Monday, July 9, 2012

Normandy - Honfleur

Today was our day in Le Havre second largest port in France and our plan was to explore different aspects of Normandy the seaside town of Honfleur was Merles choice. I have wanted to visit the sites of the D-day landings forever. So we each did our thing.

Normandy is a beautiful pastoral part of France located on the English Channel.

The weather is normally very mild and, of course, it was overcast and raining on the day. Major rivers the Seine and the Orne traverse the area and enter the Channel providing access to Paris and the interior

Hardly surprising then that agriculture and fishing provide a major part of the local economy.

Over the centuries the area was settled, first by hunter-gatherers then farmers. The Romans conquered Gaul and developed settlement in cities. It was the Vikings who attacked from the sea, and inland up the Seine, who gained control of this area and gave the name (North Men, they said).

Christianity was brought here by Celtic monks from Ireland - and they established Monasteries some of which stand to this day

There have always been close connections between Normandy and the British Isles not least of which was the result of the invasion by William in 1066 his castle was in Caen.

To maintain control of and protect the area the major landowners built castles classical castles with walls, turrets and moats in medieval times the walls had to become more and more substantial as the 100 Years War progressed and cannons were introduced into battle for the first time.

Later, during the renaissance, aristocratic families had no need for this style of housing and developed the chateaux that are so characteristic of France.

Normandy, then, has strong Celtic and Germanic roots but maintained their Latin derived French language (vs the Bretons of Brittany who have a Celtic dialect)

Located at the mouth of the Seine River, Honfleur dating back to the 13th century - brings together the long history of Normandy, a basis in fishing and farming, and a long tradition of Christianity in a seriously charming package.

Today it is a fishing port but was once the base for 17th century French exploration and colonization the founders of French Canada came from here.

The old dock the Vieux Basin - dates back to 1681. It was Saturday and the fishing boats had come in early and were selling their catch dock-side as well as at the market.

Also cockles, mussels and oysters

The local market was busy particular to the area are milk products a huge choice of cheeses. The soft cheeses are packaged on the farms in containers made from the bark of local poplar trees.

Also lovely sausages and hard sausages of all sorts 

And apple products of all description. This is apple country cider, calvados and apple liqueur very healthy

Lots of lovely places to eat

Buildings in Normandy classically have steep roofs with slate frontage and tiles.

Also thatch is very popular in the countryside. When it needs replacement the locals cut the thatch, dry it and lay it in place.

Honfleur buildings survived the war it was not in the direct path of the invasion - and the buildings around the port are in great condition.
A number of old churches to see.

St Catherines Church is the largest wooden church in France and was built by shipwrights in the 15th century. The roof, in particular, shows the way it was constructed very reminiscent of the way a ships hull is put together.

Because this part of France is so picturesque it has long been the home of artists In one of his earliest paintings, Monet painted the sunrise over Le Havre (his home town) and sent it off to be juried. The famous critics of France came back to him with the verdict that it was terrible less a painting than an impression. Birth of Impressionism.

Artists still at work today in the port

A sculpture by the same artist as we saw on sale in St Paul de Vence.

And the absolutely usual War Memorials

Also lots of very cute photo ops!!!

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