July 2016 – France « Impressionism and Gourmet Travel » Chapters 1-4: Le Havre, a city rebuilt by Auguste Perret

July 2016 France "Impressionism and the journey of gourmet"
July 2016 France "Impressionism and the journey of gourmet"

A slightly different world heritage site. Home to various artists.

Visit the World Heritage Site of Le Havre

Le Havre, a port town at the mouth of the Seine, is our first stop on the trip.

It takes about an hour to drive along the Manche Strait (English Channel) from Etretat, and we arrived at Le Havre, where concrete buildings and apartment buildings are arranged in an orderly fashion, which can be said to be a contrast to the beautiful cityscape with beautiful buildings of the post-Baroque period made of stone, which can be seen not only in Paris but also in regional cities in France. I arrived at Le Havre, which has a rather plain atmosphere and is full of concrete.

We parked our car on the street in front of the hotel and checked into the hotel.

Even though it’s in front of the hotel, it’s street parking, so I bought a parking ticket as usual.

The fare was 3 euros. We were scheduled to leave at 9:00 the next day, so I think it would have cost about 2.5 euros if I had more fine change. Still, I would say that this price is cheap for one night.

By the way, this is the hotel that took care of you.

It was the kind of hotel you’d expect to find in a city, but the surrounding area looked like an apartment complex. After taking a rest with my luggage, I immediately went out to the city.

Home to many artists

Le Havre has been a port town since the Middle Ages, and it has produced many famous people. Claude Monet, who is known as a representative of Impressionism, and Raoul Dufy, who was active from the 19th to the 20th century. By the way, I learned the name of Dufy from the museum in this city. He seems to be categorized as a Fauvist, so we can say that he is a painter of the same age as Matisse and others.

By the way, Monet’s masterpiece « Impressions, Sunrise » was written with this port of Le Havre as its subject.

In the next post, I’m going to talk about Eugène Boudin, a master of the exterior light school who had a great influence on the Impressionists like Monet, who was born across the Seine in Honfleur but grew up here in Le Havre.

Artur Oneghel, one of the six French musicians, was born in this city. (Oneghel was born in France, but his nationality is Switzerland.

Large-scale planned city rebuilt after World War II

At the end of the Second World War, following the Normandy landings and Operation Astonian, Le Havre was attacked by British troops from September 5 to 6, 1944, and the city was destroyed. A total of 5,000 people died and 12,500 houses were destroyed. The damage was one of the largest of any European city during World War II.

Then, after the war, the reconstruction of Le Havre was started manually by an architect named « Auguste Perret ». He is also known as the master of reinforced concrete, and he used his modern theories to rebuild the city on a large scale. In recognition of these progressive efforts, Le Havre was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005; it is very rare for a city from the 20th century onwards to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Because of this background, the present streets look like an ordinary town today without much Frenchness. It was rebuilt about 70 years ago, but the streets look as if they were built recently.

It feels like there are wide roads like this everywhere. Trams are also running. There doesn’t seem to be any traffic jam, but it seems to be too quiet somehow.

However, if you look at it from a different perspective, it was very advanced at the time, considering the functionality of the city, and it may have had a great influence on the cities that have been rebuilt since then.

Personally, I thought that it would have been better to recreate the old streets like Warsaw in Poland for tourism purposes, but if you look at it from the point of view of the people at the time, it was probably the best choice considering that they needed to rebuild quickly in order to live.

Contemporary « Saint Joseph Catholic Church »

The most impressive of Auguste Perret’s restoration projects is the town’s church, Saint Joseph Catholic Church. This church was also destroyed at the end of the Second World War on 5 September 1944 during the fighting between the Allied and German armies.

A very large building, almost reminiscent of the communist era, the central tower is said to be 107 meters high.

Inside, the pink atmosphere was very fantastic and beautiful. From the outside it was a bit of a questionable construction, but inside I felt a very sacred atmosphere. It is worth a visit.

There’s a two Michelin star restaurant, but you can’t get in.

We decided to stay one night in this city, but the problem was the food. There were not so many good restaurants. Moreover, the restaurant which has high reputation on TripAdvisor was full. I could not enter without a reservation.

One of them was the best rated restaurant in Le Havre, and it had been awarded two Michelin stars. I didn’t realize this until after I left the city. Still, I didn’t notice this restaurant even though I planned the gourmet tour. I want to revisit this city just for this reason.

Fortunately, I was not so hungry because I had a good lunch, so I decided not to have dinner that day. To be honest, I was very sleepy because it was the first day of my arrival, that’s why I didn’t have dinner.

André Malraux Museum in the harbor

Now, the purpose of my visit to this city, of course, is to keep a record of World Heritage Site visits, but the main purpose is this museum, MuMa – Musée d’art moderne André Malraux.

This museum is located along the coast. So I walked here from the church of Saint-Jeseph. This city is indeed a modern planned city, and it is very spacious. However, it’s not so easy to go sightseeing because there are not so many places to see.

The port is also kind of a modern industrial scene, so to be honest, it didn’t feel like a place to relax and watch. This is why Le Havre is such a difficult place to visit. But there are not so many tourists.

Then we arrived at the museum.