Thursday 14 April 2011

Pearl and Oyster

The protagonists in "Les Amants de Pont Neuf" in Paris would certainly not think about the river Seine the way we get to see it here at the Normandy mouth of the stream as we make berth in Le Hare: It is wide and lazy and not meandering at all. And it sits in a very, very useful spot if it comes to infrastructural requirements. So it is no wonder that over the last 50 years the area has been converted into one vast industrial zone with refineries and shipyards and silos and everything that looks all but romantic. However, Le Havre is not without charme, in fact it is a UNESCO world heritage site for its fully untouched 20th century architecture.
Those who are more in for the beauty of the really old days will instead jump onto the shuttle bus and be driven to Honfleur, just on the other bank of the river. After a 20 minutes ride, industry and harbour cranes are left behind and the utterly pittoresque buildings of Honfleur are waiting to be discovered. On foot, of course, the narrow alleyways literally ask for it. It is a little hard to comprehend why this superb little gem is not yet a dedicated car-free zone. Apart from that, time seems to have stood still: old timber-framework houses are leaning towards the cobblestone streets, old masonery does the rest. It was a pirate nest, a fisherman's central, all from the medieval times on, it was a spritual hub for artists like Eugen Boudin and Monet later on, and the city still lives it: 
On every corner we find galleries, art shops, or at least allusions to the pirate era. A wonderful old-fashioned atmosphere lies on the place, the natural speed is the stroll, the natural expression is that of sheer awe and curiosity. And who can withstand all these temptations that come in form of Normandy bread, Normandy cake, spices, Calvados and Crêpes? No mistake, this is a hidden pearl, in the embrace of that concrete-and-steel world of today's industry. Good to know it is there.
And now - it is time to say good-bye: Captain's Farewell Cocktail is held in the Observation Lounge, because tomorrow morning we will dock in Dover and - sorry to say that - this trip is over. But as it seems, all had a really, really good time and leave unwillingly, but happy. Have a safe journey home!