Honfleur - A Quaint Town in Normandy France
by Routardman on May 13, 2011
Things to do: Shop, eat, relax, coffee, museums
How to get there: Take bus vert from Le Havre bus terminal (ligne 20, 39 or 50 beside the Gare).
Beware: The town is usually packed with French tourists on the weekends. If you want a quiet experience, go on weekdays.
During World War II, the Normandy region was part of German-occupied France. Besides visiting the D-Day beach landings and reminiscing about the war, Northwestern France has a jewel that is lesser known to the outside world, Honfleur, a quiet little town 30 minutes outside of Le Havre.
Honfleur is special because there you can visualize what Normandy was like before the war destroyed everything. Le Havre is currently a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the reconstruction work done to it after the war. Honfleur stands in contrast to war-torn Le Havre in that the old buildings were preserved and unscathed.
The French love to visit this town because of its old charm. The centerpiece of the town is the Vieux Bassin, which is a small port. Surrounding the port are many restaurants and bars. Sitting in one of these coffee places immediately winds back the clock, and time slows down. The view of the Bassin is extraordinary and is said to have inspired many impressionist artists, including Boudin and Monet. If you like classical music, this town was the birthplace of the composer Satie.
Of course, like any other city in France, a church visit is a must. The Saint Catherine's Church in Honfleur is one of the biggest wooden churches in France. It is said to be pretty legendary as the church was built using one axe alone. Take notice of how irregular the overall structure of the church stands.
Take a stroll in the commercial area of the city, and you can find very nice patisseries selling eye-poppingly good macarons. The region produces cider and a wine aperitif called calvados. The alcohol concentration is 41% for a good 30-year-old calvados. Locals tell me that it is best served after a heavy meal to help digestion.
Besides shopping, you can visit the nearby museums. My personal favorite is the Satie House and Museum. It has a great collection of the composer's works and even an automated piano that teaches you to play a Satie song.