It’s time. With our ferry booked for Friday, we need to make the last long drive, pushing north towards Honfleur.
At over 200 kilometres, the drive takes most of the day. We drive through endless farmland stripped bare of summer crops.
It’s oh so very dry. Worrying for farmers, I’d imagine. Wildlife too. We see two tiny deer in a ploughed field with no visible water nearby. I hope they have a secret watering spot. We lose count of all the bird of prey sightings. They soar over fields, take off nearby and peer down on us from electrical poles. The occasional green corridor offers a welcome relief from the dry.
Our arrival in Normandy needs no signpost. It’s heralded by half timbered houses, dairy cows and greenery, at last.
Over the past few years, we’ve plundered our Les Plus Beaux Villages de France book mercilessly, to the point where it’s a challenge to find one we haven’t seen. Especially in the northwest quarter of France, our traditional entry and exit point. But, there is one in this very northern section, the village of Le Bec-Hellouin, south of Honfleur.
We arrive late in the day, at the zenith of afternoon light. And whilst the logic of saving our exploration until tomorrow makes sense, I’m a sucker for good lighting and can’t resist a foray in.
Le Bec-Hellouin is a spiritual, peaceful spot, named for the stream that runs through it.
Home once to the Bec Abbey, founded in 1034, it was destroyed and rebuilt several times across centuries. The 15th century tower of Saint-Nicolas is the only intact structure from the original Abbey, which fell into ruin during the French Revolution and Napoleon’s time. The Abbey’s influence was extensive though: two of its scholars went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Today, the Abbey is home to an order of Benedictine monks who took the site over in 1948, constructing the buildings we see today.
Amongst the new buildings is a church of unusually simple construction.
The village meanwhile, is full of picturesque half-timbered houses and flowerbeds, pretty as a postcard.
Himself has to drag me away in the end, leaving the rest for tomorrow. Besides, there are bumbles to pat (still get a huge thrill from patting a bumblebee 🐝) and photograph.
Not to mention new friends to make in a nearby field. They’re very interested in my “spare” apples, which of course I happily donate.