A three hour boat trip from Newhaven to Dieppe might not be everyone’s idea of luxury, especially if you have ever been to Newhaven or Dieppe port – no business class lounge here. Just a corrugated hut with a small café serving coffee if you’re lucky.
Still, you have the luxury of not getting to an airport, not having your luggage lost, not being told the flight is delayed. Once on board, snuggle into one of the comfy tables by the window and watch the White Cliffs of Newhaven merge into the Falaises Blanches de Dieppe.
I was heading there for a drop of that honey, spicy spirit that put Fécamp on the map: Bénédictine, and her glamorous home, the Palais Bénédictine. As true of most outings, you may be there to see one thing, but then get swept away by all the other Best Bits you discover on your own.
Welcome to the “house” Alexandre Le Grand built. Puttering around his library one day, he found a recipe for an elixir that sounded tasty. He recreated it, marketed it like crazy, built a Palais to produce it in, invited guests in to see what was happening, and the rest is history! Thanks to his vision and foresight, Palais Bénédictine is one of the major tourist attractions in the area and a must for anyone interested in spirits of the alcoholic kind.
Hotel Le Grand Pavois
Really the only place to stay in town, the Hotel Le Grand Pavois sits looking over the small port of this Channel facing city. Make sure you reserve the Panoramic Rooms or Suites, as there’s no point to being on the sea if you can’t open your terrace door and see the sea. They had me at the soft pillows and Occitane Verveine scented toiletries. When I ordered tea to go along with my view, it was served in one of those gorgeous Marriage Freres teapots.
La Suite Restaurant
Begin your evening with a cocktail on the terrace overlooking the sea at La Suite, the best place in town to eat. This being Fécamp, there is really only one drink – the Benediction – Bénédictine & Champagne, garnished with a slice of lemon.
Dinner on the other hand might not look as refined, but this bowl of home-grown Moules Fécampois wasn’t anything but luxurious. Guess what the secret ingredient is? Yes, in a sauce of onions, potato, parsley, cream, butter, white wine, there’s a dollop of Bénédictine to give it punch.
A little less than an hour away, but completely unmissable if you are in Fécamp, is the port of Honfleur. The Vieux Bassin, or old port, is adorable and completely walkable with an umbrella which we needed that day. Don’t miss St. Catherine’s, France’s largest church made entirely of wood, just steps away from the harbor.
It’s not surprising Honfleur was a magnet for artists including Monet, Courbet and so many others, with its windy, atmospheric streets and views of the Channel. Although a small town, it was surprisingly rich before the French Revolution, benefiting from its trade with Canada and other far-flung spots. Are you Quebecois? You can thank the French explorers who ventured from this very port to Canada that you parlez-vous francais.
Le Bistrot du Port
Although not along the Vieux Bassin, Le Bistrot du Port sits on the Quai de la Quarantaine, with its own sea view.
Don’t be put off by the loads of tourists, it is a touristy city, and sometimes there’s a reason people flock! (Think of Harry’s Bar in Venice!) I had the best fish of the trip here and still dream of that fennel purée.
The Normands love their caramels as do I. Every flavor is to be had. My favorite was the Pear-Chocolate. Of course, the specialties were Benedictine and Calvados. Be sure to stop into each shop in town as they all sell different flavors!
After a very short time here, we headed back to the cliffs overlooking Dieppe. I grabbed my window seat and watched the continent disappear into the horizon. This time my bags were laden with those treats you can’t get anywhere else but Normandy.