So close….but so far…
Day 135/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Le Havre, France
Oh what to do in France when we’re so far away from my favourite city in the world? So close…but yet so far away. 2.25 hours to be exact away from Paris. At this stage in the cruise a long bus or train ride was not in the cards for us today, but a short bus ride that had my interest!
We had agreed to meet Donna and Bill for an “adventure” as we like to call it, or as Richard says “Going off the grid!” When Richard works as a Trip Director they follow a strict grid of what the client wants them to execute upon. So “going off the grid” means something not really planned, but something that will evolve over time. And that is the adventure we had going on today.
The shuttle bus in the port of Le Havre, France was not run by Viking. The bus was running every 30 minutes or so from right outside the ship, to downtown Le Havre, and of course being a shuttle bus, it was free for us to take. We had agreed to meet Donna and Bill at 9am, but since we are usually early and so are they, we met on Deck 1, in the Atrium at 8:50am, which meant we could take the 9am shuttle bus, which was waiting outside the Neptune into Le Havre. Our excursions manager Chantelle had said that “No body goes to Le Havre, but we use the port as a jumping off place for other excursions.”
The shuttle bus dropped us downtown Le Havre and there was a local DMC (destination management company) employee waiting at the curb for the shuttle bus all day, so Richard confirmed directions from the shuttle bus to the bus station. The weather was not that great, with 14C temperatures and a slight rain, but we were all dressed for the weather, so we were in good shape for the 20 minute walk to the bus station.
Palais de Justice (Courthouse) Le Havre
Notary office’s sign across from the courthouse in Le Havre, France. There is no doubt we are in France from the picture on this sign.
Erwin Wurm ‘Narrow House‘ is installed on the Square Claude Erignac in Le Havre, France and the structure is the reinterpretation of Wurm’s Austrian childhood home, a typical suburban abode form the 1960’s, surrounded by a wooded, landscaped garden that gives the impression of a residential neighbourhood.
Wurm is an Austrian artist who lives in Vienna and also in New York City.
Richard leading us through the streets of Le Havre, France on a rainy day.
When we reached the bus station we located a little coffee shop that sold amazing pain au chocolate and croissants, so while Richard went in search of bus tickets, Donna, Bill and me sat and had some refreshments. Richard found us after he had obtained our bus tickets and while we still had some time, Richard also enjoyed a pain au chocolate. There is nothing like French baking! Yum!
We made it to the combined train/bus station!
We knew we needed to be on bus 111, so right behind our cafe and beside the train station, was the bus station. The bus was loading when we arrived, but the bus was also going to a town further than we were going, and they wanted to make sure everyone that was for the further town boarded first. There was another bus coming right behind the waiting bus, so we didn‘t need to sweat if the first bus filled up. We managed to get on the first bus and away we went for our 28 minute bus ride.
Originally when I was choosing shore excursions for the stop in Le Havre, I had chosen an optional Viking tour which was going to Rouen. About a week or so ago, when I started looking at Rouen vs Honfleur, everyone online said that if you only had a day to visit one of these towns, go to Honfleur instead of Rouen. Rouen was also 1 hour away and Honfleur was a lot closer to Le Havre. The other reason we gave our tickets back for Rouen, is by now we’re a bit fed up with following the red lollipop. Richard speaks French so why not use his fluency to get around in France, rather than staying behind a lollipop. So that is why we were heading to Honfleur today! The return bus ride was about $12 CAD each.
If you look on a map, Honfleur is south east of Le Havre and is on the Southern Bank of the Seine. Honfleur is known for its old port which was an important trading port during the Middle Ages. A small town, Honfleur has a population of around 7,500 people and that has rarely changed since the 1700’.s
From the bus stop, we started walking towards the old town and what did we see in the distance? A market!
A Saturday market in France! I was so excited! The last time we visited a Saturday market in France was when we were visiting one of my other favourite small French towns in Beaune, France, just south of Dijon, France. We had been on a Uniworld River Cruise at the time, and had a wonderful time wandering through the small town of Beaune, which all came together for a huge food and market festival every Saturday. If Honfleur’s market was anything like we had experienced in Beaune, this was going to be a lot of fun!
The rain was a light drizzle, but all of the vendors had tents, so we were able to walk through the market visiting the stalls, without really too much bother from the weather. I did have on layers though with a compression shirt, wool sweater, cashmere wool cape, neck warmer and a scarf, blue jeans, my Vessi waterproof walking shoes, and the best coat I’ve ever owned. - my North Face, goretex rain coat with a hood, There is nothing better in the rain than to put up the rain hood and not have to use a hand to hold an umbrella!
Richard and Bill wandering around Honfleur.
Richard chose to use the umbrella, foregoing using his Viking World Cruise jacket, which is the only jacket he has on this world cruise.
We wandered through the market which went through the entire downtown street, trying to see where the market went, following it all the way back to the beginning. Some of the vendors were now fed up with the rain, and were packing up early from the market, which was supposed to continue until 2pm.
While Donna and me continued shopping, Richard and Bill decided to find a nice cafe on the water, that had a tent to help block the rain. I love the way the French roll with rain! There is a warm blanket on your chair for your legs, a tent to stop the wind and the rain, and everyone just sits around rain or shine, drinking wine, eating frites, regardless of whether its summer or a coolish spring day in France!
Are you talking to me?
Of course in France I had to order a glass of nice French rose from Provence! Richard had to eat moules frites or course and the rest of our meals were wonderful! What fun it was to explore, without an agenda. Let the day come to us, and enjoy what we saw while in Honfleur.
How typical French to have a merry go round in the downtown area of the town. The flowers in Honfleur were gorgeous on a rainy spring day in May.
Downtown Honfleur, France.
The old streets of Honfleur, France.
Saint Leonard Church, Honfleur, France.
We decided to make our way back to the bus station after our nice leisurely lunch, and a walk through the downtown shops. Along the way we saw a nice old church called Saint-Leonard, which was originally built in 1186 in the same location, but was destroyed during the Hundred Years War, and rebuilt in the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century. The main portal or entrance is considered one of the finest expressions of Gothic architecture.
The church also had a very unusual water feature which ran from the side of the church all the way down the hill into town. The flowers and vegetation growing on this water feature were stunning!
We found a little pub near the bus station and decided to sit indoors and warm up a bit with a drink, before heading over to the bus station to wait for our return bus to Le Havre. The coronation of King Charles III was on the television in the pub, so we were able to see a bit of what was going on in London, England while in the pub. We had tried to watch some of the coronation proceedings before we left the Neptune but the television coverage was buffering and stalling on the tv, so it was a bit frustrating trying to watch it in our cabin.
Our bus came and right on time we left for our return trip to LeHavre. When we reached LeHavre, we walked from the bus station back to downtown LeHavre looking for a wool shop that I had found online. Donna is a weaver and she has got me interested in weaving so I wanted her advice on choosing some wool to get me started in weaving. Richard had turned data on his phone on, so using Google Maps, we easily found the wool shop in a really nice pedestrian mall area of Le Havre.
I was able to buy a nice selection of different textures of wool and look forward to starting on my next creative adventure when I return home to Canada.
The wool shop was also very near to our shuttle bus and I really couldn’t understand why anyone would say that Le Havre is somewhere that you only use as a jumping off spot to see other places in France. I think Le Havre is a really nice spot that if you only had a day and didn’t really want to bother with public transit or a Viking tour, you could easily spend a nice day wandering around Le Havre which also had a big shopping mall with the department store Printemps, near the train station, and smaller quainter shops near the downtown core.
We took the shuttle bus back to the Neptune and headed up to the Explorer’s Lounge for a drink and to look at the shoreline of Le Havre with its interesting monument made out of shipping containers.
‘Catena Containers’ in Le Havre by Vincent Ganivet. Created in 2017 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the city of Le Havre. The containers are stacked 30 meters high and were designed to look a lot like a LEGO set. No glue or adhesives were used to stack them together. Born in France in 1976, Ganivet continues to create masterpieces that defy gravity with simple materials and his other exhibits have been created in Nice, Avignon, France and Tokyo, Japan.
While we were in the Explorer’s Lounge on Deck 7, Sue and Steve also joined us and then we all decided to have dinner in the pool grill area of the ship, which we carried from the World Cafe, since the World Cafe was so very loud and crowded with everyone returning from shore excursions at the same time.
We finished up our evening with me continuing to pack. Its becoming real that we are leaving soon and we need to make sure we have enough room to get everything home!
And tomorrow we golf our last round on the cruise, where we will be in England!