Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fabulous France (A Day Trip from Le Havre)

We recently had a Whirlwind Willingham Road Trip across northeast France. I guess the region is technically still Normandy - but a different part than our previous trips. Our adventure could probably be categorized as "Off the Beaten Path Normandy" and was a hodge-podge collection of places we have had on our to-see list. Friday night we drove out to Le Havre, France and planned to spend a long day on Saturday driving back to Brussels stopping at sights along the way.The first destination on our journey was the beaches of Etretat. A tiny town with a massive and memorable beach. The rocks covering the coast reminded me of Maine and the soaring white cliffs of Dover, England. The combination of the two with the pink gold of the rising sun was invigorating.
We collected a big bag of these Etretat stones and will have to find the right place for them in our home. I think they will make a great memory and talking piece. The stones are smooth and rounded and they beckoned to be picked up and rubbed in our fingers.
We climbed up the path to this church on the cliffs. It was an ambitious ascent without the stroller but Connor actually did fantastic hiking. She is growing right up.
Monet famously painted here. I could see why. The views were masterpiece worthy.
Up, up, up. Baby step by baby step.
Etretat was aglow in the rising sun. It is nice now that we are exploring deeper to the lesser known spots to be in places so authentic and unexpected.
Leaving Etretat we followed the banks of the Seine River (same Seine from Paris, yes) along the Route des Abbayes.
We went to Caudebec-en-Caux (above) and Abbaye de St-Wandrille (below)
But the grand dame of the abbeys was definitely Abbaye de Jumieges, one of France's most beautiful ruins. It was founded by St. Philbert in the 7th century and rebuilt in the 10th century.
Climbing through and marveling at the ruins was a blast. Hard to believe how much is still standing and stunning after all this time!
A life size chess and checkers set was an odd accessory for the abbey, but hey - Connor thought it was cool.
The Abbey path led us towards the town of Amiens. The city's focal point is its world-famous Gothic cathedral.
The colorful 3D figures in the cathedral were different from any others I have seen.
The stained glass was incredibly brilliant! Aha, jewel tones.
We ended the day back in Belgium in the WWI memorial town of Ypres. But more on that in another post....
It felt good to be in control on our road trip dotting the map as we saw fit - not necessarily following a specific tourist well worn route.

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