Senior Travelers Enchanted with Cote Fleurie

Jan 11th, 2011 | By James E Becker | Category: Senior Travel

I do enjoy writing blogs for seniors on cities that I have personally visited, especially in France.  35+ years in the classroom as an instructor of French does make a difference. La Côte Fleurie (The Flowered Coast) is part of the Lower Normandy coast on the English Channel in the North of the Pays d’Auge, it constitutes the Eastern coast of the department Calvados. The name is a reference to the green and flowered countryside of the country lying beyond the coastal hills and to the numerous resorts along the coast.

Here lies Honfleur. Its 8,177 inhabitants are called Honfleurais. Honfleur is in the Norman département of Calvados, located on the southern bank of the estuary of the Seine, across from le Havre. Timber-framed houses and ancient forged-iron signs encompass Le Vieux Port.  The Old Port is still active as a fishing port and marina and the town has preserved many historic and traditional buildings and houses. It is neat to be here with the tide is coming in or going out and watch the boats rise and fall.

At one end of the Old Dock stands an odd-looking stone building called the Lieutenancy. The name refers to the 17th century when the King’s Lieutenant used this building as place of residence. It is today the only remnant left from the ancient rampart largely altered during the 16th and the 17th centuries. To prevent any boat from getting into the Old Dock at night, chains were drawn across the entrance between the Lieutenancy and a Tower built opposite the present bridge. It is one of the most attractive buildings  in the city. Here I discovered a  plaque on the wall commemorating the departure of Champlain departing for  Canada in 1608 that led to the foundation of Quebec. Gives you some idea of the age of the port.  “A ravishing port full of masts and sails, crowned with green hills and surrounded by narrow houses,” wrote Victor Hugo in the 19th century. He is “My Man” as I did my MA thesis at the Sorbonne on Hugo a “few years back.”

Honfleur stands apart as the region’s “cultural heart.”  This picturesque port has a “spider web of cobbled streets” and restaurants that feature “le cidre bouché” and “crêpes normandes“.  The port was the favorite haunt of Dufy, Monet, Boudin, Courbet and a host of other impressionist artists forming the école de Honfleur (Honfleur school).  It is easy to see why they were attracted to Honfleur. I recall watching an artist painting a port scene. I asked him if I could take his picture. “Certainly,” he said…”Please go ahead. Most tourists never ask.” 

In Honfleur you will find a major attraction called Sainte-Catherine church, which has a bell-tower separate from the principal building.  It is the largest church made out of wood in all of France.  It is a miracle that it has not burned to the ground being made entirely of wood. Do go inside. You will find ship replicas that were lost at sea hanging from the ceiling and walls just as one finds all along the coast of Brittany.

Between Honfleur and Cabourg, the Norman coastline becomes a playground: resorts, casinos, watersports, sunshine, sandy beaches backed by wooded hills. It all started in Trouville, which triggered the 19th-century rage for sea bathing. Next comes racy, romantic Deauville – created in the 1860s by a trio of wealthy entrepreneurs, embellished in 1910 with boardwalk, casino and racecourse. Deauville is the most glamorous seaside resort of Western France. It is one the favorite resorts for well off Parisians. The name symbolizes elegance, prestige and sophistication. Just a few of the nicknames of the town are “The City of the Horse” and “Gateway to Calvados”.  Closeby near the Atlantic coast one finds the well-known Normand cities of Cabourg, Houlgate, Villiers-Sur-Mer, Trouville, and Cricqueboeuf. 

If you can read some French, the Office du Tourisme has great information. Trip Advisor provides just about anything else you might need or want to know prior to your visit.  So seniors, take me up on my invitation to visit Honfleur.  Best yet, spend an entire day on site. I met three ladies in Provence who spent one entire week visiting just one village per day and then back to their hotel.  Great way to soak up the “couleur locale” as it is called in French.  jeb



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