On time, travel, and the sea

I love the expression, “Life is short but it is wide” and I’m greatly enjoying more of the width of time and life here, especially in comparison to the constant rush of New York. Here people rarely move faster than a stroll and businesses close for lunch. The slowness is beginning to sink in and feels equally delicious and dangerous to my American sense of productivity.

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Of course there are still many things to do here, and not enough time to do them, but fortunately one of those things is to just wander around to see what I can see, which also happens to be one of my very favorite activities. I am fully exploring the role of the artist as flâneurcity stroller and contemplative observer. Our studio is near a lovely quay where just yesterday I spent some time watching dark fish flash white bellies in the gloomy water. How luxurious!

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So, I’m collecting many more experiences and images than I’m sharing and they are all getting a bit out of order. Thus, in the interest of clarity and harmony, two ideals of reconstructed Le Havre, this post will deal just with two local trips and further explorations of the beauties of la plage (the beach). Artwork and food posts to come!

Trip 1: Bikes, trams, and funiculars to Caucriauville

Thomas M., our guide from City Hall, took Nora and me on a bike/tram/funicular (hillside train) trip to visit a neighborhood at the end of one of the tram lines, Caucriauville, which is composed largely of public housing built in the 60’s for the city’s lower-income residents, many of whom are immigrants. It was built quickly and cheaply, also out of concrete like the famous city center but lacking the same grace and attention. It seems there were numerous social problems there and the city has been trying to improve the living situation for the residents by adding more open green spaces, shops, and cultural programming.

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We biked around a bit, visiting the site where last year the city erected a temporary “museum” to share original works of art from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and saw two large, surprisingly lush parks.

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Although the day was chilly it was great to be back on a bike and exploring the neighborhoods outside the pristine city center.

Trip 2: Honfleur

Last Saturday some of my very funniest friends visited from Amsterdam and Paris and we had a great time running around the beach and searching the city for runner’s “goo” for two of them, who ran a 20k in Paris the following day (congrats Fed and Paul!).

That Sunday the remaining friend, Mettine, joined Nora and me on a trip to Honfleur, a small town across the Seine in lower Normandy, and the very definition of quaint. Its population of about 8,000 hasn’t changed in the last 300 years, although at least 75% of the population now seem to be people catering to tourists.  It dates back to the 11th century (about 500 years before Le Havre) and has a long history of international trading (in goods and later in people, sadly enough), attacking or being attacked by England, and launching expeditions to the New World, including a trip by Samuel de Champlain, who founded Quebec. Honfleur was also home to numerous painters active in the development of impressionism and the tradition is now proudly carried along by local artists.

walking a narrow gray street…

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examples of half-timber buildings
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Its main aesthetic attractions are the small port and quays surrounded by tall, narrow buildings as well as a wooden church and separate belltower which, amazingly enough, have never caught fire. (knock on wood. Ha!)

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dramatic steps at a quay-side structure:

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It was a fun trip and has inspired me to plan more excursions into Normandy. But until then, the beach of Le Havre is still a constant source of wonder for me. Even though it is just a 5 minute walk away I don’t make it there every day, but when I do there is always something new and wonderful to see:

high tide hurling itself against the sea wall:

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the misleadingly quiet, expansive beach at low tide, revealing a shipwreck:

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and gorgeous ripple marks in the sand:

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at sunset, pre-storm

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and blue “storm lights” on the sea wall

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And yet, despite traveling, flâneuring, and roaming the beach I am also getting a lot of actual artwork done, which will be the subject of an upcoming post.

À bientôt!

About Stephanie Beck

Exploring the international world of art.
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