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Delightful Surprises in Port-en-Bessin, France

Port-en-Bessin, France

Normandy Part 4

There are so many quaint and picturesque villages in the Normandy area, it’s hard to choose just one. We wanted something that was on the coast, convenient to Bayeux and Mont Saint Michel, and not too expensive. Mark found a wonderful AirBnb located in the fishing village of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain that checked all the boxes. (Technically, it is now called Port-en-Bessin-Huppain since it was combined with the village of Huppain, but I’ll just shorten it for the purposes of this post to Port-en-Bessin.)

We had a small apartment in a sixteenth century building with a view of the port, right in the heart of the village. Many shops, cafes, a couple of boulangeries, and restaurants were within walking distance.

Port-en-Bessin-Huppain itself is absolutely adorable with its cobbled streets, fishing boats, beaches, and historic buildings. Neo-impressionist Georges Seurat certainly thought so, he painted several views of the port and surrounding countryside.

Painting of Port-en-Bessin by Georges Seurat in 1888
Port-en-Bessin by Georges Seurat in 1888, Minneapolis Institute of Art

The port area today looks very much like it did when Seurat painted it in 1888.

Port-en-Bessin in 2023
Port-en-Bessin-Huppain 2023

Food, Glorious Seafood!

Being a fishing village, Port-en-Bessin is famous for its fresh seafood. (One of the reasons we chose it!) We were not disappointed.

And we were lucky enough to be in town on festival day.

The Fete du Port features a footrace by the waitstaff of the local restaurants. They each wore a stripped shirt had a tray with a glass full of water and made several laps up and down the street. Very entertaining.

Be sure to try the Calvados, the apple brandy exclusive to the Normandy region. It’s delicious!

The Harbor at Pont-en-Bessin

This is a working fishing port, so we would see the boats heading out in the morning and back in the later afternoon. At low tide, the boats would rest on the sand. There are multiple cafes with outdoor seating where you can watch the boats and admire the views.

Low tide at Port-en-Bessin
Shell designs made by the tides

The Battle of Port-en-Bessin

As with many of the coastal villages, Port-en-Bessin was involved in D-Day. Sitting between Omaha Beach and Gold Beach made it a strategic location for the Allies. The British Royal Marine Commandos of the 4th Special Services Brigade captured the port and the village. It became a command post and the site of a fuel pipeline to supply the Allied forces.

Today there are several memorials and the remains of sixteenth century tower at the port. You can also visit the German cliff-top bunkers if you want to take a hike up the hillside. You can read about the battle here.

WWII memorial at Port-en-Bessin

Wait, Port-en-Bessin has an Old Church!

By this point in our trip, we had seen many, many churches and cathedrals. It seems like every French village has a church that is older than the United States itself by several hundred years. Not to be left out, Port-en-Bessin has a lovely twelfth century church that is still in use.

If you are looking for a “hidden gem” in Normandy, Port-en-Bessin-Huppain is a great choice for a weekend or longer.

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