More about LE HAVRE - ROUEN - HONFLEUR - CAEN | Calvados Excursions

LE HAVRE

Le Havre has a long standing tradition with luxury cruise liners : the first links between Le Havre and North America were forged over a century ago when European emigrants were leaving from Le Havre to the United States. Later, the largest and most famous floating palaces all departed from Le Havre bound to New- York. Le Havre has been welcoming guests and ships for 2 centuries. Nowadays the port of Le Havre can accommodate any type of cruise ships. Located only 200km motorway drive from the French capital, Le Havre asserts itself as The Gateway to Paris.
Largest city in Normandy with 193 000 inhabitants Le Havre de Grâce was established in 1517 by King Francis I of France after the silting-up of the ports of the Seine estuary, Honfleur and Harfleur. In 1820 and 1852, the city was enlarged, first thanks to the pushing back of the ramparts and later, to their demolition. A war port during the 17th century, successful trading with the Isles during the 18th century and emigration to America during the 19th century; all this contributed to a high demography and a fast development of the city of Le Havre. The industrialisation beginning in the 1920’s gives the first place to the city in Normandy thanks to its worldwide coffee and cotton market..
In September 1944, 80% of the city centre was destroyed and the port was completely devastated.
It has taken twenty years for Le Havre to find a new lease of life. The lower part of the town is now the largest post-war unitary reconstruction site, with a surface area of 150 hectares. The unusual architecture made of concrete, created by Auguste Perret, offering antique columns and screen walls of oriental inspiration, opens Le Havre up on the sea. The lights of Le Havre skies are highly prized by impressionists and give an impression of wide spaces to the viewer.
Le Havre more than a city, a site, to be discovered!

HONFLEUR

The town is centred around an old inner port, or harbour basin, built in the 17th Century and today used mainly as a marina for small pleasure boats. The basin and the tall, picturesque buildings that surround it have been little changed over the centuries - Honfleur escaped any significant damage during World War II.
Much of the history of Honfleur is founded upon the sea, both as a base for the fishing industry (some of which survives) and as a trading port. It was once one of the major French ports involved in the slave trade, and has been the starting point for expeditions of discovery (Samuel Champlain, the founder of Quebec, sailed from here).
For many years Honfleur has been popular with artists. Painters such as Monet and Boudin were drawn by the scenery and coastline. The composer Erik Satie was born here.
Today Honfleur is popular with visitors, especially the English, and there are plenty of things to see and do during a short stay. There are numerous restaurants and cafés with an emphasis on fish and seafood. Artists studios and galleries are to be found almost everywhere in and around the maze of narrow streets that surround the old harbour.
At Equemauville, overlooking the town, is a fine church with good views across the estuary towards Le Havre. Back at sea level there is an interesting park - le jardin des personnalités - along the shoreline where busts of those important to Honfleur in the past are placed within the gardens, with the estuary as a backdrop.

ROUEN

Cruise passengers come to Rouen for the pleasure of strolling in the heart of a magnificently preserved medieval city filled with Gothic buildings dating from the 12- 15th centuries, and its attractive shops. Impressionist paintings abound, often by Monet, in his own house at Giverny and the neighbouring American Museum, and in Rouen’s Musée des Beaux Arts. Paris is little more than one hour by road or rail. Rouen is six hours steaming from the open sea. Ships follow the route of the Vikings, who came to Normandy in the 9th century, and berth at the spot where Robert Fulton conceived and built the first submarine, Nautilus, in 1798. On departure, they follow the route taken by Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty on its journey to New York in 1855. The passage includes views of cliffs, forests, manors, abbeys and chateaux. Rouen offers cruise passengers a wide range of facilities. A privileged cruise berth in the heart of the city, next to the William the Conqueror bridge, from where passengers can enjoy a panoramic view of the whole of Rouen set in a natural amphitheatre. The city centre is only a 10-minute walk away. Every year, Rouen offers many festivals: Joan of Arc, music, drama and cinema. The city is renowned for its gastronomy.

CAEN

Heirs to the Vikings, the Norman dukes reached out as far as the Kingdom of Sicily firmly establishing themselves as powerful rulers. From the year 1050 onwards, it was one of their most famous representatives, William the Conqueror, who was to change Caen's destiny forever.In atonement for his marriage to his cousin, Matilda of Flanders, Duke William founded two abbeys. One is dedicated to Women, the Ladies' abbey consecrated to the Holy Trinity ; the other, the Men's Abbey is dedicated to Saint-Etienne. Around the same time, he began the construction of the ducal castle. In 1060, William, Duke of Normandy, set out to conquer the British Isles. After the Battle of Hastings, he was crowned King of England.From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Caen expanded in times of Peace, building its urban image; private Italian-style mansions, Saint-Sauveur square and the convent buildings of the two abbeys. In the wake of the poet, François de Malherbe, the city boasted an intense intellectual railroad and canal linking Caen to the sea in 1857.On June 6th 1944, Caen set its mark on the world stage with the Normandy Landings. From its ashes, the city grew to prove the values of peace, solidarity and human rights, so well reflected today in Caen Memorial Museum.

William's castel

Built around 1060 by William the Conqueror to house his residential palace, Caen Castle is one of the largest fortified enclosures in Europe. At one time or another the castle of Caen has been a Princely residence, a fortress, and a military barracks. Today it is a cultural crossroads. There are a number of monuments from the Middle Ages ( the Exchequer of the Dukes of Normandy, the church of Saint George, the Field Gate), alongside the Fine Arts Museum and the Normandy Museum.
The northern rampart has recently been restored and is now accessible by a lift to the belvedere walkway, affording fine new views over the town and the castle.

Abbaye aux Dames

Founded by Matilda around 1060, the church of the Trinity is a masterpiece of Norman Romanesque architecture.
Don't miss: the crypt and the tomb of Queen Matilda. Magnificently restored, the 18th century convent buildings were occupied by Benedictine nuns until the Revolution. Turned first into a hospital and then a home, they have housed the Lower Normandy Regional Council offices since 1986.
Don't miss: the cloister and the grand staircase.

Abbaye aux Hommes

The monastery buildings are now home to Caen Town Hall. Built in 1066 during the reign of William the Conqueror, they were restored in the 18th Century.
The abbey church of Saint-Etienne, a gem of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, contains the tomb of the Duke of Normandy. You may visit the Abbey at your leisure (except during services).