When my ship calls in Le Havre, France, I head out to explore a city center that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Le Havre is a city of monumental proportion, with lots to see here and nearby.
It was here in Normandy that some of World War II’s fiercest battles took place and Le Havre serves as the gateway to historical sites and the beauty of the region.
I could see why the nearby Alabaster Coast inspired such great Impressionist painters as Claude Monet. I later learned that Le Havre is the “birthplace of Impressionism.”
I traveled to the picturesque port of Honfleur, which also inspired well-known artists. In many ways, Le Havre and the region surrounding it are works of art in their own right, and today, cruise passengers, like me, are still trying to capture those indelible portraits of a region so rich in imagery.
At the American Cemetery, I walked away with an appreciation of the sacrifices that young American soldiers and their Allied companions made to succeed against such incredible odds. I couldn’t help but think that these fallen heroes altered the history of Europe during the D-Day invasions of 1945.
Le Havre itself lost more than 10,000 homes during the war — along with much of its city center. In rebuilding Le Havre, architect Auguste Perret showed the city’s resilience, which UNESCO recognized as as the “innovative utilization of concrete’s potential.” The city literally picked itself up from the ashes.
Though Le Havre bills itself as the “Gateway to Paris,” I didn’t have to venture two hours away to experience something very much like the Parisian lifestyle.
I walked into the beautiful Benedictine Palace at Fécamp to learn about the liqueur known as Benedictine. I also learned about the lives of the monks who lived here. Their liqueur was made from 17 herbs and spices, a health elixir no doubt.
At the Malraux Museum, I gazed upon the second largest Impressionistic art collection in France. I could see how those painters were inspired by the sea and the sky and the texture of Le Havre’s light. This is Ralph Grizzle reporting from a place that leaves a lasting impression, Le Havre, France.
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