Saturday, November 24, 2012

Au Revoir Honfleur

*** Update ***
We have collected vintage postcards from across Normandy and started a new blog 'Normandy Then and Now'.  If you are interested in stories and discoveries from across the region, do visit and let us know what you think.

*********************************************************************************

The last postcard.
 A good match!

Honfleur through old postcards has been a revelation:

We plan to be back next year.

'Loading Livestock onto Le Passager (see The Death Wedding Post) in the Port of Honfleur'
By Auguste-Xavier Leprince
With more old postcards and more news...

La Lieutenance, reverse

Of Honfleur. Au revoir!
xxx

PS:  If you know that I have any Honfleur story completely wrong, or you can solve the mystery of the disappearing building up on Mont Joli, please do get in touch, I would love to hear from you.

The steamer at Honfleur, image kindly donated by Azoline
We will match it on our next visit!



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Under a giant orange umbrella

Look at the beautiful Quai St Catherine and what a good match our photo is!

Favourite mornings are spent here under a giant orange umbrella, eating fresh bread, butter, croissants and jam while sipping delicious coffee and watching the world go by.

Honfleur, vintage postcard
Quai Sainte Catherine
There can be no better place in France to start the day.  Even as autumn begins to chill the air and crisp breezes rock boats against the Quai, we choose to be wrapped up in scarves and hats on Quai Sainte Catherine to have our breakfast.

Honfleur
Quai Sainte Catherine today
Our best adventures have all been planned here; brave Chateau Falaise, Pierre Huet for delicious Calvados and Pommeau, romantic Coupesarte, the many steps of Mont St Michel, Bayeux's hilarious tapestry - did you know lots of the embroidered text is in English?  We have walked in the footsteps of WW2 heroes through the trenches of Maisy Battery, across the enigmatic beaches of Arromanche and met the SNAFU at Merville

Calvados
Early morning view of our breakfast restaurant from the apartment
Our trips begin with the purchase of a picnic lunch; quiche lorraine, baguette and wicked patisserie! All from Olivier Deschamps in Dauphin Street, where the tall houses of Quai St Catherine have a second entrance, and owner.

Normandy
The SNAFU Special!

Normandy
Benedictine, Fecamp
Then on to perhaps the stunning Basilica at Lisieux, trimmed with a billion coloured mosaic tiles, or just a short hop to a tiny town like Blangy de Chateau, which doesn't have a chateau but does have a wonderful flower shop.  And the Brocantes!  Be prepared to come to a screeching halt as the magic word 'Brocante' announces a roadside sale of treasures and tat.

After an exciting day of pretty twiddly lanes, zooming motorways and wonderful Normandy discoveries we return happily to Honfleur, to snuggle up contentedly in a cosy welcoming restaurant and chat about our adventures.

Normandy
Honfleur
We will be back soon, only one postcard to go!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wotcha doin mister?

Or, Sand in the paint.

"Wotcha doin mister?"  The small boy at the front of this postcard has probably been hassling the photographer since he first set up his cumbersome camera equipment on a hot summer day in Trouville.

Vintage French postcard
Trouville, La Plage
Presumably a cultured man, the photographer is cleverly echoing the famous paintings by M. Claude Monet, but a small quizzical face is in every frame.  And completely stealing the scene.

A closer look reveals costumes worn prior to the first world war, a time of  'La Belle Époque', those golden few years before WW1 blew the world apart.

I'm glad this lad had a summer on the beach with nothing but time and curiosity to get him into trouble.  I hope he got through the trenches and the campaigns okay, and lived to bring his own children to play on the sand and not think about war.

Right place, bit of a dull match
I had high hopes for our visit, but we were short on sunshine and atmosphere.  We will have to go back and have another go!

Trouville
Camille on the beach at Trouville by Monet.  A far more interesting match than my effort.
Monet's Trouville is of course delightful.

Detail from Monet, 'The Beach at Trouville', 1870
Trouville sand in Monet's paint!

The picture below, now in the National Gallery London, is proud to have grains of Trouville beach sand stuck forever in it's oil paint. Proof, if it were needed, that Claude painted 'en plein air' - outside.
 
The beach at Trouville, 1870, by Claude Monet. Tiny, covered in sand and in the London National Gallery
Jonathan Jones is very interesting about this painting in a Guardian article, here.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

An ancient building and my ankles in peril

Honfleur is clearly not a town for stilettos. The first time we walked across picturesque cobbles from the car park on Bd Charles V, through the ancient archway of the Lieutenance in Honfleur I could only look carefully at the ground.  The 58 steps up to our rooftop apartment confirm it.    
Vintage postcard
La Lieutenance, Honfleur
When I could finally walk and look up at the same time, the Lieutenancy captivated me.  Looking like an extra from a romantic fairytale, it has been the backdrop to a million photographs of happy visitors and has been interpreted by a thousand artists.  

This unique building was not always so popular.

Back in 1863 the 'L'Echo Honfleur' called for it's destruction! "Tear down this old monument!"  demanded the Honfleur L'Echo as "it has nothing graceful!L'Echo was objecting to the apparent haphazard additions and remodeling that has altered the building, as Honfleur has altered, since 1365. 
Honfleur
La Lieutenance today! A good match!
Like a battle weary solder, La Lieutenance wears the badges of Honfleur's history with pride: above the gate a statue of Our Lady of the Harbour has looked out across the Seine offering protection for hundreds of years.  The two watch turrets are decorated with the town's coat of arms and a plaque commemorates Champlain, founder of Quebec.

Never a town to stand still, under the arch are posters of contemporary events, town notices and local advertisements.

Lieutenance
Carte postale, classic view, web find
Like all ancient and precious things, the La Lieutenance requires a lot of care.  Those big old stones disguise a sensitive soul and perilous roof.  The town of Honfleur of course now recognises this treasure at is heart and will endeavour to protect it.  And if we can help, we will.