Updated: Mar 17, 2021
By Henry Krupka
This trail explores my local area in a small part Le Havre docks. The docks themselves can be both striking and engaging, if you know where to look.
The city was built in the XVIth century around its port, and therefore has many intriguing historical artifacts
but it is also very much still active, as one of the largest ports in Europe, so historical conservation often has to make way to everyday practicality.
Just down the road, we go past "La Maison du Marin" (the sailor's house), a wonderfully historic building that used to house passing sailors in the XXth century. As time went on, it was used less and less and fell into disrepair. After a few failed renovation projects, it recently got renovated into modern flats, while keeping its original outside aesthetic.
As we continue on towards the dockyard, we find "La Tour Des Dockers" (the Longshoreman's Tower).
This imposing construction, from around the same time period, houses a clock that used to ring 14 times a day, punctuating the workday from 6.30am to 11pm.
As we continue along we find an unfortunately more haunting artwork. This is memorial is a tribute to the dock workers who died of asbestos poisoning (above right)
Many of the old hangars that used to be a part of these docks, such as this one, have been or are in the process of being renovated into more modern buildings.
Flats, as seen with the Sailor's house, are common, but the vast empty spaces also make for impressive (not to mention historically significant) venues. It's a pleasant sight to be able to renovate this type of building, keeping its old charm and character, rather than tearing them down to build on top of them.
At last, we arrive at the dockyard, filled with many interesting boats, as the sun starts to set. Each of these presenting a compelling history (and I'm sure some less compelling ones). Among many enticing ships - including one remarkably named "feeling", using flag signals to spell out its name - I am drawn to a large, three-mast sailboat with a chinese dragon for a symbol.
I later find out this beast is named "La Boudeuse", and is a century-old adventuring ship based in nearby Fecamp and requires a 24-man crew to run. It's reassuring to know that, in times of always-improving technology, some people still care enough to use impractical (but powerfully elegant) methods of travelling the world. To see it sailing on the open waters must be a truly awe-inspiring scene.
Finally, we come to the end of our journey as the sun starts to set over the water, bathing us in a pale orange evening glow. The combination of the old and the new, the renovated and the rebuilt, give these docks a wonderful feeling of ancientness, and turning each corner could give us a glimpse into the long history of the area.
It is beautiful to be able to see this world just outside my doorstep, and I feel lucky to be able to see this while the world is currently still locked down.