What beautiful places we have seen as we continue our tour of Normandy. First, and high on the list, is the town of Honfleur.We stayed around the corner from its old, beautiful picturesque port, characterized by houses with slate-covered frontages, The port has been painted many times by artists including Courbet, Monet and Boudin, forming l‘école de Honfleur, as part of the Impressionist movement. We felt as though we had seen it many times.
The lovely Norman architecture and rambling streets and alleys caused us to again wonder how much more beautiful towns in France can be. Just when we think we have seen the best, something else comes along to lead the list.
The Sainte-Catherine church, which has a bell tower separate from the principal building, is the largest church made out of wood in France. Constructed by shipbuilders in the 15th century as a temporary solution to the loss of the previous church in the Hundred Years’ War, here it still stands, even with a chapel to Saint Theresa. The church reflects the expertise of its builders, and reminds us of the Scandinavian stave churches.
Our next haunt of artists was Étretat, a lovely beach resort best known for its dramatic cliffs, which also had some dramatic architecture.
But nothing compares to the 19th century home of Alexandre Legrand who claimed to have “rediscovered” the recipe for Benedictine, and where the world’s supply is still made till this day.
Our last stop of the day was an homage to the British architect, Sir Edwin Luytens, and the famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. They collaborated on a house and garden in Varengeville-sur-Mer, that was a tribute to the Arts and Craft movement and William Morris.
While the property, Le Bois des Moutier, is still in the hands of the original family, it is now on the market for 10 million euros, so there is no telling how much longer these lovely gardens will be open to the public. (However, no French château has ever been sold for more than 5 million, one of several reasons that Le Bois hasn’t jumped off the market.) Lucky us, to have seen the amazing grounds.
And there’s more! Down the road is the church of St. Valery, dating from the thirteenth century,which sits atop the cliffs and is at risk of falling into the sea if the cliff were to collapse in any way. The churchyard holds the tomb of the cubist artist George Braque, topped by a mosaic of a white dove. Inside the church are windows which he created.
Truly a day filled with beautiful things.