Do not underestimate Le Havre, worth a detour!

And on this wonderful sunny,  cool , then  rainy and slippery weekend day of March 2018, I like to bring you up to Le Havre. This is a city 90-95% rebuilt after WWII, but it still has the charm of an old port, wonderful things to see, and friendly Normans! This is my treat to you , Le Havre.

Ok ,so let’s quickly tell you about my previous blog post on Le Havre here: https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2013/05/24/le-havre-a-lot-more-than-ferriesstill-normandy/

Le Havre  is in the department de Seine-Maritime 76 of the region of Normandie right in the mouth of the Seine river. The port is second in France for the traffic and first for containers. And yes, my container moving from FL to FR was routed thru here then truck to my home in Versailles!! 2003 get it ::)

The city center of Le Havre is an Unesco World Heritage Site!!  On weekends folks here in good weather hit for the beach on the coast or Côte d’Albâtre by going over the bridge or great Pont de Normandie and spent a few hours in Honfleur, and in turn the folks there come over for their shopping in Le Havre! Yes!!!

Many roads were done here to give easy access to the city ,  kind of an enclave pointed on the continent.  The autoroute A131 link Le Havre to the A13  (autoroute de Normandie) by the other great bridge or Pont de Tancarville.  The autoroute A29 (autoroute des estuaires) link the metro area to the north of France and ends at the Pont de Normandie.  The trains are from the TER and Corail network   but no direct TGV service to Paris yet.  The regular trains put the city in touch with Gare Saint Lazare-Paris, Rouen, Marseille, Mantes-la-Jolie, Versailles, Massy, Lyon-Part-Dieu, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence etc  There is a small airport Havre-Octeville at about 5 km on the town of Octeville-sur-Mer; and buses normally link the airports even Paris CDG/Orly. There is a ferry service to Portsmouth , England.  The network LIA handles the local bus with 16 lines and two tramway lines as well as two night time call  LiA de nuit.  The cable car or funiculaire allows since 1890 to link the high to the low town . The link in English is here: http://www.transports-lia.fr/

Le Havre

As said, the Lower city was mostly destroyed in WWII, and built afterward by the firm of Auguste Perret between 1945 and 1964; he personally directed the reconstruction of the city hall or Hôtel de Ville and the Church Saint Joseph. There is a wonderful Maison de la Culture du Havre built by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer ,known as the Volcan for it shape. Reasons  for Unesco to name it to the World Heritage list.  The northern section of the lower city has the oldest neighborhood not touch by WWII such as  Danton, Saint-Vincent, Graville, Massillon, etc. with buildings in brick dating from the 19C and first half of the 20C; the shops are around wide streets and the neighborhood of the Rond-Point. The south district of the Lower city has lots of industry but also great shopping we love just across from the train station. This is the old docks totally redone into a sport and spectacle building call the Dock Océane, and the wonderful shopping center Docks Vauban as well as expo park Docks Café, and the Les Bains de Dock designed by architect Jean Nouvel. Here is the shopping site in French: https://www.docksvauban.com/

Le Havre

The Docks for entertainment and concerts, events and cinema is here: https://www.dockslehavre.com/fr

This is a wonderful area to stay in visiting the city.  We always do ::)

Le Havre

The high city has more residential areas  such as the sides or  côte, the districts of homes or the big beltway cloister of homes .  On the sides ,you have the fortresses of Sainte Adresse and Tourneville as well as the main cemetery Sainte Marie. The forts now serve civil duties with the Sainte Adresse housing the suspended garden or Jardin Suspendu and the Tourneville houses the municipal archives.

The city is old but I will give you the founding of the proper city by king François Ist in October 1517, and it grew quickly thanks to its  port in the 18C and 19C;however, WWII stop all this, and the city needed to start again…not the first time as during the wars of Religion it suffered great destruction as well. On orders of Cardinal Richelieu, governor of the city then, had built the Arsenal, basin du Roy, ramparts reinforced and a fortress built. It is at this fortress that Cardinal Mazarin have inprisoned the princes of the frond revolt such as Longueville, Conti (the current city hall of Versailles was his palace), and Condé.  Early on the reign of king Louis XIV, minister Colbert began to renovate the port infrastructures and military installations; and by 1669, opened the canal du Havre à Harfleur,aka Canal Vauban.

The Orient company or Compagnie de l’Orient  is here in 1643, and the city began to import from the Americas exotic products such as sugar, cotton, tabacco, café, and spices. The treaty of Black make the locals very rich in slave trade especially in the 18C making the city the third on this trade behind Nantes and La Rochelle.  The world awaits and they go off, by 1707, the captain Michel Dubocage explore the Pacific Ocean aboard the boat Découverte and reaches the island of Clipperton; another captain Jean Baptiste d’Aprés de Mannevillette worked for the Compagnie des indes  and cartography the coasts of India and China. In  1749 , Madame de Pompadour wants to see the sea and king Louis XV chose Le Havre to have her do this at a great costs to the city.

The French revolution brings terror and religious transformation with the Cathedral Notre Dame changed to a temple of reason….under emperor Napoléon Ist ordered the building of a fort. In the 19C, Le Havre  becomes an European leader in the history of Café culture thanks to the arrivals of protestant German families who had acquired this technique during the Haitian revolution in the Caribbean . In the period 1850-1914 is the golden age for the city even with war of succession, Franco-Prussian war the commerce explode and the town built new modern boulevards, city hall and justice palace/courthouse as well as stock exchange/Bourse.

Before WWI ,Le Havre is the first port importing Café in Europe, also cotton, and petroleum are important items; the boating brings in wood, wheat etc. from Northern Europe and wine and oil from the Mediterranean. The city is a major entry point for merchandise from USA and a passing point for immigration to USA. By 1889 the great maritime boulevard is built , mainly the Villa Maritime, the casino Marie-Christine b. 1910, the Rowing palace or Palais des Régates b.1906 bring about the rich and famous and the first cabin are installed in the beach.  The human toll is big in WWI to the city and it served as the rear base especially for the British navy where 1,9 million British soldiers passed by the port of Le Havre.

During WWII, the Nazis occupied Le Havre since the spring of 1940; and prepare the city for the invasion of the United Kingdom (Operation Seelôwe), making arrangement along the coast with casemates, blockhaus and batteries integrated into the Atlantic Wall. Le Havre received 132 bombardments by the Allies during the war with the most damaging coming on September 5-6 1944 with English Royal Air Force bombing the city center and the port to weakening the Nazis during operation Astonia; the  Royal Air Force did more than 2000 waves dropping about 10K tons of bombs. Le Havre was liberated by allied armies on September 12 1944.

What is there to see, plenty I said. The oldest building still standing are the Abbey of Graville, medieval is the Chapelle Saint Michel d’Ingouville; there are redone after WWII, the Cathedral Notre Dame du Havre, Church Saint François, Church of the Immaculate Conception , Hôtel Dubocage,and the Maison de l’Armateur (shipbuilder house), as well as the old courthouse or Palais de Justice. Others are the Jardin Suspendu, Fort de Tourneville, Docks Vauban, Villa Maritime, church Saint Joseph, modern arts museum or Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, the old museum of Havre or Musée de l’Ancien Havre, and the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle.

Le Havre

Some paintings of Le Havre that I like are especially illustrating the Port du Havre and the light of the mouth of the Seine river such as those by Jean-Baptiste Corot, and Gustave Courbet. The one influential and of course neighbor is Eugene Boudin with many works from the 20C; the artist even lived for a while in the city. Another great one was Claude Monet who lived in the city since 5 yrs old and painted in 1872, the Impression, soleil levant (impression of the rising sun) a portrait that gave the name to the Impressionists movement of world fame.

Here are some additional essential information to visit Le Havre, and you should.

The city of Le Havre tourism info in French here : https://www.lehavre.fr/que-faire-au-havre

The city tourist office here in English: https://www.lehavretourisme.com/en

The region of Normandy tourist office on Le Havre in English: http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/discover/normandy-must-sees/the-10-top-normandy-must-sees/le-havre-152-2.html

The dept 76 Seine-Maritime on tourism in Le Havre in English: https://www.seine-maritime-tourisme.com/en/i-visit/10-key-places/le-havre/le-havre.php

Hope you have enjoyed the ride into a resistance strong city , with a lot of energy to show you the best positive mentality you can have, come back from ashes stronger than ever. See it live it, and come back to tell more about it. Have a great weekend, Cheers!

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