Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Normandy, France: Half-Timber Houses in Bernay

I was on my way to Rouen from Le Mont St, Michel and Camembert, and this little town called Bernay that I read before the trip was along the way, so I thought, why not combine the journey with a quick stopover? Stretching my legs by doing a short walk around town is a good idea. Bernay is about 65 kilometers to the south of Rouen and is part of the Haute Normandie region (Upper Normandy).

Half-timber framed houses in Bernay, and most of these houses are in the same colours, beige with brown timber stripes.

Bernay was not what I expected. It is literally a ghost town on a Sunday (early) evening. On the other hand, I’ve read that on Saturdays the town holds a bustling and colourful market. Unfortunately I was somewhere else on a Saturday... can’t have everything right, must choose. Anyway, I was here around 7:30PM Sunday for a quick driving break and apart from the steady flow of French and English plate numbered cars that seem to have lost their way, there was almost no one in sight.

BUT, the place is a breathing medieval town! Fine-looking and well preserved half timber-framed houses filled every lane and every street corner. Bernay is one of the lucky towns that escaped the bombings during the 2nd world war. So pretty – they kept me busy and amused the whole time, so I can’t really complain even if I felt a bit spooked. Where is everybody?

Across the parking lot where I had parked the car is a beautiful Benedictine abbey which I later found out to be the Church of Notre Dame. History said that Bernay was actually a dowry given by the Duke of Normandy to his wife, and building the abbey crowned the whole engagement. Lavish huh.

I did a lot of walking around town, explored the streets, corners and squares when I turn to this small alley, and surprise, surprise, what did I see? People! People sitting outside the terrace having dinner. Haha, this must be the lone restaurant in Bernay that is open. I reminded myself I am only transiting so no buying drinks, which reminds me its time to head back to the parking lot and proceed with the journey.

Bernay I am pretty sure is a nice lively place. It’s just too bad I came on the wrong day and the wrong time. Most villages and even good sized towns in Europe during Sundays are ghost towns. And no doubt its because of the timber-framed houses the tourists come over here for a quick detour. Although Bernay is not as popular as the other touristy towns in the area that have a high influx of inquiring visitors, the place is still very much worth the visit. Please come though on a Saturday when the town is alive and I am sure you will enjoy your visit more than I did.

Half-timber framed houses like in Bernay are mostly found in Germany, Northern France, Denmark and some parts of the United Kingdom.

I came from Mont-Saint-Michel passing via Camembert (quick stop-over) and then to Bernay (for another short stop-over). My end destination for the day is Rouen where I will stay for the evening.

Typical half-timber house in brown and white.

The Abbey, Church of Notre Dame was constructed around the 10th century, and the town was built around this church. 

Almost no one breathing in sight.

The only restaurant that was open in town.

I am not sure if that is real hair hanging from the scissor art sculpture, but it sure looks icky.

Travel Period: May 2009Destination: Bernay (Upper Normandy), France

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