Le Havre

19 Aug

When we told our friends that we went to Le Havre a few weekends ago and that we liked it, they were all shocked. They expected us to stay at Le Havre for maybe a day tops then move on to Honfleur, which is magnifique. Well, we never got the chance to go to Honfleur or any other cute Normal coastal village because we stayed at Le Havre the entire weekend!

It is the 2nd biggest port in France so people would think that it’s a seedy place with nothing to see. During the war, the whole city was bombed to the ground so you won’t see houses from the 1800s in this town. After the war, based on a modernist plan made by August Perret, they reconstructed the whole city center using cement. In 2005 it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the “innovative utilization of concrete’s potential.”

So in short, there’s coastal city old world charm here, only blocks of ugly concrete appartments and more concrete buildings. But it has it’s charm, in that concrete block way, and the people are very nice.

That’s the city hall and below is a view from the plaza in front of the city hall, facing the port. Yes, after all those concrete buildings is the sea. If you go down that street, it will sort of remind you of Manila, or even Jalandoni street in Iloilo with the chaotic stores on the ground floor and appartments on the top floors. Then you’ll see the Volcano. It’s actually Le Havre’s cultural center. It was created by the architect Oscar Niemeyer, the same one who created Brasilia all from concrete.

It does look like a volcano doesn’t it? Then there’s the church of Saint Joseph. Very modern, very tall. You can see it from any place in town. Just across the street from the Volcano is a basin with a restaurant boat serving oysters and I guess this is where the Havrais do their recreational water sports.

And then of course there’s the beach and the port and the docks.

After going around the town center, and the market, we went to the “beach” to eat. They didn’t have sand on the beach, instead they had big white pebbles. It was ok I guess, if all you do is hang out at your cabin and sun all day. Along the beach is a nice boardwalk with lots of restaurants. We, of course, had a meal of mussels and fries.

When we were there, the L’eztivals festival was going on and they had free shows all along the beach boardwalk and around town. We loved the variety and creativeness of the groups. We spent the first afternoon lounging on the beach and people watching. That night we saw one of the acrobatic shows outside the volcano. We were very impressed by their skills and the way they presented the show.

The next day, instead of going to Honfleur, we went to their first ever Sunday street market and got a free ride around town on a big horse drawn carriage. We checked out the port and found out it was the first day of the Figaro Solitaire. It’s a regatta from Le Havre to Cherbourg passing by other ports in France. It was cool seeing all those little boats in one small basin near the docks. We also spent most of the afternoon at the Docks, which is a mall and in the Bains des Docks which a fun filled water park with a slide, jacuzzis, hamman, sauna, and an olympic sized pool for those who go there to really swim.

So it was a fun filled weekend in Le Havre. We don’t think we will be going there again soon…in the next few years or so. But going there once just to see how it is is very much worth it. I suggest you go there between July and August, at least there are more things to do than during winter, brrrr. It’s only a 2 hour train ride, and if you don’t like it when you get there, there’s always Honfleur!

One Response to “Le Havre”

  1. chrisdabin August 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    les travaux (les gros travaux de réhabilitations et constructions du centre ville : l’aire les Docks-gare-université et son environnement proche) commencent en septembre pour 3 ans….en plus de la création d’un tramway http://www.tramway-agglo-lehavre.fr
    …à d

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