There are lots of charming little seaside towns in Normandy and in our whirlwind trip of 5 nights, that began with Mont St. Michel and then proceeded to Bayeux, we wanted at least one of these towns. I chose Honfleur mostly because I like to say Honfleur (we drink Cremant rather than Champagne for the same reason) It is as good a reason as any. Honfleur is a lovely little town nestled right where the Seine joins the sea and across the strait from the great harbor of Le Havre. My husband was particularly interested in seeing Pont Normandie which is visible from the park along the shore of the town. We were there two nights and took a day trip on the full day to Etretat which gave us the chance to cross the Pont Normandie and see it up close. This trip can be viewed here:
From this overlook of the town you can see the Pont Normandie in the distance We booked a small B&B Le Fond de La Cour which was a bit tricky to find. The GPS led us through plowed fields and country lanes bringing us into the back of the town and to this street near our B&B. Finding parking is very tricky as it is in these small towns; the only drawback of this B&B was finding some place for the car. The owners of the B&B guided us to a restricted parking spot near this spot noting that the old lady whose parking spot it was, had recently died and thus was not parking there anymore and so the spot was free to use. We didn’t get ticketed or towed. The B&B had us in a studio apartment room although we were booked as B&B, which was roomy and pleasant with a kettle and coffee and tea things in the room. It is a comfortable place to stay.
The weather was drizzly and chilly when we were there so we didn’t make good use of the courtyard or the larger back yard, but I imagine this would be particularly nice during the summer.
B&Bs often specialize in lovely breakfasts and the breakfast at Le Fond de la Cour was one of the best we have every had. This was particularly welcome after our B&B near Mont St. Michel which served croissants in cellophane packages and canned juice. Here is a snapshot from our room into the courtyard at night. Honfleur is a charming town with narrow streets and a largely tourist driven economy.
We arrived in the early afternoon from Bayeux and walked from the B&B towards the central square. We found a typical Norman crepe place for lunch. The little red ceramic cups are used for serving cider. I have a ‘complete’ galette here. This is a galette of buckwheat filled with ham, egg and cheese. Ed had a seafood galette. The narrow streets make car travel difficult. This woman unloading her car backed up traffic and much honking ensued. After lunch we headed into the town square. The bell tower of the church of St. Catherine is constructed of ship timbers and like the church was constructed by use of axes rather than sawn timber. It is some distance away from the church to protect the church from fire in the case of lightening strikes. The church feels like an upside down ship since ships construction techniques were used in its construction. While we were visiting there were a number of children preparing for a pageant of some sort and on display was a sort of tapestry created by church members to commemorate the most recent confirmation class. I wondered if the effort had been inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry.Much of the exterior of the church is covered with chestnut shingles called essentes. This is the view of the back of the church as one walks away from the town square and down towards the harbor. The harbor is simply stunning and the centerpiece of Honfleur’s tourist trade. It was once due to its position at the mouth of the Seine, a major trading port. It was largely ruined during the wars waged around the French Revolution and the blockades that followed. This is the old customs house. Where once there was a lively trading harbor, today there are tourist oriented restaurants and the yachts of the very rich. The slate faced buildings designed to withstand rough sea weather are characteristic of the area. I have always loved the look of chimneys and chimney pots in these old towns. The remains of an old community laundry. And who can resist sugar preserved fruits. Honfleur is a port for ships that cruise the Seine and we encountered several tour groups from these cruise ships as we strolled about the town. There is a large park along the outlet of the Seine and across from Le Havre. This ship, loaded at Le Havre is leaving for the Pont Normandie to make its way up stream into the Seine. After our day at Etretat, we spent our last evening on the waterfront — a beautiful picture day or night. We didn’t have time to see much of Normandy but felt that the choice of Mont St. Michel, Bayeux, the landing beaches, Honfleur and Etretat gave a good taste of some of the most stunning sights in the region.