Date: 26th September 2023
Travelled: 210 kms from Saint-Saturnin to Rouen
Visited: Le Bec-Hellouin
Stayed: Rouen Marina Aire, €14.50, N49.44810, E1.05830
Budget: 127 days @ €95 per day
We enjoyed a very quiet night in the aire at Saint-Saturnin. The aire filled in the late afternoon including several UK and GB plated motorhomes. Our new neighbours tell us Saint-Saturnin is an easy drive from the ferry heading south to Spain.
It’s a chilly morning as we head off on our morning forced march around the neighbourhood.
We eventually roll out the gate at 10.30 with the GPS set for Le Bec-Hellouin about 160 kms to the north. At this stage of our travels we just travel the autoroute and cop the tolls.
Turning off the A28 it’s only a few kms before we turn for Le Bec-Hellouin.
From our guide book the Most Beautiful Villages of France you’ll find Le Bec-Hellouin on on page 22. Approximately 30 kms south of Rouen our guide book tells us it’s a typical Normandy village, but at first glance we can see it’s very special. It stands above the River Bec, taking part of its name from Herluin, an Abbot who founded a monastery here in 1034.
Bec-Hellouin is a post-card image of a French village.
We find a parking spot near the centre of the village and go exploring. The small parks and street gardens are well kept, still looking good in early autumn. The half timber houses are all a little different, their faded pastel colouring complementing each other.
Walking a little further down the hill we find the Église Saint-André, the village church. The outside looks much like a hundred other village churches we have popped in, to check out. However the colourful stained glass windows make this church special. The sun striking through the windows, gives the interior a coloured hue, which during our 10 minute visit changed from blue to pink.
At the very bottom of the village near the Bec we find the Abbey de Notre-Dame-du-Bec. The abbey and its founder had the ear of William the Conquerer and the Norman Kings that followed, at one point the abbey was a huge complex dwarfing the village.
But the abbey would be sacked and rebuilt several times, falling into disrepair after the French Revolution in 1799. It was eventually abandoned until 1948 when the Benedictine Order took possession and commenced restoration. Much smaller than it was in the 16th century its still very impressive.
Having wandered the abbey complex without seeing a sole for 30 minutes, we head back for lunch at a little crépe restaurant (pictured below) which was lovely. When we get home I’m going to experiment with buckwheat crépe mixture. They make a lovely light meal with jambon, fromage (that’s ham and cheese to you Antipodeans) and a tangy relish of something.
Possibly what we enjoyed most is the village atmosphere, no tat, no strange little artist workshops just a couple of cafes and some lovely streets to wander.
So that’s it our last village from our book, the Most Beautiful Villages of French. We’ve managed to visit 43 villages during our travels this year, all a little different, some leave you a little flat and other like Le Bec-Hellouin leave you with stunning memories.
Forty minutes later we are parking in the aire at Rouen, but that’s a story for another day.
Michael + Pam