We sure had a marvelous day today. It started out a little questionable, the rain coming and going and the temperature staying quite chilly. As we headed out towards Honfleur, just 10 minutes into our trip, it was pouring down rain. But we saw some cloud openings ahead so were hopeful for a nice welcome at our destination. Honfleur is only about 55 kilometers from Caen which is one of the reasons I chose this for today's adventure. Close enough that if we had to come home due to weather, it wouldn't really be a huge deal or investment in time.
I had read about Honfleur ahead of time, but had failed to map out a plan of attack for when we arrived. So upon arrival, we just drove through town, looking at the beautiful sail boats, tall and skinny buildings and cobble stone streets, and hoping that something would stand out as worthy of a visit from the Haverkampfs. It was still raining, so we had to find something to do indoors. Sure enough, we saw a sign for Naturospace. We had no idea what that was - but it sounded like it might be sheltered and we saw cars turning into the parking lot, so we gave it a whirl. What a pleasant surprise this turned out to be! It was a butterfly...farm? Zoo? Basically, a whole building that had a large portion designated to butterflies of all kinds. Even better - the girls have been reading over and over again a book called "Fancy Nancy, Bonjour Butterfly." In the book, Nancy gets to visit a similar place, so this was like being a part of Nancy's story! Upon entry into the building, we got slightly bogged down by the gift shop that is immediately to your left. The girls headed straight for it and instantly wanted to buy everything. Once we got our tickets, we got them gathered up and entered the butterfly house. On the way in, there was a sign asking all people entering to be quiet and calm, so the girls tried their best to be quiet, which was a nice change from our drive of whining and fighting. Butterflies were EVERYWHERE! All colors, all sizes, fluttering all over the place. There were beautiful flowers and plants with butterflies perched on each and every one of them. At first I thought that the girls might be a little freaked out or grossed out by this swarm, but thankfully they were fascinated. Grace kept standing very still and perching her finger out, hoping a butterfly would take a rest with her for a while. It never happened, but it sure was cute to watch! The whole butterfly house walk took less than 30 minutes ( I think the departing trip in the gift shop took longer!) but on the drive home and even before bed tonight, the girls kept saying they missed the butterflies and wanted to go back.
After butterflies, we went to park in the pretty town center of Honfleur. Our plan was to walk around aimlessly to find a good, family friendly place for lunch. We did come upon a place that appeared to contain other children, so we took a chance and entered. Now, I know I sound as if we had been having a perfect, pleasant time with calm children and smiles abounding. And for the most part that is true. But don't be fooled - there was ample whining about hunger, car sickness, needing new toys. All the same stuff you encounter. And the minute we entered this restaurant, the tentacles came out, touching everything, climbing everything. I have come to realize recently that the hungrier a child gets, the more obnoxious they get and harder to deal with they become. So Andrew and I decided to cut out of this dining establishment and have a family meeting. The meeting started with me giving the girls all a sweet bun to hold them over and ended with Andrew telling them about the importance of manners. After a few chews of their sweet buns and some walking we found a really great restaurant that looked to have wonderful food and a whole outside seating area that we could be free to trash. It was chilly, but Andrew and I thought it best to face the cold on the outside then face embarrassment due to loud and unruly children on the fancy inside. I ordered the girls some hot milks which warmed their bellies and their hands and Andrew and I had some adult beverages, so we all became quite content. Again, lots of whining and touching of non-touchable items going on here by the girls, but nothing that a little dose of white wine and Heinekin can't gloss over. Our meals were fantastic! The girls all had noodles with a butter and basil sauce. I had a whole sole that was slightly breaded and sauteed with a butter mixture. Andrew had an omelette. We both had french fries that were out of this world. All in all, besides the wine bottle that Mia broke just as we were leaving the restaurant, it was a wonderful lunch. It was right where sailboats were docked and had a great view of the surrounding restaurants and shops - in what is called the Vieux Bassin. Also, by the time we left, the sun had been shining off and on for the past 20 minutes. Lovely, just lovely!
From lunch, we went to check out the tour boats we had seen advertised on the way into town. They took you out into the Port of Normandy. We decided to go, but to burn the 30 minutes before the boat left, we went to a park just down the road. It was an awesome park, where I believe is the Honfleur public gardens. Beautiful flowers, tons of greens, many scattered play areas. The girls were in heaven, racing all around from swings to climbing and all the while imagining they were Power Rangers. Perfect for burning off the 10 tons of pasta they had for lunch!
After the park, we arrived at the boat trip. As I said, it takes you out into the Port of Normandy. The trip itself was OK. The neat part was seeing the locks open and close but that takes time and the twins were antsy. The boat ride was about 50 minutes long, but the twins only lasted about 5 minutes before they were causing a raucous. Waves were splashing and crashing against the windows so that was interesting to them, but in general they were unamused. Ella had fun but she was also ready for it to be over about half way through.
We went back to the park after the boat ride. Mostly to use the bathrooms, but also to let the girls play a little more, before the car ride home. We wandered the pretty streets, also. I stopped in a local store that sold Calvados, Cidre, Apple Juice and other local items. I ended up buying a bottle of organic cidre, a very old bottle of Calvados and three chocolates for the girls. I gave the girls the chocolates when I caught up with them on the street and almost instantly they were gagging and spitting out their candies. What up with that, I wondered? Then I noticed a steady flow of liquid dumping out of Grace's chocolate and upon tasting it realized it was a potent Calvados. Man, are we lucky they didn't pass out or vomit! I kid you not, these candies had NO indication of alcohol on their wrappers. They said Camembert - which is a cheese! Anyway, everything was fine, they all had the sense to give the candy back. I kind of failed there - giving candy and then grossing them out so much they want to give it back!
Upon reaching the car, and after what seemed like only 1-2 hours after lunch, already the whining about being hungry started. Again, and again, and again. Ella loves to say she can't wait even just 4 minutes for food. We are like, and then what? After four minutes and no food, what happens? Then Grace and Mia chime in. Kids ; )
Today was a great day. The family had lots of fun together. We all took away fun memories of different parts of the trip. But I bet if you asked Andrew - just like me - the only thing that really bothers us is the constant whining we hear from the girls. We do love them SOOO much. But the girls seem to think that if at first you don't succeed with a whine, then you should whine and whine again . Maybe they think no one heard them the first time? Their age has everything to do with it and we are willing to ignore or deal with the whining so as not to disrupt the awesome adventures we take. But Andrew and I certainly hope that one year from now we are blogging about how our children are whine-free and happy as can be.
Pictured above: Mia, concerned by the pirates missing hand; Grace and Mia looking out at the port; Butterflies at Naturospace, Orchids growing in Naturospace, and Grace, mesmerized by the butterflies.