Beloved by artists, Honfleur is the most picturesque of the Côte Fleurie's little seaside towns. Much of the city's Renaissance architecture remains intact, especially around the 17th-century Vieux Bassin harbor, which is almost as supremely colorful as in the days when the great Impressionist masters often painted it. The town has become increasingly crowded since the opening of the elegant Pont de Normandie, providing a direct link with Le Havre and Upper Normandy—the world's largest cable-stayed bridge, it's supported by two concrete pylons taller than the Eiffel Tower and is designed to resist winds of 160 mph. Honfleur remains a time-burnished place, full of half-timber houses and cobbled streets now lined with a stunning selection of stylish boutiques and shops. It was once an important departure point for maritime expeditions, including the first voyages to Canada in the 15th and 16th centuries. Looking like a 3-D Boudin painting, the heart of Honfleur is its 17th-century harbor, fronted on one side by two-story stone houses with low, sloping roofs and on the other by tall, narrow houses whose wooden facades are topped by slate roofs. Note that parking can be a problem. Your best bet is the parking lot just beyond the Vieux-Bassin (Old Harbor) on the left as you approach from the land side.
Le Fleur de Sel
A low-beamed 16th-century fisherman's house provides the cozy setting for Chef Vincent's Guyon's locally influenced cuisine. Centered on the daily catch, the ambitious menu usually includes at least five different fish dishes—presented with artistic panache—along with plenty of grilled meats, like salt-marsh lamb or duck. For starters, a red tuna carpaccio with melon and chive marinade could be followed by a loin of lamb with cumin-flavored vegetables. Three fixed-price menus (€28–€58) assure a splendid meal on any budget. Be sure to save room for one of the masterful desserts or an informed cheese course.
Soak up the seafaring atmosphere by strolling around the old harbor and paying a visit to the ravishing wooden church of Ste-Catherine, which dominates a tumbling square. The sanctuary and ramshackle belfry across the way—note the many touches of marine engineering in their architecture—were built by townspeople to show their gratitude for the departure of the English at the end of the Hundred Years' War, in 1453.