Thursday, 21 April 2011

Of sand and cliffs, artists and writers

The Normandy Beaches faded behind us and we found ourselves negotiating narrow streets and traffic hassles at Deauville. Any romantic notions I might have had about the place disappeared. I found the waterfront a complete disappointment. Replica rococo buildings that are hotels but not in a genuine sort of quality. Ugly and overpowered by a casino. I struggled to find a genuine house to photograph. Well there's the beach.

It's a very big and wide sandy beach with no distinguishing features other than the brollies and the old bathcabins. They had a celebration of the film industry there at some point and named all the little 'fences'. I couldn't decide if it was quaint or silly. I did love the very festive brollies available for hire. We strolled the length of the boardwalk but it was uneventful. Wealthy Parisians come there. I'm told it is popular with the Jewish sector. They must see something JC and I don't. Once again, coming from NZ, it would take a lot more than Deauville was offering to impress me with a beach. Still, it was good to see things for myself. We hit the road again.

Sunday night was spent at Honfleur, a picture-postcard medieval town across from the mouth of the Seine and the major port of Le Havre. It's history is spotted with artists and writers such as Baudelaire, Monet, William turner, Eugene Boudin. The majority of the quaint narrow houses were built between the 16-18th centuries.

We wandered around the streets looking at shops and gallery windows and then stopped to look over Sainte Catherine eglise. This church has the largest separate wooden belltower in France. It's beautifully decorated inside with a timber ceiling like a hull of a boat and panelled walls, tapestries and artworks and pennants. Even the book holder is magnificent.

Dining wasn't all that easy. Oh, plenty of restaurants but most of the seating was outdoors and it was just too cold. The restaurants, being on the coast, tended to have predominently seafood on their menus-impossible for me. We did manage to dine at a nice restaurant where there was lamb on the menu. Shredded inside filo pastry. OK but a bit bland.JC enjoyed his veloute. Our hotel room was comfy and all in all I liked the town and would have liked more time to explore but we needed to press on to Etretat the next day and then home.

Etretat, formerly a fishing village, was transformed into a resort in the 19th century and inspired artists and writers much as Honfleur did. We drove up to the top of one set of cliffs and hungrily devoured the spectacular views with our cameras. The cliffs are very high and dangerous. They are not roped off. France seems to be less concerned about people having accidents in dangerous places than NZ is. In fact, the management of danger appears to be the onus of the adventurer- sensible attitude. But it can be a bit scary when you are wearing boots with heels and a stiff cold wind is blowing way up there and you are only centimetres from the edge.

I didn't lean out too far and tried to sit down when I could so as not to encourage vertigo. Seabirds had mates and there were many soarings and wheelings but I didn't see any chicks- perhaps too soon in the season. The colours of the limestone cliffs and the sea are a beautiful contrast.

Too cold to stay longer and trek up the opposing cliffs in the distance, we set out on the trip back to Paris, Ile de France, loaded up with so many photos and lifetime memories.

Along the way we crossed the impressive Normandy Bridge over the Seine at Le Havre. It's a cable-stays design with a central span of 856m and a total length of 2,143.21 metres. We stayed on the autoroute until we got to Paris. If you are driving on autoroutes be warned that most of them are tolled. You will spend money regularly and you won't always have a choice but there don't seem to be too many queues.

I do hope I get to explore more regions in this beautiful country I want to call home. To feel at home here is to appreciate its history, culture, people and natural environment. A very special thankyou to Jean-Claude for making one of my dreams come true.

Photos are of Deauville beach and a rococo building, Honfleur and the church, Etretat and the Normandy bridge.


yves said...

A nice travel in a very short time.
You have passed more time in the car et not enough for visiting!

You have just see a begining of view of that sites.

I am sorry for you!

Perhaps you do again that visit and you will see more sites.

thanks for the sahring travel with us.

Alison said...


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