Honfleur You Have My Heart
On our recent road-trip from the UK to Portugal we made our first overnight stop at Honfleur, Normandy. It was the first place we visited and it was the most lasting memory I had at the end of our 3 week epic journey! Inspired by Clare’s photos over at Suitcases And Sandcastles I was a little worried that I’d built it up too much in my mind and that disappointment was imminent but I needn’t have worried – Honfleur was everything and more than I had imagined it to be, a fascinating place with famous connections when you look into it’s past. Plus, a fab opportunity to take photographs and eat a few macaroons on your way around! I love researching a place before I get there and whilst looking for things to do and interesting tid-bits of information I discovered some pretty random stuff about this place, quirky and cool ex-inhabitants and plenty of stories, let me share a few of them with you!
An old French harbour town with a rich history of Royal conquests, interesting Naval expeditions and several trading businesses (including the slave trade) this little town reminded me of the stage set for the musical Les Miserables or some black and white Pirate film. It’s truly beautiful and thankfully one of those places that tourism hasn’t managed to murder, despite it attracting masses of visitors every year.
The star of the show is the Vieux Bassin, the old harbour that is neatly hugged by towering 16-18th century houses. The buildings are mostly half timbered and protectively wrapped in a distinct blue/grey tile like an architectural armadillo. And, when you penatrate the armour into the cobbled streets behind, you’re just swapping one kind of good view for another. Rows upon rows of quaint little shops whose keepers recognise the notion that us shoppers buy with our eyes : the sign writing is beautiful, the glasswork is beautiful and the displays inside are so attractive that before you know it you’re in there drooling over the produce. Chocolate shops, patisseries and delicatessants all vying for your attention, and they’re going to get it!
Honfleur is one of those magical places that implores you to linger a while, peruse it’s innards and people-watch from a cafe chair on the harbour. In the meantime, here are a few of our holiday snaps and a list of ten interesting bits of trivia about this wonderful place called Honfleur…
Top Ten Facts About Honfleur, Normandy…
- Honfleur attracts 3 million visitors a year making it France’s 3rd most popular place to visit.
- You may recognise it even before you visit as it was painted by many impressionists including Monet and Cezanne after Honfleur’s very own Eugène Boudin taught many an art student how to paint outdoors and capture the essence of water.
- Honfleur hasn’t always been French. First the Scandinavian Vikings moved in, then on a couple of occasions in the Hundred Years War between France and England, it was taken and occupied by the English.
- In 1608, an expedition left Honfleur to colonise Canada organised by Samuel de Champlain led to the founding of the Canadian city Quebec.
- Honfleur is home to the largest wooden church in France – St Catherines.
- St Catherines Church was built by the ship-makers of the town and looks like an upside down hull of a ship. It was built by the ‘axe masters’ of the Naval yards using no saws, just axes!
- Maison du Caramel, a little 17th century shop behind the port, makes and sells 17 different flavours of caramel. 17!
- The narrow houses that shoulder one another in the Vieux Bassin have two ground floors : one that opens up to the port side, the other at the back, several storeys up, which opens onto Dauphin Street. This means each building has two owners!
- Some of the first dinosaur fossils ever found were here in Honfleur and one particular species was named the Honfleur Crocodile after several fossils were discovered on the beach here about 1770.
- At the ‘Fete de la Crevette’ (shrimp festival) in early October, nobody wanted to get their hands dirty so the organisers came up with the ingenius idea of a ‘shrimp peeling competition’ so that the festival goers wouldn’t go hungry! The winner gets to keep his peeled shrimps.
The town has a vibrant market every Saturday.
It’s only a 2 hour journey from Paris and attracts a few day trippers.
Where To Stay;
If you’re looking for somewhere a bit special then check out La Ferme Saint Simeon. Back in time when the 19th century property was still a working farm, the artist Boudin had his studio here and entertained other artists of the Impressionist school, including Monet and Corot. This Honfleur hotel is an inn with 34 luxury rooms, scattered around the estate and you can even stay in the room Monet himself stayed. Oak paneling, antique furniture and a luxury modern touch. The hotel also boasts a large spa, indoor swimming pool and a distinguished restaurant. Definitely the location if you want to soak up a bit of Honfleurs cultural history.
Or for more options for hotels in Honfleur, click here.
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