I woke early today, exuberant for our 2 day adventure in Normandy. However, I had mentally planned to be up around 6:00 am to view the Normandy coastline as we sailed toward Honfleur. I was hoping to see the landing beaches of Arromanches and Omaha from the ship. When I turned over and realized it was already 7:00 am, I was aghast and threw some clothes on, grabbed my camera and dashed out the aft promenade door.
Imagine my surprise when instead of majestic beaches and imposing bluffs, I was graced with a view of some small buildings on the sandy shore, a large power plant in the distance, and a Chinese gentleman performing Tai Chi under the Symphony aft overhang.
|Normandy Beach near Honfleur|
|Sunrise near Honfleur|
Although disappointed, I was not deterred in my enjoyment of the sound of the peaceful lapping waves and view of the serene beaches. I tried to imagine the scene here exactly almost 68 years ago during the Allied invasion.
Battle of Normandy
On June 6, 1944 the massive invasion known as Operation Overlord took place. US General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander and led the strategic plan for the Allies. British General Bernard Montgomery was in charge of land forces. I can only marvel at the surprise of the Germans when an armada of 7000 ships and 12,500 Americans assisted by another 156,000 troops landed on the Normandy beaches for the D-Day invasion. Cornelius Ryan's book, The Longest Day which was also deftly adapted into a movie has an excellent depiction of these events.
We will be taking a private D-Day Tour tomorrow morning from Bayeux. We are very much looking forward to it. It was one of the main incentives for booking this cruise itinerary.
When I returned to the room my mother was just waking up. I told her it was 7:30 am and that we would soon be docking near Honfleur. From our window we had a nice view of the Pont du Normandie Bridge with the sunrise.
|Pont du Normandie over the Seine Estuary|
On the opposite side of the bridge is Le Havre and the area of Upper Normandy. The French Department of Calvados is part of the region of Lower Normandy. Calvados has the distinction of not only being a French Department but also a liquor. It is derived from cider that has been aged for a year and is 55% proof. It is said that it burns a hole in your stomach! I was still feeling the effects from all the wine last night so the last thing I was interested in today was Calvados.
My mother got ready and we both were pretty lethargic as we were ambling down the corridor to breakfast. I sure wish today was a sea day instead of a port day!
We will explore Honfleur this morning and then take a taxi or bus (depending on cost and availability) along the Cote Fleurie to Deauville and Trouville-Sur-Mer. After our visit to these towns we will take the train from Deauville to Bayeux where we will be spending the night.
To be on the safe side we decided to pickup our passports just in case we had any mishaps on shore and had difficulty getting back to the ship. Retrieving the passports was easy. We signed for them and were told we could keep them after returning to the ship tomorrow. I was a little surprised Crystal would not need them for our arrival in Germany.
We were moving at a snails pace today. We didn't have much of an appetite but eventually made it to the Lido in our sorry state. To be fair, I think my mother was doing much better than I was. I had two mini pancakes and my mother brought her own yogurt and her French press with the coffee capsule.
The ship seemed especially quiet today. Crystal is offering a free shuttle all day from the port to Honfleur. They also have a couple of excursions to Paris. Perhaps the people going to Paris had already departed on the buses? We decided to explore Honfleur for a few hours and then come back to ship to get our bags. It was hard to believe the cruise was coming to an end. I almost wish the ship was not going into dry dock and we could stay on for the next voyage. I know I am dreaming. That would be a bit of a stretch even if the ship was not getting a refurbishment. In just three short days we will be arriving in Hamburg.
My mother walked while I waddled down the gangway to the shuttle bus which only had a few passengers. We waited a few more minutes for additional guests before departing. The drive to Honfleur is about 20 minutes and only 2 miles but the shuttle takes a rather circuitous route. I was trying to memorize it for our return tomorrow afternoon by taxi. "Turn right at the place selling wood, left at the red building, etc." However, my "fuzz brain" was not working too well.
The shuttle dropped us outside the center of Honfleur near the bus station, the Mercure Hotel and some small shops. I needed more euros and spotted a Paribas Bank up the street. Cash withdrawal completed we continued on our walk to the center of town. I didn't bring a map but I had a fairly good idea from the guide books I read of where we needed to go.
|Quiet pedestrian street in Honfleur|
We were both quite astounded by how beautiful Honfleur is with its elegant stone and timbered buildings facing the water. Honfleur is located on an interior channel and not on the coast. The area with the little boats on the inner harbor is called the Vieux Bassin. The reflection of the buildings on the water was beautiful. It is certainly understandable how it captivated the famous painters Eugene Boudin (1824 - 1898) and Claude Monet (1840 - 1926). Boudin was from Honfleur and was a mentor and great influence on Monet who was from Le Havre.
|Vieux Bassin Honfleur|
|Monet's Impression, Soleil Levant|
Viewing the small harbor and beautiful buildings it was easy to see how this scene inspired them. There were even a few people with easels setup and painting this morning.
Normally I would have loved to explore the shops we found selling calvados and cider but in our current condition quickly moved on.
|Cidre and Calvados shop|
We embarked on a self guided walking tour of Honfleur for about 2 hours. We started at Place Arthur Boudin which is exemplified by a slate shingled house from Louis XIII. This is where they stored salt in the 17th century. We walked down Rue du la prison, for yes a prison. Among the old timber framed houses there is also the naval museum and the former church St. Etienne.
|Place Arthur Boudin and former Salt storage|
At Vieux Bassin is the St. Etienne quayside which are older two story stone buildings and contrasts with St. Catherine's Quay seven story houses built of slate and timber. The Governor's House, La Lieutenance is next to the bridge.
|St. Catherine's Quay|
|Eglise St. Catherine|
We entered the church and had a quick look around. It was not crowded but due to the odd construction of the "double hulls" of what look like upside down ships, it was challenging to take a photo.
|Interior St. Catherine's|
There was a nice display of candles and some photos.
|Tranquil prayer setting|
We walked around the back of the church to find the belltower. This building also houses a museum and charges admission. We decided not to tour the museum.
|Belltower and museum|
As we walked around town we could hear band music. We then spotted a parade coming our way. While today is Memorial Day in the US, it is also a holiday in France , "Day of Solidarity". This holiday is somewhat new. It used be a religious holiday but former President Nicolas Sarkozy instituted the new holiday to honor the elderly people who died across France from the 2003 heat wave. The idea of the holiday is that wages earned today are to be donated to the elderly. Therefore people are working for free across France today. It is a nice idea but I don't think you would get much support due to the current political climate for a holiday like this in the USA.
|Military band leading the parade|
|Kids dressed as sailors carrying model boats|
|Kids are adorable!|
|Beautiful model boat|
|Sea men and sea women|
|These guys look very official and important|
Due to the amount of liquid consumed the night before, I had the unpleasant task of having to keep looking for a restroom all day. After the parade I noticed the Charm Hotel Les Maisons de Lea and walked over. I did not dare ask if I could use the facilities but just turned to the right and indistinctly kept going until I found the lo.
|Hotel Dauphin and Hotel du Charm|
The hotel was very cute and looked like a great place to stay. They were still serving breakfast and had an interesting contraption to cook eggs in that you could serve yourself. The cups were color coded so you could remember which one was yours.
As the day wore on I was starting to feel more like myself again. I even managed to make a purchase in one of the gift shops. I bought a small crystal perfume bottle in a little store, oddly called St Tropez. I can't believe I have finally made a purchase! This may be the first one since the bathing cap in San Sebastian.
|View out the window of store "St. Tropez"|
We wandered around some of the narrow streets and admired many of the art galleries. My mother is an art lover and thought this town has so many great characteristics. The art was also very appealing and quite interesting. It was extremely high quality. I would have loved to purchase a painting or sculpture but in my current state, probably not a good idea today. Perhaps a bottle of cidre might be an option but just the sight of the calvados in the window was making me uneasy.
|Cidre for sale along one of the streets|
If I could think straight we could have purchased the Cidre and brought it back to the ship for later consumption. We walked along some more streets and then decided it was time to return to the ship.
We had no trouble finding the shuttle and were soon back at the ship. I made another attempt to try to remember the route. We went back to the room for another "happy stop" and then to the Bistro for a snack to take with us for later. One of the crew members tried to hand me a plate. I think when he saw me wrapping my things with a napkin he didn't want me to make a mess.
While we were preparing our snacks the Florida couple from the Vintage Room dinner came by to have breakfast. I think this was their 4th time doing the Vintage Room so I thought they were old pros. I asked how they were feeling and they said, "not so good". They didn't look the worse for wear but perhaps they hide it better. Apparently they had just gotten up so I guess we were a little ahead of the game having already visited town. They asked us what the dessert was at the dinner last night because they could not remember it. When I said it was the trio of chocolate that didn't register until I mentioned the spun sugar. It is funny that with all the food and wine they wanted to know what dessert was!
We only spent about 30 minutes on the ship and then got right back on the shuttle with our little overnight bags ( I do mean little) for our return to Honfleur. While we were waiting to depart, Peg who I sat next to last night in the Vintage Room got on the shuttle bus. As she walked past me I said to her "How are you doing". She looked at me like she had never seen me before and didn't answer. Guessing she was not doing so well either. The drop off for the shuttle is right next to the Busverts (Calvados) bus terminal which is very convenient.
|Mushroom and Ham Pizza|
After the meal we went back across the street to the bus terminal (there is an actual building but is closed due to the holiday) but the bus seemed to be delayed. However, it was not much of a wait. After about 10 minutes one of the bus drivers walked over to one of the parked buses and turned it on and displayed the Deauville sign in the upper window. We were in business! We sat on the right hand side of the bus to hopefully glimpse the countryside and beautiful coastline along the way. There were mostly tourists on the bus. Some English ladies, several young Japanese tourists with bags from the Honfleur's Dauphin Gallery, as well as a few locals.
It is 13 miles between the 2 towns but the coastal road takes 1 hour. Traveling along the D513 we had glimpses of the Seine estuary and the Cote Fleurie. There were lots of flowers, hedges and orchards along the way. We also saw some cows at a little farm with what may have been a dovecote.
|Farm with possible Dovecote in the center|
I was hoping to see some dovecotes as they are of typical Norman design. From Napoleon at Waterloo to WWI and the English, pigeons (doves) were used to carry messages and the dovecotes were built to store them. These structures are usually comprised of brick and stone. The most common are round but some are square or polygonal. In some dovecotes the upper part is for pigeons, while the bottom is used as a hen house. There are 535 currently registered in France and they are a symbol of the Normandy rural heritage. Some of the dovecotes have been remolded and are now used or rented as sleeping quarters.
The one we drove past looks like it has been remolded as there is a glass window on top.
We passed some pretty flowers and had a view of the coastline along the way.
|Cote Fleurie on the way to Deauville|
There were only 2 or 3 stops on the drive to Deauville. The bus driver was playing classical music through the speakers. We even heard John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. I don't know if he was playing it in honor of Memorial Day in the US or if they always play this kind of music on the bus. If the AC worked a little better (was a little weak) it would have been a perfect trip.
At one point we passed a very beautiful chateau in the distance.
|Chateau in the Calvados countryside|
We arrived in Deauville which has a year round population of 4,600 people. During July and August the number of visitors increases substantially. Deauville is known for its boutiques, casino, horse races, and the American Film Festival (Sept). Trouville which is just across the way is known for being more picturesque and down to earth.
We drove across a bridge that links both towns. Trouville is just across the river Touques and accessible by the bridge or a little boat. We had a very brief view of Trouville and the Calvarie de Bon-Secours and the Musee de Trouville Villa Montebello which was Napoleon III's summer residence.
We also passed through the center of Deauville before arriving at the bus station.
|Center of Deauville|
The area of the Cote Fleurie attracted writers like Alexander Dumas and Gustave Flaubert. Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in quiet Deauville in 1913. In the 1920's and 1930's Deauville attracted royalty, industrialists and politicians. Last year on this exact date, Deauville was the setting for the G-8 Summit hosted by French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. One of the main concerns at the summit was the missile "testing" in North Korea and the Greek economic implosion. What a difference a year makes!
The train station was a short walk from the bus terminal. Our train tickets from Deauville to Bayeux were in 2nd Class (purchased online) and I decided to change them to first class before we toured the town. While at home I guess I was feeling a bit more parsimonious when I did the online purchase. Unfortunately the line to change the tickets was not long but there was only one person working behind the glass partition. There was a young woman in front of me purchasing a ticket for the same destination and I explained that the next train with only one change did not depart until 5:00 pm. All the other trains you had to make two changes. Her name was Elizabeth and she was Australian. She had a large suitcase and needed a placed to store it. We both finally made our purchases and agreed to meet up in a few hours at the station.
My mother and I took a taxi from the train station (7 euros) and first visited the Normandy Barriere hotel. This hotel was built in the 1800's and is quite grand as it is constructed in the Norman style.
|Normandy Barriere Hotel|
I think the exterior is nicer than the public rooms, which is hard to top.
|Interior Normandy Barriere|
We ventured outside and then down the street. I was thinking about getting an ice cream at Martine Lambert located on Eugene-Colas. However I suddenly noticed that the Printemps store was across the road...and open! I was told by the Deauville tourist office via email that the store would be closed today. When I lived in Tokyo I would often go to the Printemps store near Ginza to shop and enjoy a little slice of Europe.
|Printemps Department Store in the center|
Deauville is a beautiful town and quite elegant with the art deco glass lanterns and amazing buildings. The weather is fantastic today and we are enjoying our walk with temps in the high 70's. The shopping looked like it was fabulous from what I could see from the road and along the sidewalks.
|Shopping in Deauville|
|Beautiful Norman Style Homes|
I walked by an area with movie posters from 2008. They had some from the Coco Chanel movie which is why they are probably still displayed.
|Old movie poster display|
As I knew my mother did not want to walk any longer, we took the 30 minute Petit Train for an overview of the town. The tour was very comprehensive and we went by the Casino and many interesting buildings that were constructed in 1800's.
|Beautiful buildings from the Petit Train|
|Entrance to the beach|
|Train parked while we explore the beach area|
It was beautiful but must really be impressive in the summer when all the blue and red umbrellas are unfurled on the beach. There are markers with the names of famous movie directors and actors along the boardwalk or planches.
|Festive blue and red umbrellas on Deauville's beach|
|Lots of people enjoying the holiday|
|Planches in Deauville|
The woman at the Tourist office seemed to think that we did not have enough time for Trouville so I opted for the Villa Strassburger. I purchased a postcard of the Villa as I was told it would not be possible to see with the renovation underway. The taxi was called and arrived about 8 minutes later.
The taxi was an especially nice Mercedes with comfy leather seats which I should have wondered about but I didn't really give it much thought. We arrived at the entry up a little hill to the villa. The Tourist Office was certainly correct that I would not be able to see much as it was completely covered in scaffolding.
|Villa Strassburger under renovation|
|Side of the building viewed from the taxi|
It is a good thing I purchased the postcard. Below is what the building actually looks like.
|Postcard of Villa Strassburger|
It is so pretty in the postcard. You would never guess that is what is hiding behind the scaffolding.
Villa Strassburger was built by the Rothschild family and given to the town of Deauville. It is a combination of half timbered authentic Norman home, with Alsace and architectural elements from other French regions. The asymmetrical rooftops, sky lights and glass dormers provides a dazzling facade. Surprisingly, the interior is 1950's American. It is like Dynasty meets Leave It to Beaver. The Villa is only open in July and August for inside tours.
I was getting hungry and although I would have liked to stop for a pasty at Patisserie Charlotte Corday, it was now time to go back to the train station. I was a little shocked at the taxi fare. It was 18 euros! I asked why and he said "that is the rate". I decided not to question it any further but the tourist office must do well recommending them.
When we returned to the station I decided to use the restroom once again. I was in for a bit of a shock as the restroom is located on the outside of the station facing the tracks. There is a slot on the door you put money in (50 cents) and then the door opens. I opened the door and could not believe it but the entire room was completely wet all the way from the door to the other side including the walls. There is a system that automatically washes the room once the door is closed.
I felt like a 4 year old but I had "mommy" hold the door while I quickly used the toilet. When I left a lady came with her young son and was doing the same thing. I was worried that since I had deposited my money the next person who arrived was going to get a bath once the door was closed. I thought of taking a picture but didn't want to have any nightmares.
We sat down inside the station and had our little snacks from the bistro. I also purchased a can of Pringles to tide us over until dinner.
Our train was departing from the Deauville station at 17:04 and we would need to change trains in Lisieux and then arrive in Bayeux at 18:39. The TER trains do not have assigned seats and as today is a holiday it was a little worrisome. However, we had the first class seats so that would be easier.
|Our Ter Train at Deauville station|
We walked to the track and Elizabeth who we met earlier was there waiting. We learned a lot about her life and that she was on a month's tour of France and then she would go to Croatia and visit relatives. She was interested in living in France at some point. I cannot blame her!
Australians are so adventurous! We were very impressed that she was traveling alone across France. I told Elizabeth how I had visited Australia a long time ago in the 1980's and was able to stay in a flat on Bondi Beach for free for 10 days. A Japanese girl I met on the plane from Christchurch to Sydney befriended me and introduced me to her friend, Atsushi. He didn't know me from a hole in the wall but gave me a key to his house and I could come and go as I pleased. Why I went back to Japan after my 5 week vacation I am still a little puzzled.
We boarded the train and had the first class compartment almost entirely to ourselves except for one other person. After we departed there were some announcements and Cherbourg was mentioned. I was hoping we were on the right train. Our tickets were finally inspected and stamped by the attendant so all was well.
Elizabeth was a lot of fun to talk to and we really enjoyed meeting her. When we got to Lisieux to change trains I helped with her huge bag to go up and down the stairs. There was a nice French gentleman that helped too on the way. While we were sitting on the train in Lisieux Elizabeth noticed the beautiful cathedral out the window. France has some amazing cathedrals!
We arrived at the Bayeux train station and we all shared a taxi to our hotels. Elizabeth was staying at Reine Mathilde which was across the way and a 2 minute walk. We were staying at Villa Lara which was recently opened in February and is owned by the same people as the Churchill Hotel next door.
|Hotel Villa Lara|
We were immediately impressed by the lovely lobby and pleasant staff.
|Villa Lara Lobby|
We were quickly checked in and shown to our room on the second floor, room 101. The room was beautiful and quite large. My mother did not want to leave which is a good sign.
|The room had large windows that opened with a view of the Cathedral|
|Large Cathedral facing room|
The TV is surrounded by a mirror frame. I am not a big fan of red but it worked well in this room.
The bathroom was also a nice size and had a separate tub and glass shower.
|Nice Marble bathroom|
We freshened up a little and changed out of our grubby clothes for dinner. I had booked dinner reservations at Le Pommier for 8:00 pm and invited Elizabeth. I think she was going to eat at her hotel which has a restaurant and actually excellent reviews.
We walked around the hotel a bit exploring before heading out the door.
|Villa Lara Bar Area|
|Sitting Area in front of the bar|
The sliding glass mirrored door opens to the breakfast room.
The hotel has some beautiful tapestries which we learned we could order. They start at 1000 euros.
|Horse Tapestry in our room, 101|
|Tapestry near front door of Villa Lara|
We had a pleasant walk around Bayeux which is a sleepy Norman town. Bayeux was one of the first towns to be liberated after the D-Day invasion and did not suffer damage during the war.
We passed some interesting buildings and then arrived at the huge Bayeux Cathedral. The cathedral is gorgeous! There were a lot birds around the cupola so we were a little wary where we were walking. There was a lot of bird doo on the ground in certain areas.
We made the turn around the cathedral and then past a few restaurants before reaching Le Pommier.
|Le Pommier Restaurant|
|Le Pommier Interior|
The restaurant is a nice juxtaposition of traditional Norman styling mixed with modern accents like the lucite backed chairs. I ordered the special plat with the cheese course and dessert. My mother ordered the plat too but omitted the cheese.
Since we had lunch a long time ago and only our little snack from the Bistro to tie us over we were very hungry. Our first courses finally arrived.
My mother had a delicious seafood flan with Parmesan cheese. I had the pate with peppercorns and raspberry jam.
|Pate with peppercorns|
The restaurant was very busy with lots of customers. Walking through the town we hardly saw anyone though.
Our main courses arrived about 20 minutes later. I had the white fish with nettle butter and Thai rice and my mother had the cod fish with pine seeds and leaks (sorry no photo).
|Fillet of white fish with nettle butter and Thai rice|
The fish was good but it looked better than it tasted. The rice was supposed to be basmati but was a little over cooked. However, if thought the meal was very healthy which I was happy about.
I next had the cheese course which came with a little salad.
Both my mother and I had the Baked Apple for dessert. It was yummy!
|Baked Apple Dessert|
|Little square in Bayeux|
We got back to the hotel about 10:00 pm. We said goodbye to one of the young men from the front desk who was leaving for the night. We went up to our room and luxuriated in the comfy beds.
My mother immediately fell sleep. I played with my photos on the iPad for a while. I noticed around midnight that the Cathedral was all lit up with a nice crescent moon. I very carefully opened the window, so as not to wake mother, to take some photos. It was very beautiful and the photos do not do it justice.
|view of the moon and lit Cathedral from our room|