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From: MSC Preziosa cruise review: North Sea

Day 4: Le Havre, France

BELOW: On Tuesday, September 10, we arrived in the port of Le Havre shortly before 7 a.m.

Le Havre is France's second-biggest port after Marseille.

Durant first visited Le Havre in 1966 on the S.S. France, when a "boat train" still carried transatlantic passengers directly from the ship terminal to Paris. Since then, we've been to Le Havre together a number of times over the years.

(One time, while traveling from New York to Bremerhaven on the Soviet transatlantic liner MS Mikhail Lermontov, we took our two dogs ashore for the day.)

Arrival in port of Le Havre

Small tanker in Le Havre

BELOW: MSC Preziosa was docked in short order, with AIDAperla--a German cruise ship--moored in the next berth. (This photo shows a reflection in a window on MSC Preziosa's sun deck.)

Port of Le Havre reflected in MSC PREZIOSA's windows

BELOW: After breakfast, we went ashore and followed the signs to downtown Le Havre. The walk would have taken only 15 or 20 minutes if we hadn't stopped repeatedly to take pictures and enjoy the sights.

Going ashore in port of Le Havre

Walking to downtown Le Havre from cruise pier

Walk to city center of Le Havre from MSC PREZIOSA

BELOW: As we approached the city proper, we encountered a massive sculpture in a waterfront park.

The sculpture, by Vincent Ganivet, is titled "Catène de Containers" and was installed in 2017 to celebrate Le Havre's 500th birthday.

Catène de Containers by Vincent Ganivet

BELOW: The sculpture consists of two arches assembled from shipping containers. It's fun to look at, and adventurous children (or their parents) can use it as a playground.

Catène de Containers, Le Havre

Catène de Containers sculpture in Le Havre, France

BELOW: Beyond the waterfront park, we could see examples of apartment and office buildings that were erected in the wake of World War II bombings.

The vast urban redevelopment project, which took place from 1945 to 1964 under the direction of Auguste Perret, was named a UNESCO Outstanding Heritage Site in 2016.

Auguste Perret redevelopment project in Le Havre

BELOW: Thanks to regular maintenance, the attractive modern buildings in central Le Havre still look as they did in the mid-Twentieth Century.

Building maintenance in Le Havre, France

BELOW: We quickly cut inland to an older example of Le Havre architecture, Notre-Dame Cathedral. The entrance was boarded up for a renovation project, but posters on the temporary walls told us what we were missing (and what we'd see on our next visit).

Cathedral of Notre Dame, Le Havre (renovation project)

BELOW: We went inside the cathedral, which was open for business during renovation.

Interior of Note-Dame Cathedral, Le Havre

Vaulted ceiling of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Le Havre

BELOW: While construction workers worked elsewhere in the church, a young woman (presumably an art restorer) was busy with a lightbox.

Construction in Notre-Dame Cathedral. Le Havre

Art restorer in Notre-Dame Cathedral, Le Havre

BELOW: After visiting the cathedral, we walked a few blocks to Le Volcan, an arts center designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The project, which opened in 1982, consists of two buildings that resemble volcanoes (or, possibly, nuclear-power plants).

Le Volcan by Oscar Niemeyer, Le Havre

BELOW: Just across the street from Le Volcan, locals and visitors were enjoying a fountain at the Bassin du Commerce.

Bassin du Commerce, Le Havre

BELOW: Immediately behind the basin was Le Havre's War Memorial, which honors the 6,638 city residents (both military and civilian) who were killed in World War I, World War II, Algeria, and Indochina.

War Memorial, Le Havre

Lists of war victims at Le Havre War Memorial

BELOW: During a bathroom stop at a downtown shopping mall, we couldn't resist sampling the local croissants.

Paul Bakery in Le Havre

BELOW: Next, we crossed Le Havre's new tramway, which opened in 2012 and features grass-lined tracks.

Le Havre tramway

BELOW: Just beyond the tram tracks were the Jardins de l'Hôtel de Ville and the Town Hall.

Le Havre City Hall

Jardins de l'Hotel de Ville, Le Havre

BELOW: It was midday, and we were feeling peckish again. We cut through the downtown business district (with more August Perret-era architecture) to a bakery in the Halles Centrales, or central market, where we could replenish our fats and carbs.

1950s streetscape in Le Havre

Halles Centrales, Le Havre

Bakery in

BELOW: We continued west along the Avenue Foch and its tramway. Along the way, we encountered the temporary  "Narrow House" by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm, which should be gone by the time you read this.

'Narrow House' by Erwin Wurm, Le Havre

BELOW: Inside, the Narrow House lived up to its name.

BELOW: The Avenue Foch led us to Le Havre's huge public beach, where one area had a warning sign to protect French-speaking pedestrians and bathers. (Monolingual foreigners needed to rely on their phrasebooks.)

Beach huts in Le Havre

Le Havre beach warning sign

BELOW: What looked like an enormous lifeguard's chair in the distance turned out to be a sculpture, UP#3 by Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann.

Sculpture on beach, Le Havre 

BELOW: To the south, a breakwater protected Le Havre's downtown marina. (The tide was out, and much of the harbor bottom was exposed.)

Le Havre Marina

Le Havre Marina and harbor bottom at low tide

BELOW: In one of the marina harbor's deeper sections, children were returning to land from a sailing class.

Children's sailing class in Le Havre

BELOW: In this view, you can see the marina, buildings along Le Havre's oceanfront promenade, and two cruise ships: AIDAperla and MSC Preziosa.

Marina and waterfront promenade in Le Havre

BELOW: Our Norwegian-speaking daughter was studying Mandarin for a diplomatic assignment in China, so this juxtaposition of flags along the waterfront seemed prescient:

Norwegian and Chinese flags in Le Havre

BELOW: On our way back to the ship, we passed MuMa, the city's museum of modern art. The port headquarters and control tower were next door.

BELOW: As we approached the Bassin de la Manche, we caught a glimpse of a Brittany Ferries ship heading to England. (Getting a usable photo wasn't easy in the harsh sunlight.)

Brittany Ferry in Le Havre

BELOW: There were plenty of viewpoints along the Bassin de la Manche, which we followed back to the city center's waterfront park and the cruise terminals.

The promenade alongside the park was named "Quai de Southampton," in honor of the city we'd be visiting the next day.

Bassin de la Manche, Le Havre

Quai de Southampton, Le Havre

BELOW: That evening, as MSC Preziosa sailed for Southhampton, we enjoyed scenic views of Le Havre from the railing on Deck 15.

Evening cruise-ship departure from Le Havre 

Next page: Southampton

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MSC Preziosa day-by-day photo diary:
Embarkation in Rotterdam
Departure, Sea Day 1
Sea Day 2
Le Havre
Arrival in Rotterdam

Also see:
MSC Preziosa cruise review: North Sea