After lunching in Dieppe we headed for the picturesque port town of Honfleur, a journey of about 100 km. Along the way, thankfully, the sky cleared, and the sun came out. Soon we were passing Le Havre and crossing Le Pont de Normandie, a huge bridge which spans the Seine just before the river meets the English Channel. A very impressive structure, we were all quite awestruck by the sheer size, height and beauty of the bridge. It’s an engineer’s dream and one of the largest bridges in France.
Before long we were on our own exploring the little town of Honfleur. Apparently it is one of the most visited towns in France, and the cobblestone streets were busy on this Sunday afternoon. Very picturesque, it is centred on an old harbour in the centre of town with lots of little lanes, backstreets and old buildings. The harbour was full of colourful yachts of all description, and the cobblestone streets around it were lined with numerous restaurants. We’re told that the town’s popularity is partly due to the authenticity of its narrow paved streets and timber-framed house-fronts, its little shops, charming hotels and its many seafood restaurants. It wasn’t long before we found that it also includes a variety of monuments and reminders of its historic past as well as its artistic heritage. Samuel de Champlain sailed from Honfleur when he explored New France and founded Quebec. Monet, Boudin, Courbet and many other artists were inspired by Honfleur, and today dozens of galleries and artist studios continue to display a wide choice of classical and modern paintings.
One of the most prominent structures at the old harbour is called the Lieutenance. The building was constructed in the 1600s and between 1684 and 1789 it was home to the Lieutenant of the king and the Governor of Honfleur. One of the sides of the building is an old gate of the city which used to be part of the city’s fortifications. One of the most emblematic buildings of the city, today it includes a plaque and bust dedicated to the memory of Samuel de Champlain.
Another highlight for Sonya and I in Honfleur was Saint Catherine’s Church. Built entirely of wood, it was constructed in stages beginning in 1460. A wonderful quaint structure with beautiful yet simple decorations, it is a “must-see” in town and remains the largest church in France done entirely in wood. Interestingly, the bell tower for the church is separate from the main church building.
Honfleur was a great break from our battlefield tours and we enjoyed in thoroughly. Tomorrow will surely be one of the highlights of this trip for we’ll be visiting the Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer, and walking along Juno Beach were the Third Canadian Division landed on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Can’t wait!