When I asked locals about their recommendations for day trips out of Paris, their lists always included Honfleur, the maritime city in Normandy (just two hours north of Paris) known for being one of the principle birthplaces of Impressionism. And you can visit much of the medieval city in a single weekend, or less.
So during my sons’ Fall break, my family drove up on a Saturday morning and arrived in time to walk through the colorful weekly market, under a light rain that shifted into a sheet of pale grey clouds that eventually collapsed into soft blue skies. It’s commonly said that the region’s magical changing light highly influenced many great painters, particularly Arthur Bodin (the friend and tutor of a young Monet); it was this luminous light that invited them to step out of the formal indoor painting style and instead head outdoors.
Particularly picturesque is Le Vieux Bassin, the old port in the center of town lined with tall narrow houses decorated with restaurants, art galleries/ateliers and local specialty shops. From there, you can stroll along tiny cobbled streets of beautifully jumbled together timber-framed homes, typical of Normandy’s architecture. Bring along a good appetite as shops invite you to taste their overflowing array of local specialties like cheese, biscuits, jams, Calvados (apple brandy) and apple cider.
Needless to say Honfleur is very popular and fairly busy, especially during the summer months - but well worth a visit and revisit :)