Thursday, November 28, 2013

This is Le Havre

I should clear something up for a lot of people.  We are not living in Paris.  We are living in a little town called Le Havre, a port city right on the coast of the English Channel.  It's two hours away from Paris by train.  The city is the largest in Normandy, and dates all the way back to 1517, although you would never be able to tell.  You see, Le Havre is a bit of a tragic story.  It was quite literally wiped off the face of the earth during WWII.  Only a handful of buildings survived, included two really old churches.  How is it always the churches that survive such widespread destruction?  Something to think about, I suppose...

So of course after the war it was rebuilt, but unfortunately it was rebuilt during the 50's, 60's, and 70's...quite possibly the most disgraceful period of architecture the world has ever seen.  Le Havre is now known as the concrete city, and it lives up to its moniker.  The city itself is situated on a natural harbor and beautiful hill overlooking the English Channel, and like the rest of Normandy, the landscape is absolutely gorgeous.  Unfortunately, there is just a lot of ugly architecture getting in the way.

No, this is not Hiroshima, it's Le Havre.

I could only find a few pictures of what Le Havre looked like before the war.  But what I found makes me very sad.  It was classic French, very Parisian.  This was a bustling port city, not some small town.   Obvioulsy Le Havre wasn't the only city nearly wiped off the face of the earth due to Hilter's madness.  I found this fascinating thread showing cities all around Europe and what they looked like before the war, including Le Havre.  Take a look.  Obviously, WWII sucked.

So yeah...Le Havre.  It ain't Paris, but that's alright.  The people are incredibly nice and helpful here.  That's not always the case in France.  It's also really cheap to live here.  Our apartment costs €390 a month.  You can get a delicious lunch for €5.  We are saving a ton of money for travel.  If we lived in Paris, we couldn't afford to ever leave.  So living in Le Havre definitely has its benefits.  It's also 10 minutes away from some truly medieval, classic and beautiful French towns.  I would equate living in Le Havre to living in Kenner.  Sure, it's Kenner, but it's 15 minutes away from New Orleans.  Ok, that might be making it sound worse than it is...  There are some extremely nice parts, and some extremely rich parts, I just haven't seen them yet.  I will definitely let you know when I do.  For now, this is Le Havre.

Well, this is Paris, where we would spend our first night.  This was our view.  

A little poppy before heading to the Vampire Weekend show.  Not a bad way to start a trip.

Early morning train to Le Havre.

Our neighborhood in Le Havre.


Random church right off the beach.

Trying to figure out what that little door is for.

As you can imagine, the weather in Le Havre is quite cold.  Most of the time its just gray, with a slight mist.  Think Seattle.  It's not bad all the time, but it can change in a second.

Hotel de Ville = City Hall.

The really cool thing about our neighborhood is that we're six blocks away from Graville Abbey, the oldest building in Le Havre, dating back to the 9th century.  At least this didn't get bombed.  It was closed when we went, but it still offered some fantastic views of the city.

Le Havre's skyline.

You know I love a good cemetery.

A typical Le Havre neighborhood.

Another building to survive the bombs.

Le Havre Cathedral, the second oldest building in Le Havre, dating back to the 15th century.  

Doing laundry in a laundry mat really sucks.

They don't celebrate Thanksgiving in France, and in fact, the whole concept confuses them greatly.  So, starting in mid November you start to see Christmas stuff pop up everywhere.  So when you get down about the state of consumerism in America, take comfort that this happens pretty much everywhere.  (And I loathe Black Friday...)

These are my first impressions of Le Havre.  I have only explored 1% of the city, so take it for what its worth.  Much more on this town to come, as well as some of the more curious French customs.  So long for now.  And Happy Thanksgiving!