Le Havre, France: A big embroidery, an artificial harbor and a quaint village

Wow, have we been busy! Steve is working to post some photos. I’ll start off with our day in Le Havre on the 14th. We had a long day here so folks could go to Paris (how fun – spend 6 hours in a bus so you have 2 hours racing around a huge city that takes days and days to explore). We met Anita and Jack, from our Roll Call, at 8:30 am on Deck 5. They’re from Florida and we offered to share the car for the day.

Rent-a-Car (there’s a novel name) had a booth in the cruise terminal and the little smiling man, who spoke very little English, finished out our rental agreement. We hopped in the car and I “nagivated”, as Steve calls it, as we headed out of Le Havre, over the very impressive Pont de Normandie bridge towards Caen and Bayeux (“toutes directions”, ” toutes directions”, “autres directions”, “pay attention”).

After an hour of driving, we arrived in Bayeux, west of Caen. This was a very charming town and we found street parking not far from the famous Bayeux tapestry museum. We paid about 7 Euros at the museum and headed into the gallery with the tapestry. We were given free English audio guides that told us the various stories illustrated on the tapestry, which is actually a massive embroidery piece, about 700 meters long (2100 feet!). It depicts the story of Harold of England, who swore allegiance to the French Norman King William, then reneged when he had his own opportunity to be crowned King. Of course, William did not take kindly to this act of treason and invaded England in 1066 (a Halley’s comet year, coincidently) and the rest is history, as the Normans established a reign of kings of England for a few centuries. You all remember it from your history classes (I hope).

The embroidery was fantastic, with borders containing Heraldic animals, strange characters, and other pieces surrounding the center action pieces. I particularly liked the horses, all done in different colored threads and stacked together to give the scene depth. Of course, no photos were allowed, naturally setting up the challenge for me to ensure that I got a few covert shots off.

After viewing the tapestry, we visited the nearby Bayeux cathedral, which was exquisite. We wandered around taking close-ups of stained glass and enjoying the quiet space. We then hopped in the car and continued toward the coast. We were only a few miles from Arromanches. This was the artificial harbor proposed by Winston Churchill to support the huge logistics of the invasion force on D-Day and the days that followed. There was a small museum with some interesting dioramas and exhibits, situated next to the beach that still had some relics of the artificial harbor.

We drove along the coast, seeing evidence of the invasion beaches of Gold, Juno, and Sword (mostly British, Canadian and Australian troops). We were all getting quite peckish now and also desiring a beverage. We finally arrived in the incredibly charming town of Honfleur, near the south end of the Pont de Normandie bridge and not far from Le Havre.

We found a sidewalk cafe and had some snacks and drinks; the weather was delightful, with partly cloudy skies, although a bit chilly. It was very beautiful village, with a sheltered port and fascinating dark-toned 6 or 7 story buildings jammed together surrounding the harbor. We finally headed out and crossed the big bridge to return the rental car at the port.

Of course we needed to fill up the car, so we stopped at a gas station near the port. Our rental car took diesel gas and Steve hopped out to fill it. I chatted with Anita and Jack and suddenly Steve said, while holding a diesel hose (which we realized later that he was doing that, when we thought about it) that he was concerned that he had used the wrong fuel. We all panicked (more or less). I was concerned that if he had used the wrong fuel, we should tell Monsieur Smiley-Face at the port (I guess I’m one of those “do the right thing” anachronisms). We discussed it for a few more minutes and then Jack helped everyone out by noting that he definitely saw Steve use the right nozzle when fueling and I finally recalled that as well. Whew!!

We had to wait for our little friend at the terminal, but we finally closed out the rental agreement and reboarded. We had a light dinner at the Terrace, which was jammed that evening. We shared a table with a couple from Tasmania that were on the last leg (our 15-day cruise) of an eight-week vacation. Good grief!

A nice day and not too tiring!

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