CLIBING UP TO MONT-JOLI!
How about a short hike to enjoy a view of the city and the Seine estuary from the heights? From the centre of Honfleur, we head towards Rue du Puit, which takes us to the foot of Mont-Joli. Looking up, we can see that a steep climb awaits us. But the effort will be rewarded with breathtaking views.
The winding ascent of the abrupt hill will be a short one. The small effort will already be rewarded by the spectacular scenery that opens up before our eyes. As a sign of destiny, a bench awaits the climber at the top covered with hundred-year-old trees.
On the way, we come across a house with a unique history: a commemorative plaque reminds us of the stay of the last king of France and his wife before leaving for exile. On the right, there is a memorial dedicated to Our Lady of Grace, who protected Honfleur during the Normandy Landings.
Still on the right, a little further away, the Chapel of Notre-Dame de Grace awaits pastoral visitors.
The chapel of Notre-Dame de Grâce, an architectural jewel built by the bourgeoisie and merchants, replaces the original from the XI century, which disappeared when the cliff slid down. The Duke of Normandy commissioned it after being saved from a shipwreck.
It is full of votive offerings and testimonies of those rescued from the sea or the sick, attributing their healing to a celestial gesture. Influential figures such as the King of France Louis XIII or Emperor Bonaparte came to pray in this chapel.
From this point, the view of the Seine estuary is superb. The departure of the caravel that discovered New Angoulême, which the English would later call New York, could have been seen from here.
The Chapel of Notre-Dame de l´Estuaire is used for the Pentecost mass a little further in front of Notre-Dame de Grace. It is the scene of the sailors´ feast where the children from Saint-Catherine square bring a picturesque and colourful procession of model ships.
One of the local gastronomic specialities is the result of a long fishing tradition. The ever-graceful cod is cooked in a thousand different ways, always giving a tremendous effect. You have an exceptional opportunity to taste it in any of the many restaurants surrounding the harbour while enjoying the peaceful and beautiful place full of amazing stories.
Cod fishing in Honfleur has been known since the XIV century when its brave fishers used to go as far as the remote coasts of Newfoundland. Since then, this activity became the main one in this city, with dozens of vessels setting out on long voyages every year. As expert navigators, local sailors settled the newly discovered territory and founded numerous colonies in future Canada.
Hachis of Honfleurais is a kind of cod puree served in a terrine, it is delicious, and you will probably want to repeat it. You can also find it pre-cooked on the shelves of all supermarkets. But we´ll give you the recipe so you can cook it at home when you invite friends over.
You need 750 g of desalted cod, 80 g of butter, 750 g of potatoes, 100 g of onions, eight sprigs of parsley, salt, pepper, two teaspoons of cider brandy and 50 cl. white wine.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Peel the cod. Grease a glass or earthenware tray with butter. Peel and wash the potatoes and cut them into pieces. Peel and chop the onions and parsley. Alternate the potatoes, cod and chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with wine and brandy. Top with the rest of the butter in small pieces. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Ready to serve.
It goes very well with cider, the local drink, and a good cider bread, typical of the area.
AUTHENTIC REGIONAL PRODUCT
Vinegar is indispensable for our dressings, which is why you should try the authentic Norman one: Calvados cider vinegar.
Since ancient times, apple cider vinegar has been the best known and most consumed vinegar for its medicinal virtues and health benefits.
Normandy is the most crucial apple-producing region and is therefore where the best vinegar in France is produced. Because of the incredible variety of apples, there are different aromas, colours and even textures made by small producers.
To obtain it, the cider must be allowed to oxygenate to keep the amount of sugar to a minimum.
The best one is unpasteurised, from organic farming that has been left to age for several months in oak barrels.
This traditional manufacture preserves all the vitamins and minerals of the fruit. Unlike industrial one, the "mother vinegar" is formed inside the bottle (under the action of bacteria), thus guaranteeing the preservation of the nutritional qualities of the apple. Moreover, it is not filtered, which means fermented slowly and over months. A deposit is left at the bottom of the bottle, a genuine guarantee of quality.
Unpasteurised and unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar is very fruity and acidic. It is also a natural preservative, so it does not expire. However, it should be kept away from light not to alter its qualities.
Normandy has opted for pears as an alternative to apples to diversify its production. So, natural pear vinegar has been created, always traditionally and artisanally. As the pear is sweeter, the result is less acidic and sweeter too. It is scarce merchandise that will add a touch of originality to your dishes.
Even if it is organic, artisanal or unpasteurised, cider vinegar is sold in glass bottles to preserve its qualities. You can find it in the local shops in the city centre.
The old harbour surrounded by its picturesque houses strikes you most when you first arrive in Honfleur. It forms a harmonious and wonderfully colourful ensemble that is inspiring and memorable.
The present harbour was created to replace the old one, which was much narrower, which meant that part of the walls had to be demolished.
On one side of the old port, on the Saint-Catherine quay, there is a whole series of tall houses perfectly aligned to form an original backdrop. These houses "squeezed" against each other have the peculiarity of being very narrow because they were built on the old moat that preceded the walls, and of having the upper floor also facing the back streets of rue du Dauphin and rue des Logettes, so they almost all have two different owners.
This whole frieze of houses dates from the XVI to the XVIII century. Look at their roofs. The oldest ones have cantilevered shelters. The others have slate roofs with the typical mansard roofs named after their architect, Mansart.
La Lieutenancy is almost on the corner at the end of the pier. This monument is so-called because it was used as the residence of the king´s lieutenant. It is the only significant remnant of the city´s fortress. The sailing boats moored next to the building add a touch of colour.
There is a plaque on the building in honour of the navigator and explorer Samuel de Champlain, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the departure from the port of Honfleur in his ship "The Gift of God" to found the city of Quebec. Since then, this harbour has played a vital role in the colonisation of Canada.
On the opposite dock, "Quai de Saint-Etienne", you can see the Church of Saint-Etienne, the oldest.
It functioned after the Revolution as a building for customs, stock exchange and warehouse and codfish sale. Today it is the Navy Museum.
Go into its labyrinth of narrow streets in the back, and you will discover its curious wooden houses.
Address: Vieux Bassin
SHELTER AND INSPIRATION!
Honfleur has the honour of having had great painters among its neighbours whose presence has made the city a destination and cradle of artists. Undoubtedly, a symbolic site is the former Saint-Simeon Farm, where Impressionism was born. This new movement astonished the world of art and painting at the end of the XIX century.
With the advent of photography, portraits were no longer painted favour of landscapes or genre scenes. Our retina captures the colours that were no longer mixed on the palette. Still, the canvas and light became vitally important, so the model was painted at different times of the day. This illustrious place is an old 300-year-old farmhouse that still preserves its original shape in wood, whose name comes from a chapel in the vicinity that no longer exists. It is also known as Toutain Farm after the surname of the tenant who converted it into accommodation.
Its proximity to the sea, on a cliff, soon made it a meeting place for anglers, where they found a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere, sharing a glass of cider with painters and writers who found their inspiration in such a rustic place.
The first to discover the place was the local painter Eugène Baudin, "the king of the skies". His presence and the idyllic setting attracted painters, poets, and the odd musician. They, for a modest monthly fee, found accommodation and food. And so it was that the lodging became a destination for painters, including the "father of impressionism", Claude Monet.
The Parisian painter accompanied Baudin on his walks along the coast, introducing him to painting outdoors. Other great painters joined him in discovering the light that would be so important in his works.
Monet wrote to the impressionist Bazille: "every day I discover even more beautiful things, it´s maddening, I want to do so many things... It´s wonderful at Saint-Simeon".
Today the former farm is a luxury hotel.
Address: Relais & Châteaux Granje de Saint-Simeón. 20 Rue Adolphe Marais
DISGUSTING BUT TASTY SMELL!
France is the country for cheese par excellence. French may try three different types of cheese a day.
There is one in particular that they love. It is round, creamy white, buttery and tasty. At first glance, everything would be fine, except that it has a robust aroma, so much so that many would not dare to try it because of the "foot" smell it gives off. It is indeed the famous Camembert.
Only for the very daring!!!
Camembert is a benchmark in France, and together with the baguette that perfectly matches, they are a national symbol.
Its name comes from the Norman commune of only 182 inhabitants, where the Normandy
Camembert is produced.
It seems that someone called Marie, a resident of the village of Camembert, helped the parish priest to escape from the Republicans during the Revolution. He gave her the recipe for a famous cheese from his town in gratitude. It was then that the farmer began to produce cheese, until one day Napoleon III tasted it and liked it so much that he asked her to make Camembert cheese for his pleasure. Once introduced to the Parisian court, it became famous. During World War I, its inclusion as a food ration also contributed to its popularity.
It is a cheese made from raw or pasteurised cow´s milk. It is heated to about 37 degrees and inoculated with yeast for lactic fermentation before curdling. Coagulation takes about 45 minutes.
The resulting curd is cut into small cubes. The cheesemaker removes the whey and places the curd in a round mould, turning it several times to drain evenly. Once the cheese is formed, it is placed in a basket to mature. After a few days, a rind appears. Initially, this rind was greenish-blue with red spots. Still, it did not particularly please the demanding Parisian consumer, who preferred white.
Camembert is always wrapped in paper in a special box. Do tyrosemiophiles, collectors of cheese labels, dare to collect them?
¡Dare to try it out and feel like an authentic French!
MADE OF WOOD AND WITH TRADITION
It is curious to see a church built entirely of wood these days. There has been one in Honfleur for more than five centuries. It is the church of Saint-Catherine, the largest church in France built of wood oak. It is as sturdy as its name suggests. Built-in sailors´ quarter, the church is dedicated to the martyred saint, Saint Catherine of Alexandria. A wooden sculpture on the bell tower porch reminds us of this. The work depicts her carrying a sword and a wheel because she is the patron of
the wheel-related trades.
The church replaces an earlier stone temple destroyed during the Hundred Years´ War. It was built in two phases, the first one included the nave whose interior reminds us of the hull of an inverted ship was made, and the second phase, built as a consequence of population growth and the need to increase the capacity, reminds us more of a market than a church. The town´s inhabitants entirely rebuilt it after the end of the war. They used wood from the surrounding forests as their primary raw material as they had few resources. This was an advantage for the people who applied their knowledge of shipbuilding.
The famous "axe-masters" of the city´s naval quarries made this masterpiece without saws. This tradition goes back to their Viking ancestors. A curious fact: to compensate for the unequal length of the wooden beams for the columns, some of them rest on stone blocks in the form of an inverted capital.
Its bell tower is separated from the nave. It is a solid construction where the bell ringer´s house was located. As it was susceptible to being set on fire by lightning, which could spread to the church at the time of the masses, it was decided to build it separately from the church but within the same square. Today it is a museum where religious works can be seen.
This original and genuine construction has always attracted the attention of the curious, tourists, historians and archaeologists. Be sure to visit it.
Address: Saint-Catherine Square
IN THE PAINTERS´ FOOTSTEPS!
The city has breathed art through its streets since the first painters set foot in Honfleur. This tour will take you through the places closely linked to the artists who made this marvellous enclave known as the city of Honfleur, the cradle of painters.
Eugène Boudin marked a "before and after" in universal painting when he created the Honfleur School, which was to be the forerunner of Impressionism. His birthplace is located at 29 Bourdet Street. His museum in rue de L´homme de Bois is situated in an old bell tower to see pre-impressionist and contemporary paintings by Norman painters.
Open daily except Tuesdays from 10h to 18 h—entrance fee from 4,50 € to 8€.
We now move on to the La Forge Museum, an astonishing universe where you will find the house, garden and atelier of the artist Florence Marie. Imagine yourself walking down an alley in the historic centre and suddenly discovering a door. You enter and immediately feel transported into an unusual and astonishing world. It is classified as "Singular Art", where each space is a pretext for
creation. Discover this imaginary and colourful world.
Address: 25 rue de la Foulerie. Open only Fridays to Mondays from 15h.
We continue to Les Maisons Satie, the birthplace and museum of the pianist and classical music composer Erik Satie, who also dabbled in painting. It is a group of houses made of redwood. The space offers a scenographic, artistic and musical journey through the intelligent creator life.
Address: 67 Charles V Blvd
Open daily from 10h to 18h. Entrance fee 6€
And finally, we suggest two last stops, the birthplace of the painter Léon Leclerc at 33 rue Saint-Léonard. He is the founder of the Seine Bay Sailors´ School, which has now become the La Chaloupe Yacht Club, located in rue de la Mairie, and the ArTiane Art Gallery, which exhibits contemporary works, most of them painted by well-known painters, all of which stand out for their originality.
Address: 12 Place Berthelot. Open daily except Tuesdays from 10h to 19 h. Free entrance.
This new space in the heart of the city´s historical centre is an invitation to reflection, to rest, a haven of peace and tranquillity. A place as unique as unexpected, charming and a combination of history and art that you would never think you would find art on the edge of a stream. All in a zen atmosphere that inspires serenity, ideal for opening your mind or for recovering after having managed to get out of the labyrinthine centre of Honfleur.
You can appreciate the site in all its splendour. Situated on a branch of the river that crosses Honfleur underground and emerges next to the garden, it has numerous promontories and viewpoints. In this space, gardeners, carpenters, electricians, and workers have contributed to creating a magical place you will leave enchanted.
To create the Tripot garden, as it is known, an old tannery that was on the creek has been recovered. Many old installations have been recycled, such as the dyeing tanks and the entire network of channels discovered during the restoration work. All the structures have been preserved while respecting all the facilities and reusing as much as possible the materials found in situ during the renovations. The walls retain the appearance of an enchanting vestige.
A city like Honfleur, which has inspired many artists, wanted to endow this space with art by contracting a renowned sculptor who has left a mark by decorating the site with great originality.
Worth mentioning is the large mosaic that honours the work of the tanners or the amusing sculptures that decorate the garden, such as the giant snail covered in bright colours.
As for the vegetation, it is very varied. We discover a wide range of colours and scents: from hydrangeas and roses to other flowering shrubs, perennials and grasses, climbers, bamboo with its rhythmic sound in the wind and of course, various aquatic species together with magnolias, yews and mulberry trees forming a natural botanical garden.
Address: Le Jardin du Tripot. Charles Bréard St. Free entrance. Open daily from 8h to 19h.
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