Monthly Archives: November 2010

Honfleur, my love

After Normandie and visiting a cute, roadside cider shop where they were offering a free tasting (free is unheard of in France), we got back on the road to Honfleur.  Just driving through the countryside was so beautiful.  Tiny towns with cobblestone roads, people wandering the streets, carrying flowers, walking dogs.  It was hard to believe at times that these were real towns with real people working real jobs.  Just such a difference of pace from what we’re used to back home.  So…relaxed.  NO rush.

We pulled into the quaint town of Honfleur around 5 p.m.  The center of the town is built around a docking station for boats coming into the harbor.   The buildings lining the dock are smushed together and at varying heights.  Real estate used to be taxed by the width of the building so thus, the pencil thin buildings of varying colors, shapes and sizes.

Our hostess was so amazing.  Going against the typical French grain of being visibly put out with American confusions, she came by foot to where we parked in town because we had a hard time understanding her instructions to her house.  She got in the car with us and directed us to her house down impossibly tiny non-streets and then parked our car FOR us when we found a space because she was a pro at cramming a car into a space that appears way too small (very French.)

 

Her front door

 

 

Going into her door, you see her house to the right and the little "tower" straight ahead where we stayed

 

 

Our little room in the UP upstairs of her house

 

Her house was so unique.  The ground floor was a garden terrace with a little table outside for breakfasts.  Behind her home was her husband’s studio (he is a local painter – a very common profession in Honfleur as Monet himself spent hours down by the docks painting) and above his studio on the third floor, was our little apartment.  Stone floors, exposed beams, a little posh decorated bathroom (no shower curtain) and a sweet little window with rosemary planed on the sill in buckets.

This video is mainly to hear the bells and see the view.  You don’t have to watch the whole thing but it’s a nice background music for reading the blog!

The view was of the tops of the houses in the neighborhood.  Charming, moss-covered cobble stone and chimneys poking up here and there.  She provided a kettle, sugar and some tea for us to have in the mornings before going out to find the “morning baguette.” It was my favorite place to stay on our entire trip.

After settling in we went down to wander the streets to see this beautiful city at night and find some dinner.  Gorgeous sunset light was streaming in and hitting the houses the lined the harbor.  It’s no wonder countless artists have painted this scene. After dinner, we strolled the edge of the ports and just sat and stared for a while…

 

Honfleur "city square" at night

 

 

good night, awesome city!

 

The area right by the main cathedral in town has a market every Wednesday morning.  We were lucky to be in town for it.

 

Honfleur Market

 

It was very lively and full of color – tomatoes, beets, radishes, nuts, currants, berries and dozens of other vegetables.

 

Honfleur Market

 

 

Honfleur Market

 

 

Honfleur market

 

 

This guy had a different approach to getting people to try his gingerbread...

 

We saw a lady making crepes and stood in line to get one.  There was a little girl waiting in line for her crepes and she was quite excited by watching the process.  She was singing a made-up song about them and all I understood was her enthusiastic refrain of “Tres bien! Tres bien! Tres bien!”

 

an embarrassed smile after being caught singing to the crepes

 

And here is the hypnotizing video we took of the sweet crepe lady making crepes for the lady in front of us.  Watch, enjoy the sounds, drool along with me:

We ordered a savory crepe – wrapped around a sausage link and spread with butter, of course.  We took our crepes and her specialty of the day, galette du pomme de terre (potato pancake) and went down beside the docks to enjoy the morning view.

 

Morning in Honfleur

 

We got some coffee at a nearby cafe (Matt had chocolat chaud) and walked around town.

 

They don't kid around with their hot chocolate - it's always better than the coffee.

 

There was a “servez-vous” (serve yourself!) type of pastry/chocolate shop that sold these interesting cinnamon roll shaped biscuits.  Kind of a stick-bun effect – we picked out a fleur de sel (always choose that flavor), pistachio, apricot and two types of chocolate.  (hey, when in France) All were dense, sticky and delicious – a puff pastry type of texture.

 

the sticky-bun-biscuit-things

 

We continued to walk around town and got unusually flavored gelato at a place called Amarino (because it HAD been two whole hours since we last ate!) And walked back through town toward the church to try and take a tour.  We were told the inside looked like a ship because sailors built the thing, but we sadly couldn’t go inside because a funeral was in session.

 

Honfleur docks

 

 

I loved this scene

 

 

Honfleur docks

 

 

Cider is a specialty in the region - and it's goooood

 

 

Again - everyone has a dog out and about

 

 

The cider shop owner left his pipe on one of the outside displays. Loved it

 

 

Children in France are such a joy. Always outside playing in the streets

 

 

Color color everywhere!

 

 

more docks

 

 

boats on the dock

 

After having a lunch of pate, baguette and cornichons and wine (of course, we decided to hike up the hill (a very long, steep one) to see the Cote de Grace.  It should be noted that the weather was absolutely stunning that day – almost 100% of every day we were in France.  65ish, breezy, clear blue skies with colorful, puffy clouds – gorgeous and perfect for walking all day is what we did every single day of our two weeks.

Walking up to the Cote de Grace was a little difficult (remember I am wearing flats) – a 45 degree angle climb and solid cobblestone, which are hundreds of years old so there is no longer mortar in between the stones.

 

Just someone's yard we passed on the way up. Martha Stewart, anyone?

 

 

Another cute set of apartments on our way up the hill

 

We looked around the church at the top of the hill but were sad that we’d made the entire trek up but it was closed.  So we noted the lovely set of church bells outside and the gorgeous chestnut trees surrounding the church.

 

Laying in the chestnut tree leaves

 

The wind started picking up and the chestnuts began to fall.  Huge, spiky balls that we pried open to find the beautiful nut inside.  They were simply gorgeous.  It’s really hard to find chestnuts in Texas, so we started gathering.  It was easy to get a LOT – they were everywhere on the ground – huge, heavy, perfectly shiny brown with wood grain pattern.  It was fun and we felt like we had a secret to sneak back into the US.

Oh wait, we found out last week that they are all poisonous. Horse Chestnuts they be!

 

I gathered about 3 lbs. I was happy about it then and that's all that matters 🙂

 

Okay, so maybe we won’t eat them, but I will use them for decor for sure!  Our gathering, while stupid, was not in vain, haha.  Plus, it made for a lot of laughs (me covering my head from the falling chestnuts with one hand while pointing to good ones for Matt to pick up with the other)

We headed back down the hill and enjoyed the rest of our last day in Honfleur, eating, walking the docks and just soaking it all in.

 

Bye, Honfleur! Hope to see you again someday!

 

Thanks for reading.  HEY GUESS WHAT?!  We’re finally up to Paris!  So next blog post will be about our CRAAAAZY first day in that magical city.

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D-Day Beaches

After our adventures at Mont St. Michele, we ventured off to the D-day Memorial and beaches in Normandie.   It was a cold, cloudy, windy day – the first bad weather we experienced on our trip – maybe because of the ocean, maybe because it’s just always a little gloomy at a cemetery.

It was absolutely staggering to walk through the memorial museum and see the walls of names, the stories, the hour-by-hour accounts of the days surrounding the invasions.

Outside the museum

A piece of art inside the museum

These signs were everywhere throughout the cemetery

It was amazing to stand in the middle of literally thousands of acres of crosses.  When you have a cross to represent every single death, it becomes very hard to ignore

The crosses

For the unknown soldier - there were many

Omaha Beach - someone had written RIP

Omaha Beach

Matt said a couple of times he got pretty choked up just walking around.  I don’t have anything eloquent to say or good to add because I’m sure most of you reading this blog know far more about this than I do.  If you ever have a chance to travel to France, don’t skip Normandie.  You will be welcomed as basically a saint just because you’re American and no one there has forgotten.  Neither should we!

 

Up next: my favorite town on our trip: Honfleur!  Separate post.  Didn’t seem right to clutter up a post about Omaha beach with any frivolities!

 

 

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Chestnut Fail

I’m gonna write another France blog SOON. In fact, the next one in line is about the lovely town of Honfleur. In Honfleur, we amassed a large quantity of what we thought were the most gorgeous chestnuts ever. Huge, beautiful wood grain patterns on the shells. We decided to crack one open tonight and pop it in the oven to toast it and get that lovely chestnuts-roasted-on-an-open-fire kinda vibe.  Matt started to look up how to eat a chestnut and if it’s okay to eat them raw.   I was going to make Martha Stewart’s Chestnut pie for Christmas, we had gathered so many like eager squirrels! Little did I know…

 

Aaaaaaand here’s a pic of the awesome chestnuts WE picked up in France:

Yeeeeah.  They are beautiful little nuts-o-death.  Oh what’s that, Alisa?  You were puking all morning?  Are you pregnaaaaant?  Hmmmm?   “No, I just ate a butt-load of toxic horse chestnuts”

The charming and non-toxic part of Honfleur twill be blogged soon.  Until then – stay away from these spiny menaces.

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Filed under Food Stuffs, General Hoo-Ha