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Home Travel StoriesNormandy, France 2011 - By Ren Withnell

Normandy, France 2011 - Another Good Walk Around Honfleur

Dagnammit!  If I wake early once more I reckon the gf will slit my throat as I sleep to ensure she is not disturbed.  After yesterday's day out to the D-Day beaches and a plan for tomorrow to ride some more, the gf decides we'll take another walk around Honfleur.  I'm a touch pensive about this after my sore feet last time, but then I too do not wish to spend every single hour riding.  I consider riding into town but that would mean having all the bike gear with us which is a pain in the ass and the weather's good today.  No, I shall man-up and walk in.  I need the exercise too, middle aged spread is only a chip shop meal away.

I mean, 1.5 miles, it's not far is it.  As we walk into town it does not feel far at all.  The sun is up today and the breeze is still there but it's calmed down much to the gf's pleasure.  We pass the large field with just a few sheep in, the house with the scary dogs in a large kennel, the house where the dog stands and barks on top of a high garden wall and the house where builders are finishing a surreal modern abode that just does not fit in.  It only seems like a short walk into town this time, I really don't know what all the fuss was about.

The library in Honfleur is impressive.  The gf works in a local library back home and is passionate about all things booky.  A long large glass wall covers a steel frame that in turn covers the front of what is perhaps an old building.  With this new frontage the original building is now open plan into the glass area.  The books live on shelves within the original building, kept in the shade and cool, the glass area provides a light and spacious open area for reading or study.  I hesitate as I walk past, I have visions of the gf wanting to spend hours inside looking for literary treats.  I don't say a word as she passes by the entrance, maybe she's been put off because all the books will be in French.  Phew!

honfleur's impressive glass fronted library
Honfleur's Glass Fronted Library.  Simple yet very effective, I like it.

There has been one thing of note on our trip so far.  The French love the Renault Twingo.  Everywhere we go there's another Twingo or two.  I remember years ago an old flame of mine introduced me to "Punch Buggy".  Punch Buggy is a game whereby if you are the first to spot a VW beetle, the old classic "Herbie" beetle, not the stupid new ones, you shout "Punch Buggy" and get to hit whoever you are with.  Hmmmmmm.  As we walk towards the Marina sure enough another Twingo drives by so I shout "Punch Twingo" and gently tap the gf on the arm.  I did consider giving her a real whack, a proper dead arm job, but the gf is small and petite.  Don't ever think she's frail or a wimp though, she's not, but small ladies don’t fight fair.  If I did hit her hard I would have woken up that night with a frying pan being applied severely to my arm.  She would have been sure that my injuries were a thousand time worse than hers.

a montage of renault twingos in honfleur
They're bloomin everywhere these Renault Twingos.  Be sure it's the "Bug Eyed" model

I explain the rules of my new game to the gf.  It has to be the old style "bug eyed" Twingo, not the new sleek version.  She rolls her eyes in despair at my juvenile behavior and carries on walking.  Perhaps she thinks if she ignores me then I'll soon forget, like a child, but she underestimates the immaturity of the middle-aged-man.  Closer to the marina another Twingo passes by so she receives another tap on the arm.  She gives me that look that only a woman and a mother can give.  Luckily for her there are no more cars around the marina.

As we walk around the marina we keep on looking in each and every restaurant to see if any of them are at least affordable.  They all charge the same price, it's like a cartel.  We walk over to a square with a handful of cafés, their prices are the same.  More by chance than design we head out of town on the eastern side.  We climb uphill on narrow roads that pass between tall terraces, this part of town is not quite so pretty until we get a little further out then we're back amongst the homes of the wealthy.  I spot the Pont Du Normandy between some houses, it is very dominant across the horizon.  A little further on and we are afforded a good view from a graveyard.  We both take pictures on our respective cameras, I'm a bit jealous of the gf's 10 times zoom.  

the pont du normandie from honfleur
My image of The Pont-Du-Normandie as seen from the Graveyard.  I bet the gf's got better images.

The graveyard itself proves fascinating.  Most of the plots seem to be family plots.  Large capstones, headstones and even the odd mausoleum list 2, 3 and sometimes even more names, typically with the same surname.  I ponder how this works, if Monsieur Smith dies first and his body is buried, he may lie there decaying for several years until Madame Smith passes over.  Do they then dig down till they find the rotting remains of Monsieur Smith and place Madame next to or above him?  Odd plots have what I can only guess are the children of the deceased with them too, judging by the large time gaps between the dates.  There's no-one to ask and my French is up to asking for tea and milk, but not discussing the delicate subject or mortality or the disposal of the dead.  I shall remain curious.  In the meantime a bee buzzes furiously as he tries to force his way into the centre of the plentiful flowers.

red flowers with a bee just visible inside
In the centre of the flower you may just see the rear of the busy bee.

We walk a slightly different route back into town, and by now my feet are starting to ache.  Between us we've already eaten the Brioche butties and I want to sit somewhere and rest my feet, as well as take in all this foreignness and Frenchness and weirdness.  We spot one of the plentiful boulangeries so we head inside.  With the help of a very polite and unsuspecting elderly French chap I enquire what a meringue is in French.  He enquires with the ladies in the shop and I learn meringue in French is...well...the same as it is in English, just say it with an French accent.  The gf ends up with the largest meringue I've ever seen and I insist she eats it all.  I get a costly ice cream and we sit on a wall near the marina, eating and watching the world go by.  "Punch Twingo"...tap...  

They're not that much different to us, these French folks.  You could argue they're a little more stylish than we Brits, but that maybe because this area's a little posh.  They seem to have a slightly more relaxed attitude too, but again that maybe because most of them are on holiday.  They have a lot more space in the countryside, but their towns are as busy, if not a bit busier than ours.  From what I've seen living here is every bit as expensive as back home, France is not a cheap place.  Logic dictates the French speak French very well, yet every time I hear it spoken I'm shocked at how well they can speak it.  It's also a shock that they don't understand English, I mean I do and I'm not clever.  I come to the conclusion I like it here, but it's not utopia. "Punch Twingo"...tap...  

Yet another renault twingo
Another Renault Twingo...tap...

What I don't like is the fact I have to walk back!  Oh yeah, at the start of the day I was ten men Ren, 1.5 miles is nothing.  Why the hell is the walk back 10 times farther than the walk in?  It is a 1.5 mile walk into town, it seems like 15 mile walk back.  I'm not tired, I'm fit enough to walk the distance, but the sun is up, the wind has abated and I'm hot, my feet are hot and that always makes them sore.   It's hot, too hot, don't like hot.   "Punch Twingo"...tap...  The road carries on forever.  Each footfall is getting more and more uncomfortable.  I drop down into a bench about halfway back and wonder how you order a taxi in French, not that we're anywhere near a taxi rank. 

As we sit we're looking up a very long gravel driveway towards an old French house.  It's covered in blooms and climbing plants, very pretty and rural looking.  A large black Labrador spots us from the house and runs towards us, barking loudly.  I look at the gate and it seems secure enough to protect us from attack so I nervously remain seated.  He stands guard at the gate and barks at us, half aggressively and half playfully  until a distant owner shouts something in French that he understands then he walks back up the driveway, tail wagging and obviously satisfied at a job well done.  

After what seems like another age we arrive back at the studio.  It is such sweet bliss to remove my boots and my socks and let the air get to my poor sore feet.  I still don't know why I make such a fuss.  I've probably walked 5 miles today, any normal bloke should cover that without any trouble at all.  I get a bit cross with myself so I decide to blame my feet, and the fact I wear boots.  I wear boots because I've got one leg shorter than the other and need funny boots.  I've got one leg shorter than the other because I ride motorbikes and had an accident.  So logically my feet hurt because I ride motorbikes.  Yes, that's it, that will do, I can't walk far because I ride motorbikes...   I laugh to myself at my amazing ability to justify anything, or to provide myself with an excuse for anything.  I get cross with myself again as I have to accept I'm a wimp.

The gf's all chilled.  The sun's up, the wind's dropped and she's sat in the tiny garden outside of the studio, sunning herself.  It must be warm because little-miss-always-cold has even stripped off to her bikini!  After admiring her almost-nakedness for a moment I decide it's far too hot for any shenanigans, so I decide to go for a little ride.  We need a few more items from the supermarket and I'm going to go back into Honfleur and see if I can hang out with some French bikers.  I'll look really cool, they'll all have come from nearby and I'll be the wild adventurer from afar.  Mind you, it's hard to look cool in bike pants, jacket, gloves and helmet.  It's hard to remain cool too for that matter.

After the supermarket I ride confidently into town.  Dammit, there's not many bikes here at present, it's probably a bit too early.  I'll go for a ride around, just local like.  On the eastern side of town there's a dual carriageway where the not so pretty shops are, the larger builder's merchants and garage workshops.  Beyond that lies countryside and a small town with the inevitable 30kph zone and speedbumps.  I try to take it all in, to remember and record it in my head, to recall the style of the houses, the layout of the roads, the feelings I'm having and what this will mean to me when I get back home.  It's hard to imagine right here right now that soon I'll be back in Blighty riding on the correct side of the road and probably getting soaking wet.  "ARGH" I scream inside my helmet as I grab a handful of brakes and wobble to a halt.  Whatever you can say about the French, they sure know how to hide traffic lights.  I manage to stop beside the small pole with 3 dim lights on top, one of which is red.  As I sit there, expecting a vehicle of some kind to emerge, nothing happens.  Nothing.  Not even a bicycle or a pedestrian.  I then make a mental note to tell the world about French traffic lights.

Back in Honfleur I park the bike up next to a handful of other bikes, near the marina with the expensive cafés.  I've decided to splash out on at least a tea, or a coke.  I check out the prices, 4 euros for either...dammit...I mean that's just robbery isn't it?  I consider walking over to a shop and purchasing a can of pop at a much more reasonable price when 5 French bikers sit around a table nearby and order drinks, crepes and sweets.  I see them all hand large sums of money over.  I decide French biker's must all be bank mangers who pose around Honfleur in the evening spending cash to impress their friends.  Stuff it I'm going to go back to the studio to sulk, some more.

The gf's pink.  Not the superstar Pink, pink as in sunburnt.  She's not a silly girl though, she's saved herself from the painful red colour that causes sleepless nights, she's stopped at the slightly uncomfortable pink stage.  That said she's gingerly rubbing various lotions and potions on when I get back.  We spend the rest of the evening in our routine of cooking, eating, talking and uploading pictures.  Whilst uploading pictures of Twingos I wonder if I could use an image to play Punch Twingo, but I decide against it.   

Normandy, France 2011 - Prologue
Normandy, France 2011 - The Ride South
Normandy, France 2011 - The Ferry, French Roads and Honfleur
Normandy, France 2011 - A Good Walk Around Honfleur Ren and Sharon spend the day in and around Honfleur. It's a pretty and characterful town. The day has it's downs, and ups.
Normandy, France 2011 - A Bit of D-Day and Normandy Coast The Normandy beaches and the busy roads of France are on the menu today. There's a little time to relax too.
Normandy, France 2011 - Another Good Walk Around Honfleur
Normandy, France 2011 - The Beauty Of Beuvron-En-Auge
Normandy, France 2011 - Back To The Ferry and England
Normandy, France 2011 - The Trip North and More Images

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