A desire to visit a long-time friend living in the village of Sainte-Pierre-du-Val inspired our first real trip to the Normandy region. We had barely crossed the border into Normandy once before after camping in Brittany to make the obligatory visit to Mont-Saint-Michel.
Having checked that legendary site off the list, we didn’t really have a big agenda when we arrived for a longer stay. So when our friend proposed a day trip to nearby Honfleur, we were game to venture into the unknown.
Upon arriving, it was easy to see the allure. We parked near the old port, and spent several hours just wandering the town whose strategic placement near the mouth of the Seine River had made it a critical defensive and economic outpost in years past.
The photo above the story is the classic view of the old port or Vieux Bassin. Once upon a time, wealthy merchants built these colorful homes to flaunt their economic prowess over the waterway’s commerce. These days, locals have converted them into shops where we sat out on the terrace later in the afternoon eating crêpes and drinking hot chocolate. We needed warm nourishment to keep the chill out on this gray day in Northern France.
The cobblestone Medieval streets wind around from the port, and so we followed our friend, stumbling around randomly.
On the southside of the Vieux Bassin is a courtyard behind Saint Etienne church of even earlier Medieval buildings
One of town’s most reputable destinations is the Église Sainte-Catherine de Honfleur. This Gothic structure was built in the late 15h century after a stone chruch was destroyed in the Hundred Years’ War. So locals, drawing on shipbuilding skills and materials, built a new one almost entire out of wood.
Nautrical themes domiante inside and outisde. For instance, rows of tridents top the gate around the exterior.
Inside, there are similar tributes throughout to the region’s seafaring cutlure and history, such as wooden boats on one altar.
And the roof appears looks like the hulls of two ships turned upside down.
The rest of the afternoon we continued to walk aimlessly, delighted by the various glimpses of Normandy’s whimsy and losing ourselves in the narrow streets. Certainly there is more of the surrounding seaside of Honfleur to explore one day. But a few hours in this Normandy town captivated us with its history, architecture, and culture.