Day 70  Thursday 10th August 2017

Le Havre

Another day in Le Havre as the forecast was for strong winds.  Heavy rain again so do our jobs: me laundry and blogging, Malcolm touching up some of the engine parts with metal primer (he found some at another chandler’s on the way back to the boat from the Eglise St.Joseph yesterday).  He’s also been cleaning the waterline, which has got dirtier since we left the Atlantic behind.  I do loads of ‘steps’ up and down to the boat as there’s nowhere to wait as the ‘laundry’ has two machines – one washing machine and one drier stacked on top of each other – in the lobby for the toilets!  And the Capitainerie is closed for lunch for two hours so can’t loll on their sofa.

From our booklet of walks,  we set off after lunch on Tour 4: ‘Les Bassins’.  Pass another building which survived the bombardment, the late 18th century ‘Maison de l’Armateur’, a ship owner’s house.

 

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Maison de l’Armateur

 

Another installation, the ‘Love Love’, a still image of a boat captured in the final seconds before it disappears for good, is in the Bassin Vauban.  Enough to give all you sailors nightmares!  There’s another marina in this dock, accessible only by lock gates, but awfully handy for the Docks shopping centre and all the converted warehouses. No wonder it was recommended to me by another woman in the laundrette at Cherbourg.

 

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‘Love Love’ and me not going shopping

 

Make our way back to the Volcan along the Bassin du Commerce and collect our tickets for the guided tour of Appartement Temoin Perret.  It’s a reproduction of the first dwelling designed in 1946 by Perret. 

The guided visit is by a chap who speaks little English and talks in very, very rapid French.  I have to whisper translations to Malcolm during the very long introduction outside the block of apartments.  Once inside I can take loads of photos for Morag who’s a keen fan of ‘50s style.  Malcolm wants answers on how they got the exposed aggregate concrete so smooth and how the apartment was heated – by hammer and by a boiler in the cellar, apparently.  We have to admire the concrete close up, so many textures and subtle colours.

After so much culture we go into the Super U in Les Halles and buy some chicken for tonight’s Thai Green Curry.  Think we’ve well and truly ‘done’ Le Havre and it’s now time to move on up the coast. The forecast is good for tomorrow but the wind blows up all night:  Malcolm has to go up on deck in his PJs and find out what’s frapping and causing us to lose sleep?

Day 69 Wednesday 9th August 2017

Le Havre

Housework and tuning the engine this morning so a rather late start for Tour 2, which takes in the Art Gallery  (Muse d’Art Moderne Andre Malraux) – supposedly 2nd to  Paris on the Impressionists – which I have been saying I wanted to see for a long time.  On the way Malcolm is sidetracked into a Uship chandlery searching for metalwork primer for the engine, but they don’t have any so we can now focus on my main event – art!

I have to say that I was disappointed by the collection – not enough known Impressionists and too many Eugene Boudins (mind you, his brother did donate the entire contents of his studio  to the museum).  There’s an awful lot of Boudin cows – a whole wall of them!  I did like the paintings by Pissaro, always one of my Mum’s favourite artists.

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And a couple of Raoul Dufys – especially this very appropriate one, ‘Souvenir du Havre’.

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I think most of the collection was in storage for an exhibition on the Ground Floor, ‘Pierre et Gilles’, whose art is a fusion of photography and printing.  It’s part of the ‘Un Ete au Havre’ 500 years celebration, and includes the iconic beach huts – five of them – decorated in style.

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Next installation is two arches of containers near the Brittany ferry terminal – very colourful..

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And then we visit a rare survivor of the original city, Notre Dame Cathedrale, although it has been rebuilt in many places.

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Next the Bassin du Commerce, with small children learning to sail on this sheltered old dock.  A really good use for it.  We take a picture of The Volcano (known less reverentially as the ‘yoghourt pot’!) from the pedestrian bridge over the Bassin. Oscar NieMeyer, the Brazilian architect who is best known for overseeing the construction of Brasilia, designed this white cone during the 1970’s.

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We call in at Les Halles but intend to come back tomorrow for shopping, as we have yet to visit L’Eglise Saint Joseph, Perret’s masterpiece which dominates the skyline.  Inside, the altar is at the centre and the four arms of the cross are equally short – almost a theatre in the round.  This summer there’s a major installation by a Japanese artist, ‘embodying an accumulation of spiritual power’.  We think it looks rather like a lobster pot.  Malcolm definitely prefers Liverpool’s RC Cathedral.

In the evening we walk through the beautifully landscaped Square St. Roch garden, to La Taverne Paillotte.  This Bavarian brasserie is a Le Havre institution with its roots going back to the 16th Century, famous for its Moules – but tonight they’ve run out of mussels! Still have oysters though.

Day 68 Tuesday 8th August 2017

Le Havre
It’s Le Havre’s 500th Anniversary this year. The city was built by Francois I in 1517 to replace the ancient ports of Honfleur (where we went last year, see main Blog photo) and Harfleur, then already silting up. Its name soon changed from Franciscopolis (bit of a mouthful!) to Le Havre (the Harbour).  Le Havre, now the second largest port in France after Marseille, takes up half the Seine estuary but the actual town is now a place of pilgrimage for devotees of modern architecture.

 
During WW11 the port suffered more damage than any other port in Europe. It was rebuilt by a single architect, Auguste Perret, whose famous dictum that ‘concrete is beautiful’ is reflected in all the buildings. However, given the constraints of time and money, the city is well laid out with public parks, long avenues and expanses of water at every turn, says my Rough Guide. It’s now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 
After a lazy, rainy morning, we visit the Tourist Office for a brochure on walks round the city (‘Un Ete au Havre’) and a guide to the architecture (both in English), and then take a stroll along the promenade by the shingle beach, which we can hear from the boat. Very ‘Dover Beach’. There are lots of cafes and restaurants here, as well as a skateboard park, and people kite-surfing.

 

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The beach huts – now an ‘installation’

 
We are very struck by the striped beach huts – find out later, from our walking guide, that it’s now an ‘installation’ by a Dutch artist for 2017. The decree issued by Francois 1 to found the city in 1517 was used by the local university to generate a code, defining the ten shades and six widths of colour strips that adorn the cabins!

 
The evening brings torrential rain and a rainbow, framing the Eglise St-Joseph, Auguste Perret’s concrete masterpiece.

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Day 67  Monday, 7th August 2017

 Grandcamp-Maisy to Le Havre

Set off as soon as the lock gates opened at 8.20 am.  We seem to have something round the prop – probably seaweed as we’re going over the Rochers de Grandcamp where there are kelp beds, according to the pilot book. 

We sail,  on a close reach with up to 2 knots of tide with us, along the cliffs to Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach. 

 

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La Pointe du Hoc

 

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Omaha Beach

 

 

On this American beach, the first assault was brutally cut down and they considered retreating.  Eventually the soldiers managed to climb the cliff-like slope that overlooked the beach and by midday they began to breach the German defences.  I think ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is about Omaha – or ‘Bloody Omaha’ as it’s known. 

 

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The American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer

 

There’s a huge American cemetery here with more than 9,000 graves, which we can see on the hilltop.  There seems to be a memorial on the beach too.

The wind drops to 3 knots and we have to motor-sail for a while.

Next stop is Arromanches.  I’ve been here twice – once on our first camping trip to Trouville with the Butlers in 1961, and secondly with little Morag and her friend Louise (and her parents, of course) during another camping holiday in 1975 – but never on a boat! 

We sail between the port and starboard markers into the ‘Mulberry’ harbour so vital in supplying Allied troops.  In 100 days, 220,000 soldiers, 530,000 tonnes of supplies and 39,000 vehicles were landed at ‘Port Winston’.  The one at Omaha  (codenamed ‘Gooseberry’) was wrecked in a storm two weeks after it was installed, so this one was vital until such time as the continental ports like Cherbourg and Brest were captured and reinstated. 

 

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The Chart Plotter showing the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

 

After Arromanches the wind backed and we’re now on a close reach on the other tack, and we can turn the engine off.  Sail along the landing beaches of Gold, Juno and Sword but we’re not going into Ouistreham this time.  (Last year we visited Bayeux on the day of a national rail strike, you may remember.)  We had thought about going up to Caen, under Pegasus Bridge along the canal, but there wasn’t time to fit it in.  A Brittany ferry comes over from Portsmouth – we took this back to England twice for our return trips when visiting the boat in Concarneau.

We sail sublimely for several hours across the Baie de la Seine to Le Havre with winds of 9 – 11 knots and a calm sea.  Of course, just when we’re approaching the marina it starts blowing 17 – 19 knots and we have to divert for a large cargo vessel which decides to leave just as we’re going to stow the mainsail.

 

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We’re keeping out of the way!

 

After 10 hours sailing, when we do get in, we are witnesses of a most amazing scene: a Frenchman and his very old white-bearded Dad on a very small scruffy yacht are most dischuffed to find a large new 40’ Dutch yacht in their place next to us.  (This is on the Visitors’ Pontoon where we’ve been told to take any berth by the Capitainerie.)  The son bangs furiously on the yacht to try and bring them out but they’re not at home.  Eventually he moors the boat on another pontoon and comes round to move the yacht, aided and abetted by two other French sailors, one of whom actually falls in!  They succeed in moving this huge yacht and its dinghy to the next berth so they can moor up on their ‘own’ berth.  Don’t think the owners will be very pleased when they get back!  Malcolm tells the Capitainerie what’s happened when he goes to pay and the girl comes round and confronts them – but they stand their ground.  The old man looks very pathetic.

After all this excitement it’s time for a tinned Fray Bentos steak pie – comfort food!

Day 66 Sunday 6th August 2017

Grandcamp-Maisy
Quick trip to the market to buy fruit, salad, cheese and bread – Malcolm goes to Carrefour as the gas ran out last night, and to buy milk and sliced bread for sandwiches tomorrow. French bread only lasts a day, if that.  After a cold night I change the duvet back to the thicker one and stow the summer one I bought in Guernsey from M & S. I can’t sleep if I’m cold.

There are three markets today – the morning market for food on the quay, a brocante market all day down the main street and a marche de nuit for all kinds of tat along the front.

 

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Marche de nuit along the front

 
Get the bus to La Pointe du Hoc (there’s no coastal footpath from Grandcamp as the cliffs are very high and it’s dangerous) which is only 15 minutes away. The whole site is well organised by the Americans who own it – plenty of car parks, signs, viewing platforms and information boards. Can’t believe how many people are milling around on the top of the cliffs, but it is a lovely sunny day and you can see for miles. All nationalities – mostly French, but a good sprinkling of Dutch, British, Spanish, American and even German holiday-makers.

 

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On the bunker taken by the first Rangers to the top of the cliffs

 
The story of the Pointe du Hoc is this: by mid 1944, German forces manned formidable defences along the French coast. Of concern to the Allies were German artillery positions on Pointe du Hoc. They could wreak havoc on Utah and Omaha Beaches. The mission to take it was given to the 2nd Ranger battalion. Under the command of Lt. Colonel J.E. Rudder these soldiers achieved the incredible feat of reaching the top of the 100’ high cliffs in just a few minutes, despite the slope being very slippery, the climbing ropes made heavy by seawater, and intense fire from the defenders.

In a lunar landscape full of deep craters, made by the Allied aerial bombardment, the fierce battle which ensued was even bloodier than the climb. And a big surprise awaited the Rangers: they found that huge wooden beams had been placed in the stations instead of artillery guns. They then had to go and search for the guns and destroy them. After fighting for two days, before relief arrived from Omaha, only about 90 Rangers were still standing from the 210 who had set out.  A British commando actually trained them on the Isle of Wight, which had similar cliffs, and accompanied them on D Day.

Back on the bus to Grandcamp-Maisy – we just love the name!  Very surprised to see so many Pecheurs a pied on the beach and the flat Rochers de Grandcamp.

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The entrance to the harbour at Grandcamp-Maisy

The tide has gone out a long, long way but soon comes in again and the pecheurs make a speedy retreat.

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Pecheurs a pied

Super fishy meal at the now non-smelly quayside at the Restaurant de la Maree.

Talk to a couple with a young daughter and the wife is heavily pregnant.  They talk fondly about their worldwide travelling days and how they met in Australia (the wife is from Brisbane) and how everything has changed with having children.  But it doesn’t have to, does it?  It hasn’t stopped us – or our children and grandchildren – from having adventures!

Day 65 Saturday, 5th August 2017

St. Vaast-La-Hougue to Grandcamp-Maisy

Early start as both harbours have tidal locks – alarm at 6.30 am to leave St. Vaast when the lock gates open at 7.20 am.

We tear ourselves away from St. Vaast with reluctance – although the noisy fairground rides, with screams and flashing lights went on until well past midnight, so probably a good time to leave.

Sailed all the way today – firstly on a beam reach, then goosewinging as we turned south-south-eastwards.  Wind is variable 9 – 12 knots from the west – and then we have the usual blow of 16k just when you’re trying to get the sail down, tie on fenders and mooring lines, and negotiate over the Roches de Grandcamp (‘as smooth as a snooker table but dries to 2m’ writes Tom Cunliffe in the pilot book).

Pass between Utah Beach and the Iles St. Mercouf 6 km offshore.  Operations on D Day started at 4.30 am with the capture of these uninhabited isles.  We saw a commemorative poster in the Hotel de France and des Fuschias about a Sergeant Harvey Olsen and 3 Navy Seals being the first to land. 

 

 

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Iles St. Marcouf with fort

 

Formerly, the British held these two tiny islands in 1796 and managed to block all trade in the Baie de Seine before returning them to Napoleon in 1802.  Needless to say he built a large fort, still to be seen to this day.  There’s a modern ‘D Day Landing Museum’ on Utah Beach, with picture windows looking at the beach.

The mermaid of St. Mercouf and her sister from our Thursday walk probably explain the many shipwrecks on these islands.

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Grandcamp-Maisy where we’re heading is situated between the landing beaches of Utah (at the foot of the eastern side of the Cotentin peninsula) and Omaha, with the La Pointe du Hoc in between.  More of that later.

Tied up by 12 noon in a rather workaday kind of harbour, full of fishing boats and an ice plant with a fish market.

 

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Grandcamp-Maisy

 

  It’s pretty stinky too.  Walk round the harbour and along the promenade by the sandy beach to the Tourist Office where we get a plan and a bus timetable to visit the Pointe du Hoc, then call in at the Capitainerie and find it’s more expensive than St.Vaast at 28 Euros a night! 

 

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Spot Lady H!

 

 

Spend the afternoon dozing and reading, showering and eating, before we set off for the Karoake Evening in the Salle Omnisports which starts at 9 pm.  This is in aid of our Boat Night on 30th September – we’re hoping to pick up some hints.  First lesson is you need to be able to sing!

Day 64 Friday 4th August 2017

St.Vaast

Blogged whilst Malcolm fitted the new fuel lift pump – success!  The engine sounds sweet with no hiccups.

Took the laundry to the Capitainerie and popped over the lock bridge to buy bread. 

 

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The lock bridge

 

The lady in the Boulangerie said it was very quiet today in town .  Not surprising as you can’t park anywhere or drive down the quayside for the fair.  It must be at least twice as big as Whitby’s on Regatta Monday.

Malcolm is still doing jobs while I shop and take photos – then, after lunch on deck,  he has a sleep while I go to fetch the dried laundry. 

 

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The oyster beds

 

Then I fall asleep reading my ‘History of Modern France’ on deck.  Tired out after our long walk yesterday!  Have to rush off for our last visit to M. Gosselin and to buy fresh sardines from the Poissonerie for tea. The fair starts up in earnest at 9 pm and is still going strong when we go to bed.