation in our “melting pot” countries. This adherence to traditional culture and language in Europe is, of course, one of the challenges to the European Union. This also means that it takes us a little time to absorb the several cultures we have already seen on this voyage and how they differ, how they interact, and how, together, they have produced the rich history of western European civilization to which we in North America are heir.