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Lisbon | Porto | Coruna | Cherbourg | Rouen Day 1 | Rouen Day 2 | Cruising the Seine | Belgium
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ROUEN, France (Day 1)
At this stop, which is down the Seine, we think a substantial number of our fellow cruisers are headed to Paris. While it′s impossible to fully explore that amazing city, we′d been there several times before but we′d never seen this part of France. So we stayed around Rouen.
Today turned out to be a big surprise for me. We′d booked an eight–hour tour and had no idea what we were going to do. We′re also in port tomorrow wanted to spend Day 2 walking in Rouen itself. As you can tell from yesterday′s blog, we had gotten pretty sated with quaint French villages.
But today turned out to be one of the best days we′ve had so far.
Today is the Catholic holiday celebrating the Ascension of Mary (it is also Father′s Day) so everyone pours out of the big cities like Paris and even Rouen and head off for a four–day holiday somewhere on the coast. The three areas we visited are all pretty much off the beaten track for cruise–ship tours but they not off the beaten track for French vacationers. In fact, all three spots seem to be prime French vacation destinations.
The towns we visited are all at least 60 miles from Rouen so we had lots of time to view more French countryside. The main difference between the Rouen countryside and what we have seen up until now is that what we saw before were farmhouses interspersed every now and then with a chateau. The region around Rouen seems to be more prosperous, with better looking farms and a greater number of large, well maintained homes, grand manors and chateaus.
We also got our first look at a French thatched roof. I had seen them before in Scandinavia but didn′t remember the precision of the shaping and trimming of the roofs. A line of plants is put on the peak of the roof because their deep root systems helps secure the thatch.
The first town we visited, Honfleur, is on what the French call the Bay of the Seine. It is a centuries old port with fishing and pleasure boating still in evidence.
The entire town radiated, if possible, an aura of medieval authenticity. The streets are cobbled, many of the homes are "half timbered" (built with wood interspersed with plaster), and of course the town was originally built as a walled city for protection.
The second city we saw, Deauville, is another Bay of the Seine town and it also has a lively harbor. This city hosts an international film festival, has a huge casino, and reeks money. The place is wall to wall hotels, and the private residences look like Italianate palaces. Traffic was bumper to bumper and, per our guide′s quick survey of license plate identification, many of them were Parisians who′d come here for their 4-day coastal holiday.
Our final stop was Etretat, a seashore town as opposed to a harbor. The beach was not very impressive (a lot of rocks with a thin strip of sand) but people were all over it. Its main draw are the tall white cliffs (like Dover, England). Parisians who weren′t in Deauville seemed to be in Etretat instead, but we enjoyed the lively atmosphere and the crowded streets, happy people, carnival rides for the kids and plenty of sidewalk bistros for the adults.
And all three places were MOBBED ! (This is Honfleur.)
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