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By the port in Honfleur, France.

Salut!

After passing the previous day making short trips to small towns near Le Havre, I woke up early the following morning (7h00) to go with my colleague, her daughter, and her daughter’s boyfriend, to catch the 8h40 bus for a day’s visit to the small, but picturesque cities of Honfleur, Deauville, and Trouville, of which were located in the Calvados region of Basse Normandie. The journey did not cost too much, around 5 euros to Honfleur, but it required us to pay an extra 4 euros to get down to Deauville and Trouville. Either way, it was a pretty good deal for a full day of exploring more of the lovely coast of Normandy!

The bus crossed le Pont de Normandie (a bridge which essentially divides Haute-Normandie and Basse-Normandie or, more accurately, l’académie de Rouen from l’académie de Caen. We arrived in Honfleur around 9h15, just as the sun was about to rise. It was still too dark to take photos of the famous port, but I did my best to capture the beauty of this cute town near the sea.

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Sunrise over the port.

While the day was getting brighter, we wandered through the massive farmer’s market happening that day, with clothing and jewelry items being sold on one side of the port and fresh produce on the other side. We also stopped by Saint Catherine’s Church, in which my colleague told me her grandmother had gotten married.

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At the farmer’s market.
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L’église Sainte Catherine.

My colleague, her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend, and I decided to split up soon afterwards to do our own things with the time that we had before catching the next bus to Deauville and Trouville. With the sun already out, I headed back to the port, where I snapped photo after photo of the unbelievably-gorgeous houses along the water. I swear, the views looked like they came from a postcard; it was so breathtaking!

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Port-side views…

Aside from the lovely port and farmer’s market, there wasn’t much else to do in Honfleur; as I had said, I liken it to a postcard: pretty to look at, but nothing much after that. Nevertheless, it was picturesque and shortly afterwards, we caught the 11h20 bus to Deauville, stopping in front of the train station where we got off and first headed over to Trouville, which was just a bridge away. My colleague wanted to show me Trouville’s beach first, since she personally finds it prettier than Deauville’s.

We crossed the bridge, passed through the vibrant town center with touristy cafes and a large casino, and arrived at the beach. Fortunately, it was still nice and sunny out (which, if you know anything about Normandy, can be a hit-or-a-miss), so the beach looked lovely. It was low tide when we arrived; we were even able to wade out pretty far into the water without getting wet at all! I also saw Le Havre from there, which was absolutely fascinating considering we were just there this morning and had traveled all the way down here just to see it again!

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Le Havre from Trouville.

I was really hungry then, so I decided to head back into town and get a proper lunch. My colleague said that restaurants in Trouville were less expensive than Deauville’s, which I greatly appreciated on a tight budget. I really wanted to try les coquilles St. Jacques (St. Jacque’s scallops) which are a thing in the Normandy and Brittany regions. I’d never tried them before and had already tried plenty of moules frites (another Normand dish) before last year, so I wanted something new. I hopped from restaurant to restaurant to see which ones had the least expensive coquilles St. Jacques before settling on one which had it priced at 20 euros (others were averaging 25 euros). Ordered myself a kir normand (an alcoholic starter with cider), got les coquilles, and had an excellent meal. In particular, I order les coquilles meunières, which was cooked in butter; others had the option of cream or white wine sauce, but I decided to stick with the basics- and oh boy, was it heaven! While I’m usually super cheap when it comes to traveling, occasionally I would splurge a bit if I know it’ll be worth it…and this was definitely worth it!

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Les coquilles St. Jacques.

After lunch, I took a stroll through the town center, passing by the casino again and also checking out le marché aux poissons, an enclosed, outdoor market that sold tons of fish and seafood, albeit super pricey! It was pretty cool walking through it and taking a look at the fresh catch of the day, as well as inhaling that briny, pungent fishy smell that, while some people might not like, I don’t mind at all.

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Marché aux poissons.
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Fresh coquilles St. Jacques.

Later, I met up with my colleague, her daughter, and her daughter’s boyfriend in town (we had split off after the beach to do our own thing again) and together we walked back to Deauville to explore what that town had to offer. As I said, Deauville is known to be more expensive than Trouville (even though both are beach towns), and I could definitely tell with the classiness of the buildings, the boardwalk along the beach, and everything in between. In fact, it is the location of the American Film Festival, so of course tons of celebrities (including classics like Rock Hudson and Marlon Brando) have visited this town and have made it a popular tourist destination!

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Port of Deauville.

We headed straight to Deauville’s beach after briefly stopping at a horse ranch to pet some horses. The beach itself was more barren than the one in Trouville, but what made it distinctive was the Promenade des Planches, a long row of beach closets with the names of famous actors who have visited this beach town. It was amazing going from closet to closet to see if anyone I knew had been there, let alone the fact that they had come all the way to France from Hollywood (Los Angeles, represent!).

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Promenade des Planches.

Along the boardwalk, there was also a small cultural-arts center in which we popped in briefly (it was free admission, anyway) and took a quick look at the art and photography from local artists. One of the art pieces that particularly struck me was the image of a horse’s flank, with star constellations labeled over it. Not quite sure why it struck me- perhaps it had this nature-esque kind of feel to it, along with a dreamy scene that I, an occasional romantic, ended up falling for it. Mind you, I’m not an expert when it comes to analyzing art, but in any case, I liked it!

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The art piece.

We finished up our time at the beach and headed back into the town center. My colleague showed me Le Normandy, which is a large, fancy hotel in the style of the classic half-timbered houses all over the region. It was super classy, from the scale of it to the inside with its opulent lobby and well-kept courtyard which back then had some sort of art exhibition going on. If I had the money, I wouldn’t mind giving staying a night in the hotel!

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Le Normandy.

I was getting sort of tired by the time we visited Le Normandy; my colleague, her daughter, and her daughter’s boyfriend were planning to stay a bit longer in Deauville before catching the last bus back to Le Havre, but I was feeling so exhausted that I decided to take an earlier bus back; I had my colleague’s spare key, so it was no problem letting myself back into her flat before she returned home. Said goodbye to them, and I caught the 17h10 bus back to Honfleur before transferring over to get to Le Havre. I arrived back close to 18h30 and headed back to the flat, stopping in the middle to grab a kebab dinner (I’d been craving it since arriving in France, so why not?). It had been a long, full day of hopping three small port towns, but I was glad to have visited them, considering that they had been on my bucket list of places to visit in Normandy.

That said, I would definitely say that these three towns are worth the visit, especially if you are in the Le Havre area over the weekend as it makes for an excellent (albeit exhausting) day trip over. Really, all you need is some seafood and wine and good views of the sea to keep you satisfied. Highly recommended!

I have one more destination to tell you about during this year’s les vacances de la Toussaint. While it was not intentionally supposed to be on my list of places to visit this time around (as well as the fact that I’d already been there numerous times the previous year), I found myself exploring and enjoying what it had to offer. Next stop: Rouen, France!

 

— Rebecca

 

 

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