So here are the sights of the Seine-Maritime Département that we ping back to No.1 in Dubai … and my husband in the UK … (for a ping back to Monet’s spicy light, click here).
1. Dieppe – an appealing town with the buzz of an important port (it’s the top scallop port in France) that counters the quiet of its surrounding villages.
On the Quai Henri IV you can take your pick from a string of restaurants offering similar menus (mussels, oysters, scallops) at varying prices.
Hints of Dieppe’s close ties with Canada are clear – at the Square du Canada, the Maple Leaf flies alongside the French Tricolore, and there is a Canadian War Cemetery nearby.
On 19th August 1942, the Dieppe Raid (Operation Jubilee) took place – a disastrously difficult assault that led to 3367 Canadians being killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Two years later, on 1st September 1944, the townspeople welcomed the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division which successfully liberated Dieppe.
2. Clères Zoological Park – the kids’ joint favourite place (with the beach). Wallabies, antelopes and peacocks roam the spacious parkland of an 11th century Chateau, hiding behind shrubs, waiting to be spotted by human children. Flamingos feed in the ponds alongside cranes and swans, whilst emus and kookaburras reside in aviaries. The biggest draw for my kids is the red panda. Rare, cute and fast asleep.
Bring a picnic or find a café in the village of Clères itself. I endure a machine-produced cappuccino in the Park that doesn’t quite hit the spot.
3. The Abbé Pierre – Emmaus Centre in Esteville is a curiously interesting place. Abbé Pierre (born in 1912), a humanitarian, was consistently voted the most popular man in France until footballer Zinedine Zidane kicked him off the top spot in 2003.
His life’s work was to help the less advantaged: poor and homeless people and refugees. His message spread worldwide through the secular Emmaus movement he established in 1949, and there are now communities in 37 countries.
He courted controversy due to his support for Roger Garaudy, who published a book (1996) in which he doubted that as many as 6 million Jews had perished in the Holocaust, arguing that it was a myth put forward by Zionists. Abbé Pierre later renounced his connection with Garaudy, but its stigma stayed with him. He died in 2007 and received a state funeral at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
4. Pizza Délice, Saint-Saëns – No. 4’s birthday choice is spot on. The smiling owner rustles up pizzas from scratch, and charms us with his cheerful multi-tasking ability to be cook, waiter, telephone-answering service and music-maker all at once.
A linguistic chasm is bridged when we spot some pimentón high up on a shelf. No. 4 is keen to spread the Have Paprika, Will Travel word, and attempts an explanation using sign language and Franglais (i.e. English with a French accent). Monsieur Pizza nods kindly, none the wiser, but understands that paprika is pertinent, and brings us some paprika-infused olive oil.
Home is an attractive half-timbered cottage booked through Owners Direct. Reasonably priced, and in a handy location (Dieppe is just a 30 minute drive north), the garden bursts with Spring.
We save for next time
Monet’s home at Giverny.
The D-Day beaches.
Le Bois des Moutiers at Varengeville-sur-Mer (where we walked down to the beach) – a beautiful estate, unique in France for showcasing the Arts and Crafts partnership between Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll.
And more of those walks through cliff valleys (valleuses).