While still in Le Havre, I also made short trips over to nearby towns in the area. Located no more than 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the city, these little towns were a great way to spend a quiet, tranquil afternoon with good company. Which was exactly what I did!
Situated a mere 3 kilometers (2 miles) from Le Havre, the town of Sainte-Adresse is located on top of the coastal hills that overlook the English Channel. Considering it’s close to the beach, it is not a surprise that Sainte-Adresse is a rich town, from cute, traditional Normand-style houses to sleek, modern flats, all of which take advantage of the gorgeous views of the sea.
I spent one afternoon in Sainte-Adresse during les vacances with an old colleague from school. Upon arriving in Le Havre, she picked me up and took me straight over, where we passed the time hiking along the cliffs and exploring the wild nature that the place had to offer.
We parked the car at the foot of le phare de la Hève, a lighthouse built back in the 1950’s after the old version got destroyed during World War II. Today, it’s still in operation, with a lighthouse keeper working and living inside of it!
Passing by the lighthouse, we began our hike along the cliffs, called le Cap de la Hève. From the top, we could see the port of Le Havre, along with the beach and everything. Looking down from the cliff, I could see the rough, cold waters of the English Channel crashing against the rocks, slowly eroding them away; it’ll be a matter of time before the cliffs are gone forever, although I’m pretty certain that it won’t happen during our lifetime!
My colleague also took me over to see some bunkers left over from the war, now half-hidden from the overgrown grass and filled with tons of colorful street art from local artists. My colleague is a huge fan of street art, so she took lots of photos of each bunker that we visited; I also did so as well, considering that I’d never seen anything so vibrant on otherwise grey and drab-looking bunkers. It was kind of like stumbling upon something only you found, which makes that extra special.
Later, we left the cliffs and drove even higher up to see two of the well-known monuments of Sainte-Adresse: la chapelle Notre-Dame-des-Flots and le Pain de sucre. The former is a chapel overlooking the beach; it’s dedicated to the sailors who have lost their lives at sea, as well as their wives who would go to the chapel to pray and give their love. The nave inside surprised me, as the architecture reminded me of the Orthodox designs that I’d seen in churches in Russia. There was also a small garden right outside and on a sunny day, it was absolutely lovely.
Afterwards, we stopped at le Pain de sucre, which was just a few steps from the chapel. Literally translated as “sugarloaf,” this monument is a mausoleum dedicated to General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, who served in the French army back in the 18th and 19th centuries. I expected it to be this large, towering thing, considering that I’d seen it from the bottom by the beach of Le Havre; however, it was actually not very tall, but in any case I snapped a photo of it:
We finished our visit of Sainte-Adresse afterwards, heading back down to Le Havre to enjoy the rest of the day. Along the way, we stopped alongside the road for me to take a photo of the view of Le Havre from the top; it certainly helped that it was sunny that day!
Although a very small town, Sainte-Adresse actually surprised me with what it had to offer, in terms of hiking, monuments, and spectacular views of the ocean. It’s a good one to spend an afternoon in, especially if you’re in Le Havre.
The following day after spending the morning in Le Havre, my colleague and I drove over to Harfleur, located about 8 to 9 kilometers away. Again, it’s a small town and it’s situated along the Lézarde river, appropriately-named “lizard” with its narrow, snaking path. We stopped to watch some people feed breadcrumbs to the ducks, as well as saw some really beautiful white swans glide along the river. There were also beavers in the water, as I saw one of them swimming idly with the ducks!
We took a stroll along the river, coming across some cute, colorful houses before heading into the town center to see the Harfleur Church, towering and austere that at first, I thought it was a cathedral. Funny enough, this particular church fascinated me last year whenever I took the bus over to Le Havre; I would stop and stare at it as we drove by, and I never stop in the town to visit it, until then.
Before heading off to our next destination, we quickly stopped by l’hôtel de Ville (surprisingly colorfully-decorated) and le musée du Prieuré (Prioryship museum). Didn’t go inside of them, but nevertheless got photos of them.
Although there was not much in Harfleur, I was glad to have visited the towering Harfleur church; I can say that it’s been crossed off my bucket list!
Our final stop for that afternoon was at Montivilliers, situated around 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from Le Havre. From Harfleur, it was no more than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) away, so we arrived there shortly after leaving the former. The highlight of the town is its abbey, constructed all the way back in the 11th century, during the era of William the Conqueror. It is an abbey specifically designed for women, and I was willing to pay 2,50 euros to enter it, explore the cloister, and tour through the exhibits with artifacts from way back when. It was quite fascinating, and the views of the cloister were lovely, to say the least.
We didn’t stay too long in Montivilliers, only to see the abbey and take a quick stroll through the town center. Considering that I knew assistant(e)s who lived and taught there, it was nice to finally check out the town.
That said, that was the first part during my stay in Le Havre from this past les vacances de la Toussaint. Making afternoon trips over from the city, while slow and idle, were nevertheless very calming and I got to explore more of the smaller towns, which also had just as many things to offer as the city itself. I actually learned a bit more about Normandy through them, and overall found it quite rewarding.
Look out for the second part of my vacation soon. Next up: Honfleur, Deauville, and Trouville! À bientôt.