A weekend in Dieppe, Normandie, France

 

I’m lucky enough to live within 20 minutes of Newhaven on the south coast of England. The significance of this is that I am within easy reach of the ferry port with its daily sailings to Dieppe in France. The crossing takes four hours and, travelling as a foot passenger, costs £30 return (2018). For the same price as half a tank of fuel in the car or a meal out, you can transport yourself to another country and experience a different culture. While I prefer to travel for a long weekend or midweek break, it is also possible to sail to France and back in one day if time is short

1. Dieppe’s historic harbour

 
 

 

Once in France, Dieppe town centre is a 15-20 minute walk from the ferry terminal, although frequent busses operate in the summer months. The first sight of interest that greets you is the town’s historic harbour with its fleet of small fishing boats and pleasure craft neatly moored in straight lines. Along the northern side of the harbour on Quai Henri IV you’ll find two dozen or so bars, cafes and restaurants mainly serving locally caught seafood.

2. Connect with locals? Try to speak French!

 
 

 

Dieppe’s office de tourismeis situated close by. The staff are knowledgeable and prepared to tolerate visitor attempts at speaking French - no matter how good or poor. Thankfully they’re also ready to communicate in several other languages if needs be. Talking of speaking French, it’s noticeable that the locals do expect you to make the effort to communicate in their language. It’s not like going to the Costas in Spain where many will willingly speak English or other major languages! In my experience, if you make a serious attempt at speaking French then the majority of locals will be happy to entertain your efforts and reward you with the time of day.

3. Dieppe market

 
 

 

Like many European towns, Dieppe has a strong sense of identity. At its spiritual heart is the Église Saint-Jacques,an imposing Gothic church located centrally. Despite its crumbling stonework and obvious need for restoration, the church should feature on everyone’s list of places to visit. Meanwhile Dieppe’s social hub can be found winding its way through the streets every Saturday throughout the year. Dieppe market is a visual feast of colour with dozens of stalls selling an abundant selection of fresh produce and hot and chilled food. It’s an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two and to stock up on gifts for those back home, or to buy a picnic lunch. The market is open every saturday from 7.00 am-1.30 pm.

4. Dieppe by bike in summer

 
 

Photo by J. Damase

Another attraction worth visiting is the Château de Dieppewith its commanding location overlooking the town and sea. The 14th century castle is home to Dieppe museum which celebrates the area’s maritime heritage. In the summer months, it’s possible to hire bikes to explore Dieppe on two wheels, and there are boat rides along the coast. However, while there are many interesting places to visit and pastimes to enjoy, Dieppe remains a working town. It’s an ideal destination for those wanting to experience a bit of true French life and culture.

5. Long weekend in Dieppe, don’t miss Le Tréport

 

For those staying in Dieppe for a couple of days or more, it’s worth making the one hour bus journey east to Le Tréport. It’s a picturesque fishing village where you can watch the fisherman unload their daily catch and enjoy a stroll along the colourful seafront. If you can, find the time to walk up onto the cliffs at neighbouring Mers-le-Bainswith its spectacular views along the coast. You’ll find that many locals take a walk here so it’s a good place to try out your French.

6. Picnic on the beach

 
 

 

And if you get the chance, do make the effort to experience the many boulangeriesand patisseriesthat sell an almost overwhelming selection of artisan breads and delicate cakes. No visit to Dieppe should be complete without breaking open a loaf of bread on the beach along with some French cheese, followed by a handmade desert. It’s one of life’s good moments!

7. Festivities in Dieppe, Kite festival and Christmas

I hope my short insight into visiting Dieppe has inspired you to make a similar journey. Travel during the summer and you will feel a sense of being on holiday, travel during the other seasons and be prepared to experience life through the eyes of the French. It’s worth noting that a spectacular weeklong kite festival is held in Dieppe every September, and in December the town has a very special feeling as preparations are made for Christmas.

Written by Mike from England

 

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