Aire/Stellplatz: HONFLEUR (Normandie)
GPS Decimal: 49.41941 N 0.24181 E
Aire Location (static):
Aire Surroundings (interactive) NB - not compatible with all phone models:
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Per night: 9 Euros (2010) - pay at machine (horodateur) by entrance
This is a big, busy Aire situated within walking distance of the town centre, between an extensive (but largely empty) quayside area and the marshes and meadows of the Seine estuary. The impressive sweeping span of the Pont de Normandie dominates the estuarine skyline to the North east, carrying traffic across the Seine towards (and from) Le Havre. If travelling to or from Calais it is worth diverting across this bridge to avoid weaving through the city centre of Rouen, which has no by-pass worthy of the name yet. Even with a SatNav you'll need your wits about you when traversing Rouen, whereas the only thing you will exercise crossing the Pont de Normandie is your sense of awe at its amazing architecture and at the surrounding vista it provides. If you pull into the parking area by the bridge's toll station (Gare de Peage) there is an overhead walkway that affords some excellent views of the bridge and the surrounding scenery.
On arrival at the Honfleur Aire you will find a very long parking area stretching partly left but mostly right. Vans will tend to park along the edges in the first instance, then in lines down the middle once it starts to get full. In short, if they're already down the middle by late afternoon, don't waste your time trying to find an edge spot. The northern side of the Aire offers a bit of green space for sitting out, and a generally more pleasant view if you've got the choice and you're planning to stop for a few days. There are no marked bays here, so the perennial problem of people spreading out and denying space to others can be an issue. Generally speaking, if you're touring in the summer months the sooner you arrive at Honfleur the better. The rest of the of the time you should be OK. People arriving very late at Honfleur often pull into the short stay camper parking area to the left of the entrance then depart early the following day, or occupy a newly-vacated pitch in the main parking area the following morning.
We often use this Aire as a first night stopover after catching a morning ferry from Dover to Calais, as it's just about the right distance for a leisurely drive from Calais Port, with only a slight detour from our main route to either the Southwest or West of France.
Honfleur is also a popular place in its own right, with its distinctive rectangular harbour area surrounded by tall, tightly-packed buildings of all ages and functions. Lengthy Seine cruising vessels can routinely be seen parked like nautical stretched limos in the outer harbour. Along with Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer Honfleur forms a triumvirate of desirable tourist and holiday destinations by the mouth of the Seine. All three are worth a look if you get the chance - Deauville certainly sets a standard for how to do the whole seaside thing with style and class, like a sort of northern Biarritz. In the evenings, when Honfleur is (in my opinion) at its most photogenic, hordes of people head for the quaysides to eat out at the restaurants or to just wander around taking in the atmosphere. If you're into your bustling streets of the old town and quaint harbour ambience you'll definitely be in your element here. The wooden-built church of Sainte-Catherine just north of the harbour is well worth a visit if you want to see a church with a difference - it has a more Nordic than Norman feel to it, possibly echoing the ancient ethnic ties between Normans and Northmen? The carousel by the harbour mouth is also something of a local landmark, so you may feel the need to reconnect with your inner child and go for a quick carouse on it. If you choose to eat out by the harbourside, pay careful attention to the drink prices that can rapidly inflate the cost of an otherwise attractive formule menu - they're out for your money in Honfleur and no mistake. We've had cheaper meals sitting beside the Canal Grande in Venice..
And once the harbourside meal and all the strolling is done? Time to get back to basics and service your camper van's sundry fluid storage tanks. There are two different service points at Honfleur, one near the main entrance and the other about halfway down the Aire to the right of the entrance. All emptying and refilling services are free here, and electricity is available in some places, but not everywhere. There are public toilets on site but they look a bit grim even by French standards so frankly I wouldn't bother.
Enterprising local bakers in vans with loud horns are a common sight (and sound) on Aires on summer mornings, so you won't need to head into town for your baguettes or pains. Similarly, I've seen a fruit seller turn up at this Aire in the evenings with his prices obligingly daubed all over his vehicle, and a loudhailer even louder than the baker's van's horn. Another good reason to keep small change handy when living on Aire.
On the plus side: Quiet (apart from the baker's van and the fruit seller's lorry), very convenient for visiting the town, and not far off the main autoroute if passing through to somewhere else.
But: It's quite busy and a bit pricey. You need to arrive in good time to ensure a parking spot in summer.
Alternative Aires: Three much smaller Aires can be found in Deauville, Le Havre, and La Riviere Saint Sauveur, but early arrival is recommended in each case. This is a very popular stretch of coastline.
Around Honfleur: click thumbnail for bigger picture:
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