Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Normandy – part 3

After our walk along the seawall in Veules-les-Roses, we decided to revisit the village of Varengeville-sur-Mer. I insist on ‘revisit’, as we had already seen the village last March and had been charmed by the beauty of the place. Going to Varengeville meant driving back the way we had come, in the direction of Dieppe. Doing so, you drive through a lot of attractive seaside villages, with neatly kept seafronts. I bet that in spring and summer these ‘stations balénaires’ are full of tourists, bathers, and frolicking children. In November, though, all the attractions and souvenir shops have already closed down for winter. Only a few restaurants and bars stay open.

Varengeville’s main site of interest is the village church and cemetery. It sits on the top of a cliff overlooking the bay below. In the distance you can see the entrance of the port of Dieppe. The view is so overwhelming and beautiful that George Braque (May 13th, 1882 – August 31th, 1963), a major 20th century French painter and sculptor who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed the art movement known as Cubism, was buried here at his own request. His tomb, adorned with a cubist mosaic fresco faces the sea.

The village church of Varengeville-sur-Mer

The cemetery and its spectacular settings can also be seen in the French comedy film ‘Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire’, featuring Pierre Richard and Jean Rochefort, two icons of French cinema! You may have seen it. I think it dates from the seventies.

The church and cemetery are located at the end of a narrow meandering dead-end road. Once you’ve parked the car, all you will hear is the singing of the birds and the hushing sound of the waves crushing on the pebbly beach at the foot of the cliff. The church itself is typical Norman, with a short but sturdy square shaped tower and solid granite walls. Inside, the church is very austere and dark. Apart from the little light that slips in through the heavy stained glass windows –some of which are by Braque, I believe – the only light comes from the many candles that are burning at the foot of the many statues of saints that are being worshipped here.

View from the top of the cliff in Varengeville-sur-Mer

We walked around for a while, enjoying the view, the sun and the fresh sea air, before driving back to the village ‘centre’, where we came across an interesting and attractive shop dedicated entirely to one of Normandy’s main cultures: linen. It’s needless to say that I couldn’t resist walking in and buying some stuff. More about that in a later post.

By the time I had spent a large part of my personal ‘shopping budget’ it was over 4 p.m. and time to move on to our little cottage, situated some 7 km inland from Saint-Valéry-en-Caux. We were looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the open fire, enjoying our earlier bought picnic of periwinkles, langoustines, fish soup, cheese and baguette.

P.S. We were told that the village also has a nice botanical garden, almost entirely dedicated to bougainvilleas. November not really being the best season for these flowers, we didn't bother to go and look for it. If you are in the area when the plants are in full bloom, however, the garden is definitely worth a visit.

(to be continued)



Anonymous said...

That's an interesting village and church. I've never seen the mural inside, but it must be beautiful.

I love the movie too.

Carolyn said...

Martine, again we are on the same wavelength! Varengeville is on our list for the chapel and its Braque stained glass, which you described so nicely, and for three gardens. If we ever get to France in summer, we will definitely visit Varengeville.

ladybird said...

Dedene, It's a tiny village, but definitely worth a visit if ever you're in the area.

Carolyn, You'd like the nearby Veules-les-Roses too.

P.S. Whenever you go to Varengeville, try to stay away from the linen shop ... it's too tempting ;).