From the Alabaster Coast to the Flower Coast
Our days in Dieppe already were really great but our trip had some more beautiful places in Normandy in store, that enthused us just as much. From the cliffs along the Alabaster Coast the route led to the Flower Coast. The contrast between those two coast lines on the shores of the English Channel couldn’t be bigger. While the Alabaster Coast is dominated by tall chalk cliffs and the beaches are pretty often rocky, the Flower Coast offers fine sand beaches that drop slowly into the water. And as the name already suggests there are flowers everywhere. During our drive from Dieppe to Trouville we made a few stops.
Le Havre – the vision of a modern town
From Dieppe we first drove to Rouen. We loved this city so much that I have dedicaetd a seperate post to it. We could have stayed there. But that night we had a reservation at a hotel in Trouville and we sure wanted to see more during this trip, so we had to get going at one point.
Our next stop brought us the opposite of Rouen. After WW. II. Le Havre lay in ruins, just like Rouen. But in Le Havre the City Council took a totally different approach to rebuilding the town as they did in Rouen. The ruins that were still standing were levelled to the ground and a team of 60 architects around Auguste Perret got the order to build their vision of a modern town. What they constructed between 1945 and 1954 was spectacular in those days. The ensemble that was created back then is one of two modern city centers that the UNESCO has added to the World Heritage list. The other being Brasilia.
The somewhat strange white building above is called the volcano and was created by star architect Oscar Niemeyer. It is used as a theatre and mediatheque. During our stroll we can’t decide if we should like this architectural style. One thing is sure: The city center is coherent. And if you look at the big picture this town is much nicer then quite a few other towns where the center was rebuilt after the war without a real master plan.
Our promenade took us to the beach, too, which is made of gravel here. It is pretty busy and there are quite a few possibilities to get active or have a bite to eat at a kiosk. And surprisingly enough there are a few villas and houses that date back to before WW. II. Since Le Havre is the second largest port in France the town was sure enough hard-fought. Today it is a very nice and liveable city with lots of green.
A special highlight is the church St. Joseph, that was built after plans from Perret. It is made out of concrete with lots of glass bricks that make a colourful light inside the church. Especially on a bright and sunny day as we had when we visited. After our tour of the twon we opt for a cold drink in one of the roadside cafés. We agree on having made the good decision to visit this town.
From Le Havre we continue and cross the Normandy Bridge. Another modern building of superlative. With it’s 2800 feet this cable-stayed bridge has the largest span in Europe. It connects Le Havre and Honfluer on the Côte Fleuri.
Deauville and Trouville, the 21. Arrondissement of Paris
These two coastal towns are separated by the river Touques. They have a train station which is serviced by TGV during the summer months. Paris is only about 120 miles away and so the Parisiens float these towns espsecially on the summer weekends. Hence the nickname 21. Arrondissement of Paris.
Trouville – the charming fishing port
It’s already early in the evening when we arrive at this historically grown fishing village. Our first impression leaves us enthusiastic. There are a lot of people around but everything looks rather relaxed and the town breathes a lot of charme. There are flowers everywhere. So they take the name „blooming coast“ rather serious here.
The road along the river is rather tight and we fear that it will become difficult to find a parking spot. We have a reservation at the Le Beach Hotel right on the beach. Already when we enter there is a fresh, maritime feel in the lobby and the first impression is very good. It gets even better when we enter our room. In a hotel right on the beach, we opted for a room with ocean view. And that view is amazing especially during sunset.
We are a bit tired and decide to look for a supermarket while taking a first stroll around town. Dinner at a restaurant is not what we want tonight. So we buy some snacks at a grocery and go back to our room to enjoy the sunset. Right next to the hotel there is a casino. But we only watched it from the outide. Gambling not being our thing.
But we decide that we do have to take a first walk on the beach. Some say it is is the queen of beaches („la plage“ being feminine in french). A walkway made of wood called „Les Planches“ runs along between the fine sand and the numerous beach villas, that are lined up here like the pearls on a necklace. In the 19th century painters like Corot and Mozin first discovered this place and made Trouville one of the birthplaces of impressionism. As of 1840 this sleepy fishing port changed slowly into a swank beach resort on the ocean.
After a spectacular sunset and a good nights sleep with the swoosh of the ocean as background music we feel ready for more expolartions the next morning. The fish market hall is nowadays officially a historic site. When I look at this fresh fish I become hungry immediately. This is paradise for fish lovers like me.
During the rest of our stay we stroll through the charming town every evening after returning from our daily visits. One of the evenings we have dinner at a restaurant on the Boulevard Fernand Moureaux which runs along the river. It was my birthday and we wanted to celebrate it with a good meal. We did get a nice table on the terrace of this restaurant and were able to watch the people on the road. However the service was a bit overwhelmed which led to a good bashing of the owner on the terrace right in front of the guests. But the food was great, when we finally got it. Unfotunately the wine arrived at the table after the food…
July 13th was our last evening in Trouville. Since the neighbouring Deauville had planned to burn the fireworks on July 14th (France’s National Day) Trouville fired its show already on this evening. So tourists and locals alike met on the beach to watch the impressive display after dark.
Deauville – the chic resort town
The glamorous beach town was built by a half-brother of Napoléon III. in the 1860es. He wanted to establish an exclusive vacation spot for the high society of Paris. Contrary to the historically grown Trouville on the other side of the river the streets are broader and straighter here. Still today the town is embossed with boutiques of the luxury designers. So the two towns are pairing up to a perfect whole.
Here too you will see a lot of typical half-timbered houses offering a coherent image. But I found that one sees that this town was being build 200 years ago following a plan. After our walk around town we get to the beach promenade and the casino. The beach is as broad as the one in Trouville but offers more comfort. It is known for the colourful umbrellas you can rent here.
The „ribbons“ with which they are held together will turn into a sort of tent, that is being made by the knowing hands of the „beach boys“ offering some privacy. We like the beach a lot and decide not to continue with our program but spend a day on the beach instead. So we go back to the hotel and get our swimming gear.
On the way back to the hotel we enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the people on the street. Such a day of repose is really appreciated between the days filled with visits. We both agree that Trouville has more charme and is much nicer. During our walk to the hotel we pass another hotel that is legendary. The patriarchal Hotel Barrière Le Normandie is still a place of luxury. A lot of Hollywood stars have already stayed at this palace that was build 100 years ago.
From the outside the hotel looks very nice with its timberframes and tiled details. The inside was tastfully renovated and offers its solvent clientel an oasis of calm and relaxation. On the oceanside there is a busy street separating it form the beach. But on the landside they have created a beautiful orchard with the in Normandy obligatory apple trees.
So we spend a relaxing afternoon on the beach of Deauville. I take a chance and jump into the water which is rather fresh. Since it is very hot on land in the end this is a very welcome refreshment.
Honfleur – picture perfect Normandy
After the day on the beach in Deauville time is back on going on explorations. And this leads us to one of the most picturesque towns on France’s North Sea coast. Honfleur sits across from Le Havre on the estuary of the river Seine. In the 19th century this town became known since painters as Monet, Picasso, Renoir and Cézanne spent some time. Here they could catch the magic light and paint in peace.
It’s again a bit difficult to find a parking spot. The news have spread that you can see a real juwel box here for sure. During our visit we didn’t come across too many people, though.
Such a merry-go-round like the one on te old port can be found in many french twons. But here it just fits perfectly into the surrounding. We have to admire the view of the old port for quite a while. Isn’t it just beautiful?
After having admired this view long enough we continue our walk. the town has still more to offer. Already the vikings liked this place. The first written mention dates back only to the 11th century. In the old town there are old houses built of granite standing next to half-timbered ones. And there are flowers everywhere.
Our stroll leads us to one of the landmarks of the town. And this is really impressive. The church Sainte-Catherine is completely made of wood. Untill the 15th century there was a church made of stone. But after being destroyed the shipbuilders from town built a new one with wood coming from the region. When you consider that this wood stands already for 500 years. We can’t stop admiring this.
We continue to stroll through town for another while and look at the windows of the many pastry shops. Their sweets just look mouthwatering. Finally we start to go back to our car. It’s almost noon and the restaurants are opening up. On the outside of one is this buffet of fresh seafood. I could jump into it and eat as long untill I get a protein shock.
Since we have seen a stretch of beach outside of town we don’t go to look at the one here in the center. We didn’t like the fact that you see the large container vessels coming to Le Havre while relaxing on the beach. Trouville/Deauville has much better beaches.
Beuvron-en-Auge – the most beautiful village of France
Our next stop is situated a bit further inland. Normandy is known for its apples and everything you can make out of them. So we drive through a hilly scenery filled with apple orchards. Couldn’t be more romantic. The village of Beuvron-en-Auge was awarded as being one of the most beautiful in France. And that’s what it is. A bit like an open-air museum. And a well visited one on top.
Hidden behind an edge I see this house with a thatched roof. Such roofs are rarely found here. Despite this we see a lot of half-timbered houses during our visit. Looks very nice. There are a few cafés and in the old market hall there are some antique shops. Every second sunday of the month there is an antique market, called Brocante in French. When you are travelling to the Normandy you really should visit this place.
So our vacation on the Côte Fleurie started like the days on the Alabaster Coast. With perfectly sunny and warm weather we were able to collect many wonderful impressions. We are sure to come back here one of these days. There is so much more to explore.