Thursday, 3 July 2014

France - Holy gîte!

June 29 – July 02


Hello summer! Yes, it’s that time of year when teachers get to escape from their working lives for the best part of two months. I won’t bang on about that fact too much; I know many people who are reading this are cooped up in offices, longing for the chance to be outside rather than gazing longingly at the sunshine through a double-glazed window.

We’re kicking off our summer in a tranquil region of northern France. The nearest town of note is the rustic port of Honfleur on the Norman coast. We were staying approximately five kilometres inland from this village, in a gîte in the lush, green countryside. Spotting people along our lane was a rare occurrence; we were more likely to see horses and donkeys.

This was very much a retreat from the urban landscape which we have been situated in for the past year. Aside from a good internet connection, which allowed us to keep in touch with the World Cup and Wimbledon, our gite was hidden away from civilisation.

This is not to say that we completely isolated ourselves during this French sojourn. It would have been a missed opportunity to watch the France game in private, so we observed Les Bleus (whilst secretly rooting for Nigeria as they were one of my sweepstakes teams) as they struggled through their second round match. Possibly due to the location in the port of Honfleur, possibly due to the relatively early start of 6pm, possibly due to the older, middle-class crowd accompanying us, it was eerily quiet throughout their laborious 2-0 win over the African side.

Whilst watching the game we treated ourselves to a French beer (treated is the word: at €7.80, I’ve never drank a beer so slowly), and later sampled some traditional seaside cuisine from the region. Essentially, a very large bucket of mussels. We also tried a delectable crème brulee which was drowning in caramel sauce. Sometimes it’s good to have such a long walk home!

Lots of time was spent walking, but we hired bikes to travel across the Seine River to the larger town of Le Havre. This involved crossing the colossal eyesore that dominates the skyline in this area: Pont du Normandie. On a scorching morning, we set off from Honfleur to the other side of the river. It was slightly irritating to walk 5km into town, only to cycle back along much of that route.

People who know me will be aware that I’m not the most confident soul when it comes to moving on two wheels. The deceptively steep bridge was thus a bit of a biking Everest to me. There was a cycling lane on the bridge…which seemed as narrow as the wheels on my clunking, metallic machine. Luckily, roadworks reduced traffic to one lane, meaning I had a wide berth to wobble and grunt up to the apex of the bridge. Zipping down the other side was a great reward for the lactic acid pooling in my hamstrings from the climb.

Prior research suggested to us that there was a cycle route all the way to Le Havre. Having spent more than enough time almost being blown off the bike by lorries and trucks zipping along right next to me, I can assure you that no such continuous route exists. Nonetheless, we made it through to the industrial, manufacturing eyesore pleasant seaside town that is Le Havre.

What we saw of the town itself was nice; a small, modern marina area which played host to some wakeboarders. However, the length of time we had to spend travelling through the industrial section of the town in order to reach the marina led us to being fairly unimpressed with Le Havre. Honfleur, on the other hand, is a very pretty little village, though clearly after the tourist euro. 

Normandy has been a nice place to relax and recharge our batteries after a long summer term. Next stop is France’s grande ville – Paris.

Love you all,


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