A few weeks ago, part one:
Now the lockdown in France has come to an end I can’t resist going to Normandy and very curious how post-lockdown life is in that big country. The plan is doing an as much as possible off the beaten track trip and I have a list of lovely places like to visit I hadn’t time for during previous trips to one of my favorite regions in France.
Living just north of Bruges in the Netherlands it will be some 400 km before arriving at the abbeys of Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville and Jumièges west of Rouen. First stop after a few hours driving will be Arras for enjoying a coffee and those two wunderful historic main squares, but this time there is an event going on and the whole “centre ville” is packed with cars and visitors. With the pandemonium in my mind I feel no appetite joining the party so prefer to move on. Usually I have my “holiday starts now” feeling in Arras but that has to wait a bit this time.
The national road to Abbeville is long and boring but driving through Saint-Riquer and seeing it’s impressive abbey I have my first wow moment. Northern France is not overloaded with attractive places, somehow I like it and there are nevertheless nice surprices like this abbey. No time to pay a visit, maybe next. Not much later I will drive over the toll road through the attractive hills of upper Normandy and step by step that holiday feeling starts to come. It’s impossible to avoid Rouen, but practising at home with Googel Street View helped me finding my way hasselfree to the first abbey.
Saint-George-de-Boscherville is the actual name of this once Benedictine abbey, but as I want to spend more time in Jumièges I go only inside the abbey’s church. Built in the 12th century in the Norman Romanesque style, elements in gothic style are added later it luckely escaped the destructive horror of the French Revolution. You can’t say that of the abbey of Jumièges, as the job was half done it’s said to be now the most beautiful ruin of France. If you have visited France more often you certainly know this is not the only casaulty of that very turbulent period in this country. Benedictine too and built mainly in the same style, some parts are also Gothic, once a new church it was consecrated in the presence of William the Conqueror, a year after he invaded England, what a busy man it was! Ruin or not, these places have always that special feel and for that worth paying a visit and enjoy things pleasing the eye and experiencing that unique atmosphere.
It’s about an hour driving to the campsite in Pont-Authou further south. First I have to cross the Seine with the free car ferry just a mile west of Jumièges. Nothing calms down more as moving over gently flowing water, especially after so many hours driving. Thinking about Paris it’s hard to believe that this famous river is here so very countryside, so peaceful and beautiful. Don’t think no more about home, I am now in another world, Wow, finally that “holiday starts now” feeling has arrived! Once driving further instead the most direct route I follow some scenic roads with those lovely Norman half-timbered houses.
At the campsite the keeper is a laid-back friendly Française who likes her job. She allows me to pick a spot for my tent wherever I like, despite the end of the lockdown there are not so much visitors, so plenty of space. The only foreign geusts are just a few guess fellow Dutchman, all others are French.