Well- for our first vacation, Nic and I decided to visit Normandie. This historic and beautiful area of France is well known around the world. We also enjoy and feel strongly, that knowing history – both good and bad – is a way to know oneself – and how traditions come into being. For true education never ends ..it just takes on different class rooms.
This area was were our 2 countries became one – in blood & pain- forever. Everyone knows about WW2, and the Nazi’s take over of France. I will share with you- everything we learned ville by ville.
I would like to tell you about the surprise of our journey. One reason why I NEVER take tours, on those ” tourist buses ” , is because, you are not allowed to “wander around” . This “stroll” either by car or on foot, can be the most rewarding and surprising of your vacation. The unexpected can be wonderful !
Nic and I drove from Paris, up to the Normandie region. We left early in the morning- to beat the Paris traffic, and in doing so – had time to take the scenic road along the cost- so up to Honfleur we went. We arrived at 10 in the morning- and the city was in full activity already. Private boats were docked for the day, their owners on foot in town, maybe looking for a cafe for a small breakfast. Delivery men were unloading boxes of supplies to local stores. Tourists were strolling around, with the official camera necklaces.
Its a working port city, with the full aroma of fish and salt air. As we walked around – we saw many retired seaman- with sea salt skin, tans that look like leather, small squinted eyes – every watchful – always on alert, and most of them wearing a hat or cap in traditional style.I wanted to take a picture of them, but could not get a good shot, without disturbing their routine.
This city has one word – BEAUTIFUL !! Nic and I were so surprised by this , that during our whole vacation we kept comparing every city to this one – and Honfleur beat every one of them!! The city is very old – dating back to year 1000. (yes over one thousand years old )
The city has the oldest wooden church in the country , called Saint Anne, which dates back to 15th century, its very unique when you look at it . At first, I did not know it was a church, because it had a very different look- almost like a city hall building. In the back of the church, there is a huge anchor, leaning in the corner- like its resting after a long journey on a troubled sea. When we visited- no entry was allowed, so we only saw the outside. This also may be due to the age of the building, and the wood structure- not able to handle all the tourists traffic.
The air has that crisp clean feel to it. Honfleur is very clean – with potted flowers everywhere. Most of the tourists were European (i am always listening for that familiar southern accent). Another thing that gives away the tourist nationality is the shoes – Americans wear sneakers- Europeans wear walking shoes. We wanted to stay longer, but had so much road to travel still, so we settled on cafe. We sat watching people – and enjoyed the atmosphere and unpretentious people in view.
Our small walk to the parked car ( only one euro for 2 hours), I had to stop and buy my magnet and postcards, this is my only requirement now when traveling. (I had to stop collecting t-shirts and plates – it takes up a lot of room after a few years of traveling) I decided to stop in a small corner store, the shop keeper an aged woman, simply dressed in a light blue cotton dress. Her gray hair pulled to the back of her head, neatly into a bun – having her morning cafe . I told her in my best broken french ” vous etes a belle ville” (you have a beautiful city) .” Oui, french talk blah..blah …. merci” – she replied back to me,with a big smile. I collected my small bag of postcards & magnets and memories.
Yes , Madam, you have a Very Beautiful city indeed !