Dec 3rd, 2018, 09:05 AM

A Spontaneous Day in Le Havre

By Hana Loggins
Le Square Saint-Roch. Image credit: Hana Loggins
Sometimes, the best trips are unplanned.

I recently decided to spend a day in a small coastal town in Normandy, called Le Havre, with my friend Ethan. This town is a bit more industrial than other small towns in Normandy as they had to rebuild a large part of it after World War II. Nevertheless, its charm remains. Plus, its beautiful pebble beach was what my heart was truly after.

The train to Le Havre is cheap and the ride is gorgeous. You pass the beautiful Seine river, colorful forests and small villages resting peacefully on mountainsides. I can’t think of a much calmer commute than the ride to Le Havre, spending two hours listening to my favorite music or reading a book, or just staring out the window with no distractions or obligations. Even the not-so-pretty parking lots and storage units that we passed by every so often didn’t dampen my spirit, because sometimes simply getting out of the city for a day is all you need to recoup.

Le Square Saint-Roch. Image credit: Hana Loggins

Being the planner that I am, I came into this trip with a list of possible activities and places that would be open— apparently, a lot is closed on Saturdays there. Luckily, Ethan is much more spontaneous than I am and forced me to just start walking in a random direction with him once we arrived in Le Havre. The town itself is extremely industrial. But there were a few buildings here and there that looked much older and very quaint.

We passed through this beautiful park in the middle of town, called Le Square Saint-Roch. Its willow trees and small ponds reminded me of Monet’s house in Giverny, Normandy. We decided that the park was a perfect place to have lunch, so we stopped by a Carrefour and bought sandwiches, coffee, and a couple pastries. We ate them in a beautiful gazebo in the park. The weather forecast said rain, but the sky was so wonderfully blue.

St. Joseph's Church. Image credit: Hana Loggins

Next, we set off towards the beach, stopping every so often to check out buildings or tourist attractions that sparked our interest. One building that nobody can ignore is St. Joseph’s Church. This is the tallest building in Le Havre, and to say it’s intimidating is an understatement. Its dark and slender exterior gives it a slightly eerie feeling. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go inside.

Le Havre Beach Sculpture. Image credit: Hana Loggins

When we finally made it to the beach, the sailboats out at sea and a gorgeous art piece on the sand made me breathless. No matter which way you look at it, the sun hits it perfectly and causes shadows in all the right places. I felt a bit homesick here since I grew up in Hawaii and have always been close to the ocean. Being in Paris this year has been my first time living farther away from the beach. It felt so amazing to be able to walk along the water again.

Le Havre Beach, photo taken by Hana Loggins

We walked along the beach for a while before Ethan pointed to what seemed like a tall, faraway hill and said, “Let’s go up there!” My mind panicked a bit, as it hadn't been a part of my plan, but I realized it could be a fun adventure. We started walking, and Le Havre’s industrial buildings became smaller and smaller. We walked up a steep and narrow path, passing by the cutest little streets and houses. The path led up the hill, past a small, beautiful cathedral called Chapelle Notre-Dame des Flots. We stopped to see if we could go inside, but the only part that was open was a garden beside the cathedral. It was lovely—full of flowers and ivy-covered archways. After pausing there for a moment, we continued our way up.

Hill leading up to Sainte-Adresse. Image credit: Hana Loggins

Now on top of the hill, we made our way through a commune called Sainte-Adresse. Some of the houses were very cute and stereotypically cottage-like, while other houses felt like they came right out of in Beverly Hills. The views were stunning, and I was so happy that we were able to have a little break from the city.

Chapelle Notre-Dame des Flots. Image credit: Hana Loggins

Once we got hungry, we started to make our way back down the hill. We looked up some places to eat online but ultimately stopped at this corner restaurant called La Croisette. They served dinner in an upstairs area that overlooked the beach. I got Fish & Chips and Ethan got a burger. Our stomachs were quite happy in the end. After dinner, Ethan and I walked back to the train station and got on our train home with about eight minutes to spare. We slept on the way home, content and exhausted.

Ethan overlooking ocean. Image credit: Hana Loggins

If you’re thinking of getting out of the city for a day, go to Le Havre and Sainte-Adresse. Remember to go with no plans and an open mind- it's more fun that way.