First Trip to Europe: Le Havre, Normandy, and Not Paris

This is my eighth post about our family's first trip to Europe. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the educational US travel we have done here.


Before I tell you what we did in France, I have to tell you what we didn't do in France. We did not go to Paris. We'd planned to go to Paris, but changed our itinerary a few days before we left home. Let me explain. 

Our final port before disembarking from the cruise was in Le Havre, France, a three-hour bus ride from Paris. The ship offered excursions to Paris, but we didn't want to ride a bus for six hours in order to spend just a few hours in Paris. We'd be spending 4 days in London after the cruise, with plans to fly home from London on Saturday; what if we took the train from London to Paris, then flew home from Paris on Sunday instead? Yes! One 2-hour ride on a train with 24 hours in Paris made a lot more sense than a 6-hour roundtrip bus ride with three hours in Paris. We booked our tickets. 

Then the Yellow Vest protests turned violent. The State Department issued an advisory to avoid Paris on Saturdays and cautioned that protests may block roads and could affect train travel and airport access. We watched the destruction in the area of the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe and decided that it did not make sense for us to go to Paris on a Saturday with the situation as it was. There was too much uncertainty and too many things that could go wrong, so we dropped Paris from our plans and changed our plane tickets to fly home from London. Our train tickets were non-refundable and our plane tickets had a hefty change fee, but it still made the most sense to us. If it had been any other day of the week than a Saturday, or if we'd been planning more time in Paris and weren't relying on such a tight schedule with the train, sightseeing, and flying, we might have chosen differently. 

After canceling the Paris portion of our trip, we had the option to do that 6-hour bus ride shore excursion to Paris from Le Havre (on a Monday, April 15), but Steve, Trevor, and I decided we'd rather see Paris properly on a future trip than have so little time to spend there. My dad and my sister's family did take a shore excursion to Paris. In fact, they were on the bus ride back to the ship when the fire at Notre Dame started, making them (and Michelle Obama) among the last people to view it before the fire.  

So what did the rest of us do in France? Steve and my mom went to the Normandy beaches. Here are some of my favorite photos from their day:




Trevor and I decided we'd stay in Le Havre and explore. The museums there are all closed on Mondays, which was disappointing (you'd think they'd want to open when 2600 cruise ship passengers are in port, but apparently not), but it gave us the time to just wander around and soak everything in. 

We had the option to buy bus tickets to take us 1.7 km. from the ship to the city center... for $16 a piece. Ridiculous! We were happy to save $32 and get some extra exercise. Fortunately, it was a beautiful, clear day. 

We strolled along with no destination in mind. Our plan was to stop whenever we saw anything interesting.

Oooh, the Halles Centrales! Yea! 

We LOVE looking at markets when we travel. And that $32 we saved in bus fare was like found money, just begging to be spent. We admired the gorgeous produce...

... and drooled over everything at this cheese market. 

We loved the oblong pineapples and tried to figure out what the delicious looking "groseille" were. (Gooseberries, we learned.) 

There are 22 vendors in Halles Centrales, including a supermarket. From the translated version of their website:
"Located in the heart of Le Havre Halles Centrales, U express is a supermarket created in 1960. It is the first supermarket in the city center of Le Havre. Inescapable place and privileged of the hats, come to do your shopping in an environment and a place of exception! U express offers a wide assortment of everyday products, specific, organic, regional, exotic, delicatessen ... The friendly staff will advise you in your purchases." 

I'm not sure what makes it "privileged of the hats," but it seems appropriate that is Trevor wearing a hat (and his hoodie - he was really cold) inside the store. Can you tell what he's holding?

They're fresh crepes. We LOVE crepes. I want my grocery store to sell fresh crepes!

I also want my store to have this orange juice machine. This is SO cool!

We also loved seeing "les Schtroumpfs." I had no idea they were originally named anything other than Smurfs. You learn something new every day. Particularly when you travel! (We didn't buy any Smurf chocolate, but we did buy these treats, which might be my new favorite candy. YUM!)

We were there six days before Easter, so it's no surprise that there were chocolate bunnies everywhere. Of course, that only made us miss our own furry family member back home even more. 

These electronic price tags are really neat. 

 We left the market, then popped in to St. Joseph's. Look carefully at the spire.

Each side has different colors of stained glass!

We mistakenly thought we must be in the cathedral because the church was so large and beautiful. Nope! The Le Havre Cathedral is a few blocks away. They're doing construction on the outside.

Here's the inside:

I took this picture at a bus stop. 

When we were in Rome, our guide told us that the Italians consider street food an abomination, that it is offensive to be eating while walking (except for gelato), because food should be appreciated and eaten with purpose. Trevor told me that the French must feel the same way, because there we saw absolutely no street food or casual eateries during the multiple hours we spent exploring. There were plenty of nice restaurants. 

We'd seen this artwork from the ship, so we wanted to get a closer look.

They're shipping containers. Love it. 

Although it was disappointing not to see Paris, Trevor and I loved our time in Le Havre. Steve and Mom loved their Normandy tour. We'll see Paris someday. 


  1. That is a bummer about Paris, but totally understand why you didn't go, I wouldn't have either!! I loveeeeeee all the photos!! Everything looks amazing!! LOVING those shipping containers!!! And yes, Brookie will be on a totally different team next season .... it was really heartbreaking to see all the girls (well, except for the coach's daughter...lol!) treated so badly. We kept counting down the days until she was finally done with that club team! :(

  2. Since I'm not a fan of Paris, I don't think you missed much...lol.
    There's always a protest in Paris.


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