Tuesday, June 03, 2008

from Honfleur, Normandy: walks

A morning stroll into town. A look at the quiet bay. At the fishermen on the trawler, repairing the large net.

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Time to explore a little more.

WALK No. 1

There is a hill behind our bed and breakfast. I ask if it is climable.
Biensur! There is a path even…

We climb. And you get the views. Of Honfleur, of the green fields of Normandy.

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At the top, there is a lovely little church – chapel really – with a nautical theme. Paintings and models of ships are scattered in its small interior. We pause for a bit and listen to the bells do a melodic little spin at each quarter hour.

One last look over the mouth of the Seine, the new bridge linking upper Normandy with Le Havre (largest cable something or other in the world!)...

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...and we head down for lunch. At an old cider press. Where one man is whipping out crepes and galattes for the entire roomful of people.

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Classic Normandy: the (Brittany influenced!) buckwheat pancake, the cheese, the cider.

WALK No. 2

But the first walk only whets my appetite. I set out along the coast on a second run. Here is a case where the photo is better than the reality.

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It could be that someone would be enchanted with what is an artificial stretch of beach along the river Seine. Me, I’m spoiled by Brittany. Le Havre on the other side doesn’t compete with pristine sands and hidden coves. I return to the road. That’s a mistake. Me and all those cars. No path to help me along. I turn back.

And even though I find a quieter road for the retreat, I am now hearing three very low flying, very loud helicopters.

After a few minutes of hovering, I’m thinking – hmmm, they’re not keeping an eye out on things, they’re chasing someone. Someone dangerous. They haven’t a clue where this person is! They’re searching from above! We are all doomed! (I admit that last sentence doesn’t quite follow, but when you are standing under the loud spin of the helicopter blade, you cease being entirely rational.)

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I find out that there is a TV filming of a game show where contestants are madly trying to find clues. I encounter the contestants scurrying around in the quiet interior of St. Catherine’s Church.

Do the people of Honfleur care that the their town has been taken over by a TV crew? Sure.

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looking up at the chopper

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taking photos of the choppers

Me, I’m looking for a quiet spot. In the Boudin Museum, I find it. Here, I am reminded that Normandy was a 19th century heaven for painters. One book tells it bluntly: without Normandy, there would be no Impressionism. A little bragging, but not a ridiculous statement. I mean, Monet painted St. Catherine’s church – the one with the buzz of the TV crew just a few minutes back! And later, Dufy, the wonderful playful colorful Dufy painted fields of blĂ© – buckwheat! Crepe material!

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WALK No. 3

And now it is late afternoon and the clouds of the morning are retreating (for the moment) and I am antsy to wipe out the image of my unsuccessful earlier walk. I set out along a small road (and a hiking trail, at last!) away from the coast, into the deep country.

And only I would be thrilled with this – pastoral scenes, smells of meadowland, cows. Lovely, beautiful, happy, friendly cows.

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I am reminded of something Ed once said – he saw cows kissing and from then on he thought it would be difficult to enjoy their meat on a plate.

Now, here in Normandy, I watch two cows licking ach other’s faces which I suppose is a real French cow kiss.

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I cannot say that I reject all meat henceforth on principle, but it was a lovely scene. And I continue along this empty narrow lane of a road until I see that it is almost 6 and every step I take away from Honfleur has to be retraced on the return. And still, I can't get myself to stop moving forward.

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It's very late before I am back in the town again.

My patient friends are waiting. We walk to the old port for an evening meal by the bay.

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I am lusting for seafood and there is enough of it in this town so that I am satisfied. And for dessert? Tart Tatin. About time!

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