It’s only a short trip from Paris to Honfleur - under 200 kilometers (125 miles), but one well worth making, either by car or by train.
For art historians, it offers a look at what so many Impressionists came here to paint. First of all, hometown boy Eugène Boudin, actually a pre-Impressionist who influenced Claude Monet greatly in the perception of light, especially on water. Charles-François Daubigny, also a precursor of Impressionism, captured the port of Honfleur on many canvases, basing himself at the Saint-Siméon farm which became a home-away-from-home for a whole new generation of artists, including Jongkind and Bazille. Monet and Seurat fell under the charm of the port as well.
(I see someone in the back of the room waving his hand. “Why the drawbridge?” Because there are tides in Honfleur. It’s at the mouth of the Seine River, but actually on the English Channel, so... tides. There’s a lock on the drawbridge; otherwise the inner port would go dry, or at least the water level would be too low at certain times of the day. Oh, and also because of the boat’s masts.)
|The fishing port|
|Musée de la Marine|
After lunch, it’s time to see “uptown”, as I call it.
To the right of that as you look at the building, the Rue des Lingots heads downhill. Turn left in the first street, and walk down the Rue de l’Homme de Bois to the Musée Eugène Boudin (closed Tuesdays). It’s a lot of bang for your 8 €. Inside you’ll find an old repurposed chapel of the Convent of the Augustine Sisters. As is only fitting, there are a number of works by Boudin himself, surrounded by those of his artist friends: Monet, Jongkind, Courbet, Eugène Isabey, Charles Mozin, Alexandre Dubourg, Charles Pécrus, Gustave Hamelin, and Adolphe Félix Cals. Upstairs are two levels of modern exhibit space added on in the 1970's to help house the over 2,500 works of art the museum has accumulated. Not only can you enjoy temporary art exhibits there, but the end wall, completely of glass, offers a wonderful view out over this part of the town’s rooftops to the harbor and the very modernistic Normandie Bridge beyond.
Music lovers may already know that Erik Satie, composer of Gymnopédies, is a native of Honfleur. To see his house (closed Tuesdays), turn right as you leave the Musée Boudin, then left down a little alley to the Rue Haute (which means Main Street in French), then left again and it will be about a block down on the right at Number 90. Or, if you don’t like alleyways, turn left exiting the museum, go a block or two and turn right into the Rue du Trou Miard, then right again into the Rue Haute and it’ll be farther down on the left. The house is very small, but take the audioguide that will turn on the light-and-sound show as you enter each room, giving a commentary on a bit of Satie’s life and playing some of his tunes. You’ll get a real feel for how small houses were back then. But the really fun part is when you reach what I remember as the final room, which has a four-seater merry-go-round that you pedal and it makes music and sounds as you go!
Cruises, water colors, hewn wood churches, seafood on the port... Any way you look at it, Honfleur and water are intimately intermingled.
Restaurants on the inner port: My particular favorite is L'Abricotier (68 Quai Sainte-Catherine), perhaps for no other reason than habit but I’ve never had a bad meal there.
As to hotels, there are many.
Otherwise, try L’Ecrin a few blocks further “inland”, on the rue Eugène Boudin. It has parking and a small pool put in recently, plus a garden where you might just get breakfast, or tea, if the weather is clement.
Musée Eugène Boudin: http://www.musees-honfleur.fr/musee-eugene-boudin.html
Satie House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJqWeMqcbso