Monday, June 02, 2008

from Honfleur, Normandy: postcards

You’ll see a lot of timbered houses on Ocean in the week ahead. I can’t help it. I’m in a place that has written the definitive book on timbered houses.

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I’ve not been to Normandy much before this trip. Oh, sure. I’ve been here. Indeed, my very first trip, my defining voyage – to the States, as a kid – was from Cherbourg, which very much is in Normandy. I remember it as a countryside with white horses. I remember an old Normand telling me: lick your thumb, touch your palm with it, then slam the palm with your fist every time you see a white horse and you’ll have luck forever.

I’ve done that all my life and I’ve had great luck and so I highly recommend it. I say it from Normandy, so my words are quite authentic.

I took the train to Hornfleur with my two friends. Actually several trains and a taxi. The buses were taking a Sunday break. Honfleur has it all, but it does not have a train station.

It does have a very charming b&b, and the owner has given me a room in a small (yes, timbered) house by myself, so that I can do my work. The view is out onto the courtyard. Out the door, I see this:

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Okay, then there’s the historic town – right there at the mouth of the River Seine, on the western bank, opposite the huge port city, Le Havre. You don’t actually see Le Havre from here, but you know it’s there. So, Le Havre to the east, Deauville and the Normandy beaches to the west, and lots of pasture land and apple orchards to the south.

And here’s the thing. I think the port is great. I do. Here, take a look:

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But I know there are happy cows just south of us and (historically significant) beaches and cliffs in all directions so it could well be that time spent here will be supplemented with time spent meandering this way and that.

In the meantime, I offer you this Sunday walk through town. Get a feel for Honfleur! Meet the men, the artists (the concentration of studios here is intense), study her foods. Though, I have to remind you that the sister province of Brittany lays claim to the galette – the buckwheat pancake; they say that Normandy’s is inauthentic. Fine – I’m not getting involved in interstate food battles of France. Let’s all agree though that Normandy is the place of the tarte tatin (apple cake), Camembert and Pont l’Eveque (cheese). And the cap Normand – see below.

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young men of Honfleur

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...their caps

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older men of Honfleur

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artists of Honfleur

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galette with cheese and potatoes

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cat and rooster

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dog and hard cider

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