Friday, 13 July 2012


The Vieux Bassin

We had two goals in coming to Honfleur: to see the Boudin Museum and of course to walk around the old town, especially the old port, the Vieux Bassin. It is a popular place: we saw an information panel which asserted that in 2003 it was the 21st most popular destination in the whole of France.

We parked near the Jardin Public and started by visiting the museum. It was thoroughly enjoyable and gave a good sense of Boudin's life and role (an influence on Monet no less), with a selection of his smaller, but probably not best, works. We also discovered other local artist like Dubourg and Cals. Over the course of his career Boudin painted more than 300 pictures of people, usually groups, on the beach. He was also a master of painting clouds.

We then walked down the narrow cobbled street into the centre of the town.

And soon found ourselves in the Place Ste-Catherine, where the first thing to catch the eye is the late 15th century wooden Bell Tower.

Nearby is the astonishing timber church. It dates from the 15th and 16th centuries and was built by shipworkers after the end of the Hundred Years War,

Inside, the church is vast and spacious, with twin naves and small aisles.

The Place Ste-Catherine, looking back, makes a charming ensemble. The chimney to the left of the Bell Tower has the figure of a cat on the top.

We left the square to walk down towards the docks. The first thing you see is the back of the Lieutenancy, when the King's Lieutenant, i.e.Governor, once lived. Into it has been set the 17th Caen Gate, which was once part of the town walls.

We walked round to its left to see the Ste-Catherine quay with the Hotel de Ville and St Stephen's church (now the Maritime Museum).

Beside the church we turned into rue de la Prison, with a beautiful group of old timber-framed houses, and beyond them the 17th century salt warehouses.

Back on the quay, there was a wonderful view across the dock (constructed by Colbert in the 17th century), towards the seven-storey houses of the Ste-Etienne quay and the Lieutenancy.

After a pretty ordinary lunch in one of the innumerable restaurants lining the quay, we followed the rue du Puits, lined with more handsome timber-framed houses ...

... and at the top climbed a surprisingly steep path to reach the Mont Joli, where there were fine views over the town to the river Seine beyond and the striking new bridge.

From here, a section of road brought us round to the pretty Notre Dame de Grace sanctuary chapel of 1600-1615.

From here we wended our way downhill to pass the museum and return to the car.

Conditions: cloudy, but quite warm; just a single shower

Distance: about three miles

Rating: four and a half stars. Full of interest and variety.

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