Honfleur – The Belle of Normandy

Honfleur is a French fishing village that rests on the southern bank of the Seine estuary where this great river flows into the Atlantic Ocean. If you love French towns then you will find Honfleur one of the most beautiful and inviting examples. It is in the department of Calvados and is a magnet for so many admiring travellers.

HonfleurHonfleur is a rural town that surrounds a small fishing harbour called the Vieux Bassin. This safe and secure port seems to support the primary and longstanding component of the local economy. Nowadays the strongest contributor is probably tourism but all ancient local culture seems to be interlinked. The first historical written record of Honfleur goes back to a time almost a thousand years ago. The still present commercial port on the edge of the township was a primary import and exit point for goods to and from England so many centuries ago.

Visit Honfleur today and you will find that the natural beauty of its arrangement, architecture and setting is quite spectacular. It is such a charming, peaceful and enchanting place to spend a little time in. The Vieux Bassin, surrounded by its three sides, is overlooked by low key commercial activity. Cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, gentle industrial premises and fishing boats. The supportive and busy market activity seems to take account of all life.

Honfleur was probably the earliest inspiration for French impressionist art. The natural and un-pretentious beauty of the town attracted the early attention of some of the great artists. Courbet, Monet, Boudin and Jongkind often occupied the ‘Artist’s House’ on the edge of the town. Their work nowadays is exhibited in many of the world’s greatest art galleries. Take a look at the Eugene Boudin Museum within the confines of Honfleur. It portrays so many of his artworks spread over twelve hundred square meters across nine rooms.

HonfleurTake a stroll amongst the back streets surrounding the old fishing port. There is much to see. Find the historical St. Catherine’s Church which is the oldest and largest completely wooden constructed church in the whole of France. It is visited by so many people every day. It was built by shipwrights in the 15th. Century and is overlooked by a separate bell tower a number of meters away. The wooden tower was separated due to the risk of any fire that may have developed from lightning strikes. These days it acts as a museum to portray French religious art.

Saint Catherine’s is built totally of wood. You will find the uneven supporting pillars and posts inside built from randomly selected oak trunks of uneven lengths. Surely it must be a modern day fire risk containing an internal electric light system that surely requires constant guarding.

HonfleurHonfleur also supports the peaceful park, ‘Jardin des Personnalites’. This is a wonderful place to take a walk and observe the artistic representations of previous principal town occupants including some of the great impressionist artists.

Visit ‘Naturospace’ as well. This is a house constructed for butterflies where they go about their vital ecological business. The view of their activity and the nature of their busy process is enlightening to observe.

Honfleur is home to so many other viewing points, museum exhibits and architectural Grand Designs to provide a real sense of French art, design, and history. It is quite beautiful and stunningly so, and it is protected as a safe oasis to take a break in.


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Bob Lyons

Retired airline pilot and European explorer

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