Le Havre, Normandy: The ultimate concrete jungle

A couple of weekends ago my significant other and I hopped on a ferry and headed over to Normandy. I haven’t been on an England-France ferry since I was a whipper snapper and it’s safe to say that I was super excited.

I was writing a piece for a travel mag (more on that later) and here is a snapshot of what we found in the town that people normally dismiss as somewhere only worthy of a drive-through.

Beautiful architecture

Sorry brick fans, Le Havre is all about concrete, after being almost entirely flattened by bombs during World War II starchitect Aguste Perret rebuilt the town to his own design and there is now a lot of the poured stuff in various shades, textures and shapes.

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Approaching Le Havre
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Saint-Joseph church by August Perret, looking up through the spire
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Le Volcan cultural centre by Brazilian architect Oscar Nieyemer who died before the masterpiece was completed
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Saint-Joseph church from the ground
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Typical August Perret flats. Anyone displaced by war in 1950s Le Havre was gifted a brand new flat using the war compensation

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Les Bains Des Docks, a huge swimming pool complex designed by brutalist architect Jean Nouvel
Les Bains Des Docks, a huge swimming pool complex designed by brutalist architect Jean Nouvel

Very French cuisine

It might only be 3 hours by boat from Portsmouth but Le Havre is going its own French way with food. We ate plenty of fresh fish and steak, moules mariniere, crépes, smoked herring, paté and even snails at the Michelin-starred Pierre Caillet restaurant where we were invited to sit at the chef’s table, inside the kitchen (words cannot describe the flavours that man delivered to my plate)

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Fécamp specialises in smoked herring

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Watching the magic from the chef’s table
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In between every course at restaurant Pierre Caillet was a different homemade bread (heaven). This was the mustard brioche
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L’Escargot with a ton of garlic – delish
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Foie gras with orange jelly, and blood orange crust
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THAT cheese board
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At the fish market in Le Havre, Sol was on the menu
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The most delectable almond pastry

IMG_8245  Many-a-Monet

Claude Monet decamped from fun-time Paris after being rejected by the conservative Académie des Beaux-Arts to the sleepy-town Le Havre during his teenage years, and in an act of rebellion against THE MAN started up the controversial impressionist art movement with his mates Renoir, Manet and Boudin (what a badass). We spotted one from his famous Waterlilies series as well as an extensive collection on the subject of cows by Boudin.

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Booze

We drove 45 minutes to Fécamp (such a French word) to visit the Bénédictiné Palace where first monks then later an advertising-savvy boozer named Alexander have been producing this sweet spiced spirit since the 12th century. We admire some tiny 12th century bibles and tasted some concoctions (try it with grapefruit juice) in the beautiful botanical greenhouse bar.

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Good-lookin’ scenery 

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The beach at Le Havre

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Le Havre botanical gardens
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Le Havre botanical gardens are on the site of a former war bunker
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A mural inside the former war bunkers painted by an American soldier of war

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The ‘Elephant’ cliffs at Etretat, between Le Havre and Fécamp
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Fécamp
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Fécamp

 

 

 

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