Finally to France, my favourite touring destination. We had some rolling seas on the way up the coast, just enough to rock us to sleep at night, but which made navigating the Oceanview Restaurant on Deck 14, with a tray of food, quite interesting!
Our port was Le Havre, an important shipping terminal for the whole of Normandy. We chose to take a shore excursion to the delightful village of Honfleur, 30 minutes away by coach. The history of this beautiful fishing village goes back to the Vikings, and we saw many relics from the 14th Century including a prison and timber houses built with oak; some later clad with expensive chestnut shingles.
We walked the old town along the usual rough cobblestones and ventured up narrow laneways with shops full of decadent pastries and sweets. The pretty yet historic houses are narrow and up to five stories high, and many of these are actually divided into two: ground, 1st and 2nd floors are one house with access from the front, whilst 3rd to 5th floors are another house with access from the back. This, our guide told us, was so that the owner, a wealthy woman of the time, could obtain double taxes on her properties!
Stopping at the Albatros Bar I ordered, in French, café noir et baguette avec jambon et emmental. Delicious. We visited the largest wooden church in France, St Catherine Church which has two naves. When it was built, it was considered too lightweight to hold the bell tower, so the tower was built across the street!
On the way back to our coach we called in at the fish market where we saw the most enormous prawns and a wonderful selection of shellfish and other delicacies. The village, which has a population of only 8,500 has 120 restaurants, many of which serve seafood. Where once Honfleur was known for its storage of salt, its port has become a tourist mecca which now attracts visitors from within France and around the world.