A Memorable Place

Bennard Perlman


Small French seaport is big on art

When my significant other Jill and I embarked on a two-week voyage from Lisbon to the White Cliffs of Dover, the itinerary sounded enticing: Cruising by night, we and the other 600 passengers disembarked each day for bus or walking tours through such locales as Bilbao in Spain, Mont-St-Michel in France, Dublin and Amsterdam.

Adjectives such as picturesque, quaint, breathtaking or wondrous were applied to one city or town after another. Yet it was the small seaport of Honfleur, at the mouth of the Seine River in France, that won the prize for superlatives.

Since the 11th century, Honfleur has served as a fishing village and, more recently, a yacht basin. Ringing the waterfront are continuous blocks of six-, seven- and eight-story buildings, their narrow brick, stone, wood and stucco facades presenting a grand array of colors. Additional hues provided by flags, banners, flower boxes and awnings, plus umbrellas covering tables and chairs outside cafes, present a wonderfully festive air.

Honfleur has long been an artists' haven, and it was here, in 1864, that Claude Monet painted some of his first compositions outdoors, inaugurating a style that became his trademark as well as that of his fellow impressionists.

One of the oils by Monet depicts Honfleur's towering row of houses together with a portion of the town's aged fortifications, much of which still stand today.

Honfleur is awash with art galleries with works ranging from contemporary impressionist compositions to the more abstract.

The town also has a museum. Named for Eugene Boudin -- he is the artist credited with interesting Monet in painting out-of-doors, in direct sunlight -- the museum features a number of small Boudin oils showing vacationers promenading on area beaches.

Even today it is possible to stroll on the town's cobblestone streets along the quay, as we did, and observe an artist, his head covered by a van Gogh-type straw hat, creating a small oil of Honfleur. And beyond the artist stood a surprise structure in the form of an ancient merry-go-round.

In addition to the traditional prancing horses, this merry-go-round included a coach, giraffes and an elephant, the latter with four seats on its back that are readily reached by children via a short ladder.

Painted panels of French scenes, including the church of Sacre Coeur in Paris and the cliffs of Etretat on the English Channel, decorate the outer ring at the top of this magnificent creation, where one panel identifies the merry-go-round as "Carrousel Palace 1900." It also contains a stairway leading to a second level of animals.

While other highlights of our trip included a visit to the Blarney stone and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, we both consider Honfleur the surprise favorite of our journey.

Bennard Perlman lives in Pikesville.

My Best Shot

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Patricia Ann Mountjoy, Hanover, Pa.

One of the most popular events for volkswalkers is the annual Crazy Horse walk in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Thou-sands of walkers participate. It was an adventure and a challenge for me. The walk went through the woods at the base of the Crazy Horse monument. Was I ever startled when I turned around at one point and there was this huge, nine-story face!

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Frona Brown, Baltimore

On a recent trip to Israel, my grandson, David Adler, two of his friends and I visited the Dead Sea, also known as the Salt Sea because it is the saltiest body of water in the world (allowing swimmers to float effortlessly). The Dead Sea is actually a large lake with its coasts shared by Israel and Jordan. At 1,300 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. Along with other tourists, we covered ourselves with mud, hoping to benefit from the rich mineral salts.

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Charles Pugh, Hurlock

On the way to Branson, Mo., this summer, I stopped at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The arch, on the banks of the Mississippi, is well worth a visit. The city has the area well marked, and it's easily accessible from the highway. The area under the arch has stores and a beautiful museum about the Lewis and Clark expedition. Nearby is the "Old Courthouse" (pictured).

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