When Plans Change: An Unexpected Day In Honfleur
This time I was really caught off-guard. With travel being travel, I always have a back-up plan or at least an idea of options. I allow time for delays, schedule changes, reservation glitches. I even carry names of alternate restaurant options in case my first choice no longer exists. But I hadn’t counted on a flood. My top-of-the-bucket-list attraction was closed, and there was nothing I could do.
It was the final night of the cruise when the email arrived. We had just been in Paris and had seen the dangerously high waters of the Seine. Major museums including the Louvre and d’Orsay had been closed to allow art work to be moved to higher ground. But it hadn’t even registered in my optimistic travel mind that Giverny, also located along the Seine, might close its doors as well.
Our ship was docked in the port of Honfleur, which quickly became our Plan B. My mind was still yearning to be wandering through Monet’s gardens, but I was weirdly comforted by the fact that Monet had spent time painting in Honfleur. If he and the other Impressionists had found the town inspiring, then surely I would, too.
We first stopped at the helpful Tourist Information Office to pick up a map and get our bearings. It was Saturday morning market day, and the streets were filled with vendors selling household goods amid rows of the popular Normandy nautical blue-and-white striped clothing. As we turned the corner toward the Vieux Basin, I smiled to myself. This wasn’t going to be such a bad Plan B after all.
Yachts with colorful sails, cafes sporting red and orange awnings and rows of charming narrow buildings lined the harbor. The stone and brick facades varied from gray to yellow to red, with some upper floors trimmed in wood. The colors reflected in the water like vertical stripes of paint, inviting us to take a closer look.
The town beyond the harbor was equally picturesque. Many of the streets were narrow and cobblestoned and lined with half-timbered houses like the other French and Spanish coastal towns we had visited on the trip. But Honfleur had a different feel. It was an elegant place, light-filled, colorful and artistic. We passed an endless number of galleries that featured local painters, sculptors and jewelry designers. Shops were filled with local products, including pear and apple jams and calvados, an apple brandy unique to France’s Normandy region.
We were looking for Saint Catherine’s Church when we happened upon the Saturday farmer’s market, set up in the nearby square. It was busy and colorful and filled with abundant and delicious-looking produce.
Saint Catherine’s Church is the largest surviving wooden church in France, dating to the second half of the fifteenth century. The ceiling was designed to look like two upside-down boats. On our visit, flowers were being arranged for a wedding.
Before heading back to the ship, we stopped for a coffee and croissant at one of the cafes along the Vieux Basin. It was a relaxing moment and a really wonderful way to end our time in France. Honfleur had been quite the charmer, helping us salvage the day and giving us a morning in a place we would not have had the chance to visit. Monet’s gardens will go back on the future travel list. And hopefully next time there won’t be a flood.