Normandy: Houlgate and Honfleur

So every late Spring (around end of May or early June), V’s aikido group from Lille normally holds an event (a stage as they call it) in a little resort village called Houlgate, in the coast of Normandy. Not sure why there, but personally it’s a great excuse to go to the beach.

Aikido stage by the beach

We were again supposed to go this year for the third time, but of course as everyone know, covid-19 happened and that was the end of that. So obviously, this is a post about last year’s late Spring trip to Houlgate, with a side trip to Honfleur.

Houlgate is somewhere near the yellow highlight below Deauville

Houlgate

Not as well known to the general population as Deauville (technically an extension of Paris), but still pretty nice on its own. It’s one of those old resorts from the belle epoque period and this can be seen quite obviously in the architecture of the grand villas, grand hotel and casino.

It’s a really small resort town (as in you can walk the whole of it) and it’s quite easy to find lodging on airbnb right in front of the beach. House architecture is really charming and characteristic of the typical villas in Normandy.

This is a very local tourist place. You will hardly see foreign tourists (maybe some British people), but overall, it is an overwhelmingly French dominated tourist area.

If you want to experience a nice and quiet(er) beach area, this is a great place. A beautiful huge beach, charming town, amazing local food and market.

Where to Stay

I highly recommend the camping by the beach at Camping de la plage. Beautiful views, quiet, and cheap. Note that it is a camping so expect to bring your own sheets, do inventory before, do all cleaning after and do a final inventory after. It’s not like airbnb or a hotel. Nevertheless it’s a beautiful and calm area.

We also took an airbnb in the town last time as the camping was full. It was also quite nice and well equipped.

As it is a really small town, anywhere you stay, the beach will always be walking distance.

There is a walking route on the beach and on the cliffs which you can do (watch out for the tides). You can normally ask for more info and a map from the local tourism office.

Just outside Houlgate

If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you can walk to Dives Sur Mer and then Cabourg.

In Dives Sur Mer, it is possible to take a small boat tour to the sea.

On the way to the port in Dives Sur Mer, I encountered a fish market where fresh catch was being sold. To be honest, I didn’t know much about fish so I just opted to buy some fresh mussels.

In Cabourg, there is a more lively commercial scene there (read: more stores) which are interesting to exlore. Cabourg is around 1 hour by foot by the seaside.

Of course you can always take a car 🙂

How to get to Houlgate

We’ve always driven there but it is possible to take a local train to Houlgate. From Paris, it’s possible to take the TER to Houlgate station.

Honfleur

We took an afternoon off to visit the nearby city of Honfleur.

Honfleur is about 40 mins away from Houlgate by car.

What can I say about Honfleur… it’s absolutely gorgeous, especially the port area. However, it would also be normally absolutely packed. It’s a really famous touristic town and the number of visitors shows. (Not sure in this time of covid, most likely not as much!) When we went, we had a difficult time looking for parking, but thankfully it’s possible to park on the streets for free.

We didn’t do much, just walked around the city aimlessly and had a coffee. Honestly that’s enough. This city is so charming and you will just want to explore every inch of it.

Food to Try

  • Georges Larnicol bakery – Try the Kouignette (ok this is more from Bretagne, but hey you can also find them in Normandy)
  • Cider
  • Camembert
  • Crepes – also a Bretagne/Normandie shared thing
  • Fresh seafood
  • BUTTER
  • Calvados – apple brandy

Overall

I am a big fan of the coast of Normandy to be honest. Lots of beautiful towns, beautiful architecture, good food, amazing history. These are just 2 towns in a long list of towns and I encourage everyone to explore more of this beautiful region.

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