Honfleur is a commune in the Norman département of Calvados in France,
located on the southern bank of the estuary of the Seine, very close to the exit
of the Pont de Normandie.
It is especially known for its old, beautiful picturesque port, characterized by its houses
with slate-covered frontages, painted many times by artists, including in particular
Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind, forming the école de Honfleur
which contributed to the appearance of the Impressionist movement .
The Sainte-Catherine church, which has a bell-tower separate from the principal building,
is the largest church made out of wood in France.
read full wikipedia reference about Honfleur, France
Visitors to Honfleur
inevitably gravitate towards the old centre, around the Vieux
Bassin . At the bassin , slate-fronted houses, each of them one
or two storeys higher than seems possible, harmonize - despite
their tottering and ill-matched forms - into a backdrop that
is only excelled by the Lieutenance at the harbour entrance.
This latter was the dwelling of the king's lieutenant, and has
been the gateway to the inner town at least since 1608, when
Samuel Champlain sailed from Honfleur to found Québec. The church of St-Étienne
nearby is now the Musée de la Marine , which combines
a collection of model ships with several rooms of antique Norman
furnishings (April-June & Sept Tues-Sun 10am-noon & 2-6pm;
July & Aug daily 10am-1pm & 2-6.30pm; Oct to mid-Nov
& mid-Feb to March Tues-Fri 2-5.30pm, Sat & Sun 10am-noon
& 2-5.30pm). Just behind it, two seventeenth-century salt
stores , used to contain the precious commodity during the days
of the much-hated gabelle , or salt tax, now serve as the Musée
d'Ethnographie et d'Art Populaire Normand, filled with everyday
artefacts from old Honfleur.
Honfleur's artistic past
- and its present concentration of galleries and painters - owes
most to Eugène Boudin, forerunner of Impressionism. He
was born and worked in the town, trained the 15-year-old Monet
and was joined for various periods by Pissarro, Renoir and Cézanne.
At the same time, Baudelaire paid visits to the town, which was
also home to the composer Erik Satie. There's a fair selection
of Boudin's works in the Musée Eugène Boudin ,
west of the port on place Erik-Satie (mid-Feb to mid-March &
Oct-Dec Mon & Wed-Fri 2.30-5pm, Sat & Sun 10am-noon &
2.30-5pm; mid-March to Sept daily except Tues 10am-noon &
2-6pm; 26F/?3.96), and his crayon seascapes in particular are
quite appealing here in context, though the Dufys, Marquets,
Frieszes and, above all, the Monets are the most impressive paintings
Admission also gives you
access to one of Monet's subjects featured in the museum, the
detached belfry of the church of Ste-Catherine (daily 9am-6pm).
The church and belfry are built almost entirely of wood - supposedly
due to economic restraints after the Hundred Years War. The church
itself makes a change from the great stone Norman churches, and
has the added peculiarity of being divided into twin naves, with
one balcony running around both. From rue de l'Homme-de-Bois
behind you can see yacht masts through the houses overlooking
the bassin and, in the distance, the huge industrial panorama
of Le Havre's docks.
Just down the hill from
the Musée Boudin, at 67 bd Charles-V, is Les Maisons Satie
(daily except Tues: mid-June to mid-Sept 10am-7pm; rest of year
10.30am-6pm; closed Jan; 30F/?4.57), the red-timbered house of
Érik Satie. From the outside it looks unchanged since
the composer was born there in 1866. Step inside, however, and
you'll find yourself in Normandy's most unusual and enjoyable
museum. As befits a close associate of the Surrealists, Satie
is commemorated by all sorts of weird interactive surprises.
It would be a shame to give too many of them away here; suffice
it to say that you're immediately confronted by a giant pear,
bouncing into the air on huge wings to the strains of his best-known
piano piece, Gymnopédies . You also get to see a filmed
reconstruction of Parade , a ballet on which Satie collaborated
with Picasso, Stravinsky and Cocteau, which created a furore
in Paris in 1917.
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