Even More Winter Sun for Northern Ireland Holidaymakers!

Jet2 Planes– Jet2.com and Jet2holidays expand 16/17 programme

– MORE FLIGHTS to top Portuguese and Spanish hotspots

– Year round flying to Alicante plus February half term flights to The Algarve


Jet2.com and Jet2holidays are giving local customers even more opportunities to escape for some winter sun with the expansion of its 2016/17 flights and holidays programme from Belfast International Airport.


In total, 58 MORE FLIGHTS have been added to popular destinations AlicanteFaroGran CanariaLanzarotePalma and Tenerife.  More than 8,000 additional seats are now available including year round flying to Alicante and February half term flights to The Algarve.


This further growth follows the recent launch of the leading leisure airline’s and package holiday specialist’s biggest ever flights and holidays programme for summer 17, including brand new route Costa Brava (Girona).  With this enhanced winter sun programme, Northern Ireland holidaymakers now have the best ever choice of destinations for their sunshine breaks.


Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: “This is more exciting news for Northern Ireland as we further expand our winter sun programme from Belfast International Airport.  These are some of our most popular destinations so we’re thrilled to be giving our loyal local customers even more opportunities to visit throughout the year.”


Graham Keddie managing director at Belfast International Airport added: “Jet2.com’s and Jet2holidays’ continued expansion at Belfast International Airport underlines their commitment to the local market. We are delighted that they have been able to increase their flying programme giving local holidaymakers an expanded choice direct from their local airport.”


Additional winter sun flying information:


  • Alicante – 12 additional flights with the Saturday flight now available throughout the year.
  • Faro: 16 more flights, including February half term services.
  • Gran Canaria: 6 additional flights with the weekly service now operating for the full season.
  • Lanzarote: 9 additional flights with the Wednesday and Saturday flights now operating for the full season.
  • Palma: 6 additional flights.
  • Tenerife: 9 additional flights with the Tuesday and Friday flights now operating for the full season.


For further information and to book visit www.jet2.com or www.jet2holidays.com



colours for guidelinesThere is little doubt Europe’s biggest footballing event the Euros, are on and people are still seeking great deals to get to France.


So this week I have had a little look to see where the best deals are to get you across the sea to France. Yes I know we are leaving it a little late, but there will be some who have just decided to go.

Rather than spend countless hours searching ferry companies individually, here is a great idea for you. WWW.AFERRY.CO.UK is the best online portal for ferry prices and timetables.

LEADING ferry company, Stena Line, is getting a Christmas makeover this year complete with a historic name change to Santa Line across its European Network.  Not only that, they also celebrated by giving one of their ships in Gothenburg a festive new look for the day and are introducing a fun app which customers can use to win prizes as they journey across the Irish Sea. Passengers can Ho Ho Go to their festive destinations in Ireland and Britain from only £79* for single car and driver with the widest choice of routes and sailings on the Irish Sea.  For more information or to book your very own Santa Line trip log onto www.stenaline.co.uk or https://www.facebook.com/StenaLineUKIE/ or call 08447 70 70 70. Follow Stena Line on Twitter @StenaLineIE

LEADING ferry company, Stena Line, is getting providing ferry crossings from Rosslare to Cherbourg.

Even if you can’t get a ticket, to get into the ground there will be a wide range of open air screens for Euro fans to view the match and enjoy the French atmosphere.

AFerry has done the hard work for you. Visit their Euro 2016 Ferry Guide to find the best ferry ports for each match, and see the best prices for convenient ferry route.

AFerry.co.uk is The Travel Gateway’s leading online ferry brand, which features real-time comparison technology for ferries, generating over 55 million unique visitors per year and over 3,000 bookings per day. Founded in 1997, AFerry.co.uk has been an industry leader for nearly two decades and has strong relationships with ferry companies from across the globe.

Not only can AFerry.co.uk service all your UK ferry needs, but this handy site covers European, Asian and American routes too – over 1,800 routes around the world from over 140 ferry companies. With apps for iPhone and Android, and a website optimised for mobile, tablet and desktop devices you can compare and book ferries from wherever you are with ease.


1-Logo_principal_LES CASTELSNow if accommodation is an issue and I know prices in hotels will be sky high so  try out some campsites. Le Castel is a company with a reputation for 5 star camping and accommodation at very competitive prices. When staying with Le Castel, you’re not in an ordinary place – you’re invited by an owner. Veritable “guest campgrounds,” the Les Castels sites have preserved the art of entertaining, as each owner is intent on offering you a familial and warm reception.

Green Awards

38_Camping_France_-_Castels_luxury_camping_in_FranceThe Green Key is an environmental seal of approval which has been awarded to Le Castel since 1998, run by la Fondation pour l’Education à l’Environnement [Foundation for Environmental Education]. It recognizes campsites, hotels and holiday rental cottages for their efforts to protect the environment, in the following areas: general environmental management, waste management, water management, energy management, environmental education and land development.

Some examples of action taken by the campsites to improve their green credentials:

  • Installation of heat pumps for heating the swimming pools
  • Installation of thermal solar panels to heat water for the bathroom blocks
  • Setting up light sensors for exterior lighting
  • Facilities for recycling, composting and compacting waste
  • Use of electric vehicles
  • Reusable carrier bags in the shops, instead of plastic bags…

So if the Euros are for you consider a trip with AFerry.co.uk and a great place to camp when in France.

Claude Monet’s Home and Gardens


The Final Part of my French trilogy ends with a visit to the holy grail of impressionist painters, well in my opinion anyway.

About an hours drive from Rouen, I arrived in Giverny, a small hamlet that is dedicated to one man, Claude Monet. Claude was a prolific painter and the founder of the impressionist movement. He started a following that continues to this day and it was one of his most famous paintings which has attracted more comment than any other.

The Lilly pond was painted in his garden and my trek around some of the impressionist areas of this beautiful part of France was indeed to culminate right there where it all began.

IMG_3209After finding my way to Giverny, I made my way to rue Claude Monet, could you really expect anything less?

And Into a beautiful little B&B called Les Coin des Artists.

This amazing B&B is like one of Monet’s paintings

A joy to behold, beautiful, perfectly scaled and in a delightful setting. I was situated in what was originally an outhouse but it has now been transformed into a 5 star ensuite room.

The beauty of this room was it was literally your own little property at B&B Prices. Expertly designed and beautifully furnished it is a real treat to stay in such a beautiful home.



I didn’t stay for dinner, as I had spotted a little restaurant just down the road. l’Ancien Hôtel Baudy, 81 rue Claude Monet, 27620 Giverny www.restaurantbaudy.com

Hotel Baudy provided a number of menu options, a brasserie option at €14 and going up to a French Cuisine menu at €28, I had the standard brasserie option which was delightful, service was good and overall it was a very pleasant dining experience. The ting that makes this restaurant stand out, is the terrace in front of the hotel. I remember passing when returning to my B&B and it was packed with a queue of people waiting to sit. If you have an afternoon to spare watching the world and art lovers go buy this is indeed the spot for you.


pondMonet’s House

Nestled along the banks of the Seine Monet’s house and garden are world renowned thanks to the famous paintings they inspired.

Today, Monet’s House and Gardens at the Fondation Claude Monet have become an international pilgrimage site for garden enthusiasts and art lovers alike.

Here you can see as Monet saw, the beautiful and inspiring vista in his amazing garden’s.

The Monet Foundation has kept his home the way it was when he died, paintings adorn all the rooms and it’s clear this must have been a beautiful place to live and paint.

Birds twittering, the cool breeze gently saying the trees on the banks of the Seine and dragon flies, landing on the lilies on the pond. This is truly an inspirational place.

Monet moved to Giverny in 1883 when there, he set about transforming the abandoned house that he bought, into a floral masterpiece and it was here where he found the inspiration for many of his greatest works of art.

Monet was not only a painter of his own gardens but also an artist whose painting trips took him away for lengthy periods of time. However, he was never really far from his famous Lily pond.

Through constant correspondence, he kept a close eye on his family and his flowers. Frequent visits from his friends and admirers made Giverny the centre of his existence until his death in 1926.

As I sat in his garden overlooking the lily pond, it was so easy to imagine that this great painter not only sat in the same spot painting his masterpiece, but he had the foresight to design the gardens in the first place.

For me visiting Monet’s home was one of those bucket list moments, you turn a corner and there it is a truly special place that no one should miss if they can. www.fondation-monet.com/en/


ryanair-aircraft-(2)Ryanair, Europe’s No.1 airline, today (27 Apr) further expanded its Belfast winter 2016 schedule with 3 new routes to Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw, in addition to the 7 new routes announced earlier to Alicante, Berlin, Krakow, Lanzarote, Malaga, Milan and Tenerife, as well as extra daily flights (5) to London Gatwick, which will deliver over 1m customers p.a. and support 750* jobs at Belfast International Airport.


Ryanair’s Belfast W 2016 schedule will deliver:

3 based aircraft

10 new routes to: Alicante (2 wkly), Berlin (3 wkly), Gdansk (2 wkly), Krakow (3 wkly), Lanzarote (2 wkly),

Malaga (3 wkly), Milan (2 wkly), Tenerife (2 wkly), Warsaw (2 wkly) & Wroclaw (2 wkly)

More flights to: London Gatwick (5 daily)

11 routes in total

60 weekly flights

Over 1m customers p.a.

750* “on-site” jobs p.a.


These new Belfast routes make Ryanair the perfect choice for NI business and leisure customers, who can now choose from 11 Belfast routes in winter 2016 at the lowest fares and look forward to further improvements, under Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” programme, which includes more new routes, new digital features, new cabin interiors and even more low fares.


Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs said:


“We are pleased to launch 3 new routes from our Belfast base to Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw, as part of our winter 2016 schedule, in addition to the 7 new routes announced earlier to Alicante, Berlin, Krakow, Lanzarote, Malaga, Milan and Tenerife, and the extra flights to London Gatwick (5 x daily), which will deliver over 1 million customers p.a. and support 750 jobs at Belfast International Airport. Our new Polish routes will be ideal for both business and leisure customers and we look forward to growing routes, traffic and jobs in Belfast in the coming months and years.


To celebrate, we are releasing seats for sale from just £19.99 our new Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw routes, which are available for booking until Wednesday (4 May) for travel in November and December. Since these amazing low prices will be snapped up quickly, customers should log onto www.ryanair.com and avoid missing out.”


Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, said: 


“This is more fantastic news from Ryanair. It means that this winter should be one of our busiest ever. Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw follow Krakow and deliver a very comprehensive network to a new and important Polish market.

We currently stand as the eleventh largest airport in the UK, but I expect that with continuing airline expansion and growth in passenger numbers, we will break into the ‘Top Ten’ before too long. The airport is delivering real economic benefit for Northern Ireland and that means new employment and business opportunities.

These new Polish routes are delivered without any government support and show only a fraction of what could be achieved if APD were removed. Despite this ‘headwind’, we’re making great progress and have reason to believe we can maintain the momentum.”

First Quarter Results – Aferry.co.uk sees increased sales

colours for guidelinesThe online retailer Aferry.co.uk, the world’s leading ferry website, has seen a very encouraging growth of +16% in the first quarter of 2016.  This comes on the back of excellent sales in 2015 and the signs are good for the rest of the year, ex – UK and across Aferry’s global markets.

In the UK, bumper growth is particularly noticeable on the Western Sea routes which are selling very well, as are North Sea crossings, particularly Harwich to the Hook of Holland..  The Irish Sea is stable with a similar picture to this time last year, as is the short route to Calais. 

The increase in sales is being attributed of the various technological developments that have been taking place on the Aferry co.uk site as well as stronger distribution and partnerships.  Particularly useful for the consumer is the new flexi-fare option available on the site and the multi-route extension which allows customers to travel outbound on one route with one carrier and then return with another carrier on a different route.  These facilities are new for 2016.

Kirsty Laifa, UK Head of Sales commented, ‘We are very happy with this excellent start to 2016 and all signs for the rest of the year are good.  Crossings with DFDS and Brittany Ferries are doing particularly well on the Western Channel, which is no surprise – this is like starting holiday with a cruise!’

Aferry.co.uk is available in 28 languages, and takes more than a million individual bookings each year. More and more bookings are being made via mobile platforms and the app has more than 500,000 downloads – a figure that is also increasing. Aferry has the widest choice of destinations, works with over 140 operators and there are 1,800 routes to choose from, with new routes being added all the time. As well as routes in Europe and North Africa, ferry tickets for Australia, New Zealand, Asia and established routes in USA and Canada can also be purchased.

Aferry also caters for the travel trade with an increase in agents using their long established www.aferryagent.com system allowing immediate access to all routes from one easy to use engine.

Competition – anyone downloading the AFerry app before 30th June 2016 will be automatically entered into the prize draw to win an iPad Pro

McCombs Coaches Grubcrawl



I’m a great supporter of this small part of the world; Northern Ireland has produced so many great things and people and continuing on this theme I was delighted and honoured to be invited on the inaugural Official McCombs Coaches Grubcrawl. As one might imagine, this is a different take on a very popular theme.

Devised by two of Northern Irelands finest coach tour operators, Caroline and Ronnie McComb from Co Antrim, they have put together a tour of some of the best food producers and restaurants our country has to offer. My Grubcrawl commenced in Glengall Street in Belfa

I boarded my coach and straight away I realised I was in good company. A pristine Mercedes coach with Wi-Fi, full leather seats, TV and a fridge. Clearly this was a cut above the rest!

DSC_0044_3We left Belfast and headed in to the beautiful hills of Co Down where country butter is handmade is made for some of the most prestigious shops and restaurants in the UK. The only interest of Abernathy’s is to create an unforgettable taste and flavour as far removed from mass-produced butter as night is from day. No Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda of even Waitrose, these artisan makers have taken the bold step of staying authentic, special and they refuse to go mass market. Available from small local farm shops to Fortnum & Masons.




ABERNETHY BUTTER is appreciated by the best Michelin starred restaurants from Heston Blumenthal’s, The Fat Duck to Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley in Knightsbridge. And yes it’s all done in Dromara in Co Down. 271_Butter-1000x540-978x528

Watching Alison and Will present their craft to the people on my tour, was truly inspiring. Their passion, commitment and pride in their product shone through. They are dedicated crafts people who are committed to a perfect product. Abernethy Butter is made by hand using traditional methods. The cream is bought from a local farmer, who lets his cows graze on the green fields in the Lagan valley and pasturises his own milk.

IMG_3659The cream is churned until it separates into butter and buttermilk. Then the butter is put into a large bowl and washed by hand until the water runs clear. This is to remove all the buttermilk, (which would sour the butter if left in) The only thing they add to the butter is a pinch or two of salt. The butter is then patted by hand out into rolls ready for wrapping.



271_Butter-1000x540-978x528The secret to their success is nothing. Because they add nothing to their product, no rubbish, no additives, nothing other than pure goodness, love and respect to a tradition that has gone on for hundreds of years and a small pinch of salt.

Will and Alison are ambassadors for this part of the world, better than any trade mission or politician up in the big house, these are ordinary decent people who have and continue to promote Ulster in the best possible way.

Make sure you visit their wonderful workshop. See http://abernethybuttercompany.com


kilmegan cider-logo

ElderflowerCiderThe second stop on my Grubcrawl was the amazing Kilmegan cider based in Dundrum, Co Down. Under a wall of brambles, some twenty feet high, in 1967 Maurice Boyd discovered an old orchard that had been planted some seventy years previously beside the old farmhouse he had purchased.

With the back drop of the majestic Mourne Mountains near the village of Dundrum. In 2009 Andrew and Karen decided to try and make a batch of cider.


Using a strong bucket and a 4” wooden fence post, they laboured for hours to mash up enough apples to put into his fathers old wine press and they produced a gallon or two of juice. They carefully placed the juice into a demijohn, adCfhNI0RWQAEY3MWd some champagne yeast, stuck on an airlock and let nature take its course.

A few months later the juice had cleared, fermentation had stopped and hey presto the first batch of Kilmegan cider was made.

Tasting fresh and crisp and as natural a product as you could wish for and using no added acids, sugar, water or concentrates this was REAL CIDER.

You might see a theme here, and as with Abernathy’s butter, less is definitely more. Although Kilmegan is now using a proper apple mill and rack and cloth press their principles have not changed.

As Andrew said “Get the proper blend of apples, extract the juice, ferment and leave to mature for six to eight months and there you have it, pure real cider made with 100% fresh pressed juice, you will taste the difference.” So if you are after the taste of real cider check out kilmegancider.com.



Sitting on the Killinchy Road just outside Comber is a superb little restaurant called The Poachers Pocket. This is one of three gastro pubs that Danny Millar is in charge of. A chef with impeccable lineage he has brought, his winning ways to Lisbane, just outside Comber.


My beautiful starter, whitebait, breads, pate and chutney

A superb pub which retains it authentic pub craic front of house, and behind the frosted glass is a world of superb food. Its not hard to understand why McCombs Grubcrawl included this fine eatery on their new Grubcrawl. The food service and surroundings are superb. Ill be back again and again.

So good is this place I will let some of their accolades speak for themselves.


Just some of the their accolades





If you want to see some amazing places in Northern Ireland, sample some of the finest products this wonderful country has to offer and eat in some of its best eateries, then you need to take a McCombs Grubcrawl. I know I will definitely be back on a tour before to long. Visit http://www.mccombscoaches.com/

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Jet2.com and Jet2holidays

Fancy a break?Jet2+plane4

Jet 2 offer the BIGGEST CHOICE of international destinations direct from Belfast International which now gives Northern Ireland holidaymakers no fewer than 17 holiday hotspots to choose from and Jet2 have selected some great late deals for you to choose from.

Majorca, Palma Nova, 3 star TRH Torrenova Hotel, 7 nights Self Catering departing from Belfast on 21st April 2016.
Price: £229 per person based on 3 sharing, including 22kg baggage allowance and return transfers.

Costa Blanca, Benidorm, 3 star plus Aparthotel Terralta, 7 nights Self Catering departing from Belfast on 18th April 2016.
Price: £269 per person based on 4 sharing, including 22kg baggage allowance and return transfers.

Alicante City, 3 star Best Western Hotel Albahia, 3 nights Room Only departing from Belfast on 22nd April 2016.
Price: £219 per person based on 2 sharing, including 10kg carry-on bag, excluding transfers.

For more information or to book, visit your local travel agent or click on www.jet2.com or www.jet2holidays.com.

New Causeway Lounge for Belfast International Airport

Airport Managing Director Graham Keddie welcomes US Consul General Dan Lawton to the new Causeway Lounge accompanied by Airport Commercial services Manager Deirdre Graffin.

Airport Managing Director Graham Keddie welcomes US Consul General Dan Lawton to the new Causeway Lounge accompanied by Airport Commercial services Manager Deirdre Graffin.

New Causeway Lounge boost for passengers at Belfast International Airport

£250,000 investment in passenger facility.

The newly refurbished Causeway Lounge at Belfast International Airport has today been officially opened by US Consul General Daniel Lawton.

With an investment of over £250,000 business and leisure passengers can now enjoy a host of amenities to make sure that every journey can get off to a perfect start.

Located just off the main departures concourse the Causeway Lounge occupies an enviable location above the main viewing gallery affording unrivalled views of the main runways. The room has continuous panoramic full height glazing and the new layout makes the most of the fabulous views.

Speaking at today’s launch, U.S. Consul General Daniel Lawton said, “I am delighted to be here to officially open the Causeway Lounge.  Belfast International Airport is a critical gateway for direct access to the United States from Northern Ireland, as well as Great Britain and Europe.  Transatlantic trade, tourism, and investment is vital to the prosperity of this region.   I commend the Airport for making this significant investment in passenger facilities.”

Greeted by a dedicated welcome team, guests can take a seat and spend their pre-boarding time in a way that suits them best. Whether it is to send that final email before take-off, or to relax and enjoy the view.  With high speed wi-fi, computer stations and ample power points, business travellers can rest assured that they will remain fully connected at all times. Families are also welcome in the lounge with a dedicated children’s area to keep the little ones entertained before take-off.

Belfast International Airport Managing Director Graham Keddie commented, “The Causeway Lounge is part of a continuous investment programme in the airport which will add considerably to airside passenger facilities.

We are passionate about promoting Northern Ireland and continue to do so by enhancing the complimentary food menu. A gourmet buffet counter boasts a wide range of treats and bites for guests to enjoy. Featuring food from a range of local artisan food producers, including Fivemiletown Cheese, Dittys Oat Cakes and Punjana tea, you can enjoy a final taste of home before jetting off. 

The lounge provides the perfect platform for our incredible food producers to showcase their products to both a domestic and international audience. This support is hugely important in order to continue growing Northern Ireland’s food offering – particularly during NI’s 2016 Year of Food.’

The Causeway Lounge is open to all passengers travelling from Belfast International Airport.  Access to the lounge is part of the benefits of Belfast International Airport’s corporate card scheme, Executive Direct. Passengers can also pre-book online at www.belfastairport.com or pay at the door. Members of alternative lounge access schemes such as Priority Pass can also use this membership to gain access.

Stena signs contract for four new RoPax ferries – the most fuel efficient ferries in the world


Drawing of one of the new Stena Line RoPax vessels.

Drawing of one of the new Stena Line RoPax vessels.

Stena has signed a contract, subject to Board approval by the end of April, for an order of four new RoPax ferries with planned delivery during 2019 and 2020, with an option for another four vessels. The vessels will be optimized for efficiency and flexibility and will be built by AVIC Shipyard in China.  The intention is that the four initial vessels will be used within Stena Lines route network in Northern Europe.


“We are very pleased that Stena have signed a contract for four vessels with an option for another four. During the course of the past 24 months our engineering staff has managed to develop a design that is not only 50% larger than today’s standard RoPax vessels, but more importantly, incorporates the emission reduction and efficiency initiatives that have been developed throughout the Stena Group during the past years. These ships will be the most fuel efficient ferries in the world and will set a new industry standard when it comes to operational performance, emissions and cost competitiveness, positioning Stena Line to support its customers in the next decades”, says Carl-Johan Hagman, Managing Director of Stena Line.


The vessels will have a capacity of more than 3 000 lane meters in a drive-through configuration and will accommodate about 1 000 passengers and offer a full range of passenger services.  The main engines will be “gas ready”, prepared to be fueled by either methanol or LNG.


“With this investment we are building on our successful RoPax concept mixing freight and passengers. Through standardization we secure a reliable operation and through flexibility we can provide an even better support to our customers and help them to grow”, says Carl-Johan Hagman.


“We foresee a continued demand growth for short sea services in Northern Europe and in many other parts of the world.  Ferry transportation will play an essential part in shaping tomorrow’s logistics infrastructure if we are to have sustainable societies.  Not only is transportation on sea the most environmentally efficient way of moving goods, it is also infrastructure that provides reliable and speedy logistics with very limited public cost. Through this investment we prepare Stena Line for further growth”, says Dan Sten Olsson, Chairman in Stena Line.

Following the Painters Impressionist Tour



Honfleur Harbour

Continuing on my recent French tourist trail, I headed north up to Normandy. I was in search of one the most famous French painters, amazing locations, but I had a few towns to visit on the way. HonfleurMy first stop was Honfleur, how can I describe it? Take beautiful Dutch merchants’ houses that are found on the canal side in Amsterdam, add in the beautiful costal situation of Northern France, add loads of colour and wonderful French food and hey presto, you have Honfleur.

Hiding around the coast from Le Harve, this beautiful medieval town is simply charming. The town is spectacular to walk around during the day and in the evening the brightly lit restaurants offer the ‘catch of the day’ to the many tourists who have been luck enough to have found this idyllic little gem.

Formerly a shipbuilding centre with a very strong nautical theme, this is one town many painters seek out  to capture on their canvasses. Not to be missed sites are the seventeenth-century church of Santa Caterina, and the 17th century Basin surrounded by elegant sailing craft.


After a wonderful days walking I was ready for a quiet lie down and a glass of wine. My accommodation was a delightful little hotel in Honfleur called the Hotel Monet (www.hotel-monet-honfleur.com)  If you want a beautifully quaint and extremely reasonably priced hotel, then this is the one for you. With prices from as little as €40 pps you can bag yourself a wonderful little hotel in this beautiful part of France.
I had a superb nights sleep and rose early in the morning as I had more travels in mind and much more of Normandy to visit.




Le Harve Town Hall

Next morning I was off again and heading for Le Harve. Most people head there to leave France to go back to the UK or Ireland, but I was traveling  there as a tourist. My aim for visiting Le Harve was actually to discover its beauty.

This city was heavily bombed at the end of the Second World War and the city centre was practically re-built during the 1950’s under the direction of architect Auguste Perret.  In 2005, Perret’s modernist city centre was the first post-Second World War city in Europe to be awarded Unesco World Heritage status.

It’s clear that’s Perret’s interest was in concrete, Its clear to all that he really liked this medium.  Some of his masterpieces included St Joseph’s Church and the MuMa Art Gallery with its Impressionist collections.

This beautiful art gallery was renamed the Musée Malraux in 1999. It then changed names again in 2011, its 50th anniversary to become the Musée d’art moderne André Malraux—or MuMa for short. A very contemporary space, it is a pleasure to walk round and admire the beautiful paintings stored within. (www.muma-lehavre.fr)


IMG_3172Boudin (Monet’s mentor) was born in Honfleur, however he began painting and developed his talent in Le Havre. A few years later, Monet started the founding movement of Modern Art with his painting “Impression Sunrise”. This painting is kept in the Marmottan Museum in Paris, and as because of this it is often forgotten that it was painted in Le Havre.

Le Havre, its port, its beach and its regattas have inspired all the major painters of this movement (Pissarro, Sisley, Boudin, Monet, Jongkind, etc.). Monet and the impressionist painters have given art a new lease of life by challenging centuries of codified academic painting. Though impressionist painters kept a strong link with the real world’s painting, they managed to free themselves completely from the fetters of the past by picking the themes of their paintings in every day life.

St Josephs Church in Le Harve is quite simply astounding, built to act as a memorial to the five thousand civilians who died in the conflict. The church was designed by the chief architect for the reconstruction of Le Havre, Auguste Perret, teacher and mentor to the Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The sombre interior is in the Neo-Gothic style. The tower is 107 metres tall and acts as a beacon visible from out at sea, especially at night when illuminated. This is a must see building.

As I was on an impressionism tour of Normandy it would be unfair to miss out on a short trip up to Etretat, 28 km from Le Harve. The spectacular coastline and chalk needle at Etretat were immortalised by Monet and the resort beach attracted artists including Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and of course Claude Monet. Two of the three famous arches are seen from the town, the Porte d’Aval, and the Porte d’Amont.


The spectacular coastline and chlk needle at Etreta

During the 1930’s, in the era of the train, a line was built from Paris out to the coast for the great and the good to enjoy the fresh sea air and to view the white cliffs of Dover. The train line went through Rouen the town which was to be next on my impressionist tour.

Rouen and the Seine Valley have attracted and continue to attract many artists with their colours, culture, lights and way of life. It has attracted all the masters. Turner, Monet, Gauguin, Pissarro, Sisley and for some of them to the point of obsession. Today, the Museum of Fine Arts and its Depeaux gallery still hold the second largest Impressionist collection in France for the pleasure of tourists and the pride of the people of Rouen.

Several works by Claude Monet, numerous creations from the École de Rouen and the Normandy Impressionist Festival marvellously illustrate the reciprocal love between the capital of Normandy and Impressionism. This city really has it all. Wonderful paintings and a connection to the historic lady herself, Joan of Arc.

I was fortunate enough to join a walking tour of Rouen with a true expert, Catherine Brandon-Delattre.  Catherine expertly gauged the level of interest and the speed at which the visitors wanted to walk. This is a knack that not many guides have, but mine did. Catherine was superb, I remember sitting for coffee outside the High Court in Rouen as Catherine told us the history of the splendid building, whilst lady barristers crossed the forecourt with their “bundles”.

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La Couronne

After a splendid walking tour, which covered everything beautiful Rouen had to offer, I had made my way to dinner at the oldest restaurant in France. La Couronne (www.lacouronne.com.fr) loved by the great and the good. Darwin Cauvin the Maitre D, directs La Couronne as a theater, every day, every night, La Couronne is a feast. Grace Kelly herself, called the place magic. Little has changed in the restaurant since 1345. Outside La Couronne was the spot where Joan of Arc was burned in 1341.

So as you can imagine it’s a pretty special restaurant and tables are hard to get. Thankfully my connections in Normandy tourism had secured me a table from where I was able to watch the ceremony of the Le canard à la presse, it’s a dish I had never seen prepared before. Let’s just say it’s roast duck and look up the rest on YouTube, its interesting.

So after dinner as I walked back towards my hotel, I came across a crowd of people staring at a church, quite a number of churches and impressive buildings in France put on spectacular light shows at nightfall which are projected onto the facades. They are truly spectacular. It is quite difficult to describe just how amazing the shows are but Google the one in Rouen and you will see what I mean. Captivating and spectacular are two words that describe the amazing view. It’s something you must see as describing it is near impossible.