Honfleur and Arromanches
04.04.2013 - 04.04.2013 6 °C
Today started a little slowly as we had a pretty ordinary night. After some monster beds earlier in the trip, we've lately had some tiny affairs - well double beds actually - and things have got a little cosy. In Brittany we found ourselves rolling like synchronised swimmers trying to time things right so that we didn't knock each other out. Here in Normandy, the bed is bouncy and comfortable but small and because it's bouncy, when Hugh rolls over, I get motion sickness Given my recent sttomach ailments, this is not a good thing and last night was rough . Hugh had a similarly disturbed night so the 6.30 alarm got ignored and it was after 8 before we got moving. Fortunately once we got up we got moving with some dispatch and we were out before 10 - good for us!
With lowering grey skies and threatened urkiness we headed down the coast to the the medieval glory of Honfleur. This port, which apparently inspired Monet and others, is a wonderful tumble of half timbered buildings around the old port which, mixed with the grey of Normandy stone is a delight. Apparently, when the sun shines, the light here is extraordinary and a delight to paint. Sadly, today, the sun barely shone so the place was washed in grey. It's still incredibly lovely and a pleasurable place to wander around.
We parked without drama on the harbour and set off to explore. It is a town made for meandering. The cobbled streets wander away from the port filled with timbered and slightly tumple down buildings. Take away the modern gloss and you could easily be in the 13th century and the modern tourists in their thermal clothing - needed to battle the elements - looked slightly out of place. Almost by accident we came across the 13th Century church - St Catherine's - I have to confess that I thought it was the Halle (market hall) as it is an incredible almost barn like shape. Inside it was as quiet and worshipful as any we've visited and as a building can be when it's full of tourists. A separate building houses the bell tower for the church. There are various stories as to why this is separate. One theory is that it's to avoid damage to the church in the event of lightning strikes on the tower but the official version is that the church buildings weren't strong enough for the weight of the bells.
We had a substantial lunch in town at a restaurant on the port. We sat outside - well rugged up in our duffle coats (which have barely been off our backs since we bought them) - and enjoyed local seafood and a couple of wines. We also shopped for dinner in a little patisserie - quiche lorraine no less - and bought some little things.
We left Honfleur with the intent of coming back to home base. I am still struggling with tummy troubles and had a wave of nausea while walking around. As we headed down the freeway coming home, however. we saw the exit for Arromanches and decided to detour. Fast forward our history lesson from a town founded in the 11th Century to a harbour founded in the 1940s. Arromanches in the home of the remains of the Mulberry harbour - Port Winston - one of the shining stars of the D-Day landings.
As we came down the hill toward the town, you could see the remnants of the harbour which are still clearly visible nearly 70 years after their "temporary" placement. Will you be surprised to know that I cried again when I saw them? We had a quick look at the museum - had to be quick as we were there only 30 minutes before closing - but really it was about seeing the real thing that got to us. After spending yesterday in awe of the American efforts - which are not to be denied - it was with a sense of pride that I actually saw this testament to British thinking and determinaton. Churchill's comment - They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be mastered. Let me have the best solution worked out. Don’t argue the matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves. - and the little known fact that the concept for Mulberry was developed in North Wales - swelled my British bones and for once I didn't mind being taken as a Britisher (although I did explain to him that I was Australian!!).
Home about 6 o'clock after a day that ended up much better than it started. Dinner was the quiche with salad and abottle of wine. I'm enjoying a cognac - bought in Cognac - and about to enjoy an apple pastry. Thus ends another day in Normandy. Tomorrow may be Le Mans if all goes well! Bonne Chance!