After leaving Mont St. Michel, we drove to Normandy and the incredible port city of Honfleur. As a history nut, I always wanted to visit Honfleur but I was not prepared for its beauty. We booked two nights at Le Cheval Blanc hotel right windows on two sides looking out over the small harbor and old section. The kids were immediately enchanted by the town.
Fans of Monet will recognize the harbor as a subject of his paintings and the “Honfleur school” is often cited as an important part of the Impressionist movement. The town includes the largest wooden church in France, The Sainte-Catherine church.
If you read military history, you cannot help but read about Honfleur — stretching back to accounts by Richard III, duke of Normandy, in 1027. Given its location off the Seine, it had obvious strategic importance and was fortified to defend against attacks which came repeatedly over its history from the English. Honfleur was captured by the English in 1357 and later held from 1419 to 1450.
In 1506, the expedition by Samuel de Champlain that led to the founding of Quebec was launched from Honfleur.
The town is gorgeous with winding streets and lovely shops. We ate each night by the water and woke each morning to the sound of roosters with the sun turning the harbor a golden color. The kids loved the old carousels on either side of the hotel.
The hotel is the best example of “location, location, location.” It is right in the middle of the old section and incredibly convenient. The staff speaks fair English and they offer a good breakfast. This is one of the many Best Western properties. While viewed as on the low end in the states, Best Western has some of the best locations in France. They are generally three star hotels. Le Cheval Blanc is an example of a property which could be a four star with just a little more effort. The hotel is pricey and it could use a work over to justify the cost. The wi-fi did not work in the room, requiring you to go sit somewhere in the hotel to capture the signal. The bathroom had a tub with air jets that would spontaneously come on with the sound of a jet airliner landing on your bed. When I raised it with the front desk, they explained that it was simply “cleaning itself.” The hotel also does not have parking but there is convenient public parking around the corner that you pay by the hour or day. Problems aside, we loved the location and the cute corner room at Le Cheval Blanc. It also allowed for a great base to visit the World War II sites. The airborne sites and beaches are only an hour or less away. You can then return to the relaxed elegance of Honfleur.
If you have a chance, I would recommend a stay in Honfleur — which is often overlooked in favor of nearby Trouville and Deauville. This was one of the most popular places for both the kids and the parents.