Honfleur is the epitome of what we Anglos think of when we picture Normandy: The quaint antiquated port town with the board-and-batten architecture and the cobblestone streets. I picked Honfleur to spend a weekend out of the big city half by chance. I’d heard it was pretty. I’d read a few reviews on other blogs and in travel magazines saying that it was a pleasant place to spend a few days, but I must tell you I was more than pleasantly surprised.
The old town is centered around the Vieille Bassin, a U-shaped harbor lined with colorful old buildings, terraces, seafood on offer at every step. An enchanting town; even though it did rain for most of each day we were there.
Of interest in Honfleur, beyond the natural and historic points of importance, are the salt mills (aren’t the called salt works in English?), Saint Catherine cathedral which boasts the oldest wooden clock tower dating back to the 100s Years War between France and England, as well as the Eugene Boudin Museum, one of my favorite French Impressionists.
The Impressionists in general, including Boudin, loved Honfleur for its magnificent light. He spent a great deal of time in the town painting the harbor, the boats, capturing the seaside spirit (it’s actually the English Channel). He immortalized the slow dance of the rays on the swaying waves along the harbor’s edge, the ship parades, the coastal village life of a time gone by.
While you’re in Honfleur, eat seafood. Almost every restaurant on the port offers a variety of fresh catch platters, oysters, seafood stew, and the typically French mussels and fries (moules frites). Although touristy on appearance, the restaurants along the Vieille Bassin are not at all cookie-cutter franchises, as we might imagine. Each that we frequented was owned by those who served us and the service was inviting, hospitable and prompt A nice change from the touristy areas of Paris.
If you are visiting Paris for a few weeks and you’d like to see a little touch of Normandy, Honfleur is a perfect choice for the weekend. Two hours from Paris by train, Honfleur neighbors Deauville and Tocqueville, both much larger and perhaps better known Norman coastal towns. Honfleur, however, gets my vote. Charm, all the way.