I am drawn towards one of the small boats, that tour up and down the harbour and beach from Dieg Olsen Pier several times a day. The journey starts with the city centre skyline, highlighting the imposing St Joseph church and Perret’s twin constructions ‘Gateway to the sea’, and then on to the huge loading cranes and heavy tankers and container freight, that make the port France’s second most important harbour. Later, on the other side, it goes along the coast; a first glance of what comes next. My tour took a full hour, but it can be done a bit faster. Either way, doing the whole tour is a great, and quite cheap, pleasure.
Almost on the furthermost tip of the beach promenade, sits the Musée d’art Moderne André Malraux, whose sleek glass façade welcomed me and the many visitors who arrive in Le Havre by boat, from a distance. That was the idea for the location of the museum, built in the early Sixties – that it matches the sea as well as the sky. In fact, the MuMa’s roof is also glazed, so that as much daylight as possible shines into the building. The architectural trick is a nod to the great Eugène Boudin, whose love for painting outdoors paved the way for impressionism and whose work even today shapes the permanent exhibition in the MuMa. Incidentally, in his later years, Boudin often painted only clouds – a clear case of neverleavetheclouds.
I walk a bit further down the beach, left and right big dark-grey pebbles, in the middle a playfully meandering strip of sand. If you look towards the sea – and the mighty roar of the Atlantic waves makes sure that happens pretty much all the time – the sky is full with the colourful kites of kitesurfers. Looking towards Boulevard Albert 1st, which runs parallel to the beach, also offers a magnificent play of colours: Here stand the ‘cabanes’ or beach huts, several hundred of them, in which the lucky owners, temporary or otherwise, stow their beach things, or sometimes simply positon two beach chairs. Wow!
So much beauty makes you hungry, so I’m stopping off at the terrace of one of the many small restaurants and bistros with a sea view. Like many other eateries here, L’Amarino naturally favours seafood: So my (in view of the position, not too expensive) gourmet menu includes fried calamari and shrimp in a sumptuous pesto-cream, but you can play around with the options and choose say buffalo mozzarella or salmon tagliatelle. Not forgetting a small glass of Sancerre and of course the glorious scenery – living the good life!
My last stop on the town’s coastline is actually not even in Le Havre, but in the close, neighbouring town of Sainte Adresse. Like the name, ‘the end of the world’, it is noticeably quieter here than on the bustling beach near to the city centre, and this relaxing beach bar with its wild and romantic green terrace is in keeping with it. Recently, the daily newspaper, ‘Le Figaro’, called the bar “dreamy”, and rightly so. I have a look at the comprehensive wine list, finally deciding on a light Chablis, which you can get in many places in Le Havre, and look back at this wonderful day at the sea.