We are supposed to be docking at Le Havre today but rumors of a possible strike at the port have us put in across the river in Honfleur. We stayed a few days in Honfleur on a previous trip and it is a good jumping off spot for going to see the Bayeux Tapestry and the D-Day beaches. There are excursions leaving to Paris today which is basically Paris on your own but it is a long bus ride so we choose ”The Charming Normandy Coast.”
The first thing we do is to ride over the really large Pont de Normandie from Honfleur to Le Havre. The bridge is over 7000 feet in length is the last bridge to cross the Seine before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. When it opened in 1995 it was the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world. It is a toll bridge and if you are going in the direction of Le Havre to Honfleur you should be prepared to sit in traffic for at least 1/2 hour to get through the toll plaza as we discovered on the trip back.
We depart the bus at Fécamp to see the Abbey of the Holy Trinity which is a dilapidated Romanesque-Gothic mix enormous church. It does not look like much from the outside but it is immense inside with a soaring Gothic nave. It was opened in 1175 and is the resting place supposedly of kings Richard I and Richard II. (Carbon dating of the remains indicate that they pre-date both Richards.)
This is right up our alley of interest and we are so glad plus so sad that we are able to go inside. Sad because the Abbey is going to ruin. There are broken windows and dust everywhere. Our tour guide, Margot, says that there are so many old churches and it is hard to keep them all up. It is a shame but we are thrilled to see the statuary and stained glass from the 12th century. Sarah feels that Margot has mis-identified a statue of a saint carrying his head. She is quite the expert on cephalophores.
Now we move on to the Benedictine Palace which is in the Neo-Gothic style. According to the website, the story starts in 1510 at Fécamp Abbey when legend has it that the Benedictine monk, Dom Bernardo Vincelli, created a secret elixir which met with such resounding success that the Benedictine monks at Fécamp continuted to produce it up until the French Revolution when the recipe was lost. Later, in 1863, Alexandre Le Grand, a wine trader, discovered the composition of the elixir by chance. He had the Palais Benedictine built to provide a prestigious setting for the distillery of the liqueur. We get to look around the palace, see the distillery and have a taste.
At last we are invited to sit down and taste three different types of Benedictine. I remember my parents enjoying B and B, brandy and benedictine, which was a less sweet liqueur made for the American market in the 1930s. We get to taste Benedictine Classic, Single Cask 50/50 Benedictine and brandy, aged, and 1888 Benedictine and Cognac. I liked the Classic best!
Then it is back to the boat after a quick stop in Etretat which is a beach that has three arches. Margot tells us that we will have to be quick if we want to see it. We opt to stay on the bus. Sarah goes and says that it is hard to see what Margot is talking about.
Later we have tea and then dinner at Chef’s Table for the menu, Lotus.