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This area took less time than expected – it’s not a huge region, and there’s not a ton to do in Le Havre. Etretat is a tourist trap, and the drive to it is fairly bland – it’s just barely worth it for the famous beach view. Honfleur was a great choice – we loved it, quite charming, many dining options, worth a return visit.

Le Havre

Le Havre is a major port in northern France’s Normandy region, where the Seine River meets the English Channel. It’s joined to the town across the estuary, Honfleur, by the elegant Pont de Normandie bridge. Following WWII, Le Havre’s heavily damaged city center was famously redesigned by Belgian architect Auguste Perret. Today it features many landmark examples of reinforced-concrete architecture. It’s a wide open city with great light and neverending apartment blocks. We exhausted our options in about two hours.

  • **Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux: this Museum gets rave reviews, and does have a number of great impressionist works. It’s surprisingly small (two galleries), and the building is showing its age. Give it 20-30 minutes to tour.
  • ***St. Joseph’s Church: a modern concrete fantasy, the interior is a perfect stage set for an alien throne room, straight out of Star Wars.
  • The beach – it’s relatively calm and protected, with a rocky shore. Pretty.

Étretat

Located along France’s Alabaster Coast, the pebble beach of Étretat is famous for its view of chalk cliffs and arched rock formations. The drive from Le Havre is uninspired, without an ocean view. The town itself is a tourist trap without much real appeal. The beach is lovely. The drive was worth it, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. We had an average lunch at *Manoir de la Salamandre.


Honfleur

Honfleur is a darling, compact, and well-preserved port, on the estuary where the Seine river meets the English Channel. Lined with 16th- to 18th-century townhouses, it has been a subject for artists including Claude Monet and native son Eugène Boudin. Given it two nights, wander the streets, and enjoy the excellent food. It’s touristy, but in a pleasant way.

Key sites

  • The 15th-century ***St. Catherine’s Church, the largest and olded timber church in Europe. It’s straight out of Norway.
  • **Musée Eugène-Boudin de Honfleur: good impressionist collection. It’s perhaps less important than the museum in Le Havre, but I enjoyed it more. Lots of paintings of the area.

Food and Lodging

  • **Hôtel l’Écrin: a very good choice. It’s surprisingly large, but feels intimate. Location is great, service is great, it’s perfectly quaint, complete with wallpapered ceilings and ricketty brass beds. 
  • La Ferme Saint Siméon is the very fancy option (a Relais & Châteaux property), in a famous location just on the outskirts of town. We had dinner at the ‘*Bistro’ onsite, and had a surprisingly average meal with very poor service. I wouldn’t go back.
  • ***Restaurant L’ Âtre is great. Young chef in the kitchen, wife front of house. Food was creative and beautifully executed.

To try next time: Hôtel Saint-Delis – La Maison du Peintre, Les Maisons De Léa

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