After a long, but not long enough for a decent sleep, overnight ferry crossing, I arrived in Le Havre at 8am. Luckily I found my way straight to the little hotel (very nice as cheap hotels go: clean, quiet and friendly) and abandoned my pack. I then wandered about the downtown on foot. Nothing has changed, it was so odd to be back! Over 3 years and it’s the same smells, the same bus system, same carts in Auchan that won’t drive straight…. The only thing missing was of course the same people. Astrid and Melina, I missed you two so much the whole time!! Bisous!
It was quite cloudy and windy when I arrived so I thought I better not take my chances with the weather and opted for a bus pass instead of renting a bike, though the weather did steadily improve. In fact, it was a gorgeous day and today was even nicer. My little séjour copied the weather and just kept getting better as well. In the morning I wandered along the beach full of kite surfers, then did a bit of shopping. (Got myself organic cotton jeans for 24euros… I love Europe) And took my picnic lunch (they have vanilla flavoured prunes, which are actually good!) uptown to the big forest/park, wandered around my favourite cemetery (the one with all the war victims, the Canadians and the unknowns…) Went to the mall then back downtown and dropped off some of my stuff then headed back up to see if my family might still be there. Well, they most certainly were but I hadn’t got their e-mail and their phone number had changed. It was so nice to see them again! I understand why kids get the “my how you’ve changed!” all the time, because they are all that changes. My baby had 3 more years to put with the 6 months he had last time and was walking, talking, counting, drawing and going to kindergarten! The little girl was unfortunately with her grandparents in Portugal. What awesome kids though.
So they dropped everything and we all went down the beach boardwalk and had dinner (fresh seafood and roasted veggies au gratin with chocolate mousse for dessert!) And we got to visit and they tried to convince me to come teach English at the merchant marine academy where they teach for a year…. You never know… I love that city. Perfect size, perfect blend of old and new, great transportation, the ocean, the countryside, close enough to the rest of Europe... so very French too but I don’t mind and my French though rusty after even a month of disuse while trying to learn Spanish came right back, even my France accent apparently!
After a good night’s sleep (I already appreciate immensely any opportunity to sleep horizontally!) I packed up and again leaving my pack at the hotel, bussed back uptown and went walking along the ocean cliffs in the countryside just north of town. My favourite place in the whole world probably. They had torn down the creepy old military building and it was so overgrown already I almost thought my memory was playing tricks on me but otherwise it hadn’t changed a wink. So I feasted on wild blackberries (they weren’t ripe last time!), white nectarines and more petit écoliers (so good) on the ocean cliff for late breakfast and was thoroughly satisfied with life.
Then I had lunch with my French family, tried sting ray wings (!) I should have come to expect this after the foie gras and the raw oysters. Actually very tender and quite good especially with a few capers to give them some flavour.
All in all, a perfect little trip though I would’ve added an extra day on there if I’d known the family was still there. Now on the ferry back over to Portsmouth where I will be spending the weekend with my distant yet very dear relatives!