For those in love with the sea, Normandy is heaven on earth. Dieppe, although not top-of-mind, is one of those silent treasures that worth dropping your anchor in for a little while. Unlike other cities from the Normand coast which are popular weekend amusements for Parisians, Dieppe is a less common destination. There aren’t direct trains from Paris to Dieppe, you have to commute in Rouen and, for better or for worse, this little inconvenience helps preserve Dieppe from the masses.
Despite the traditional houses, the fresh fish market or the Sunday flea market, the restaurants preparing the best whelks in the world (oh, yeah!!!), the heart-shaped Château Neuf cheese and the apparent look of a quiet Normand town, Dieppe is different, secretive, and veiled in mystery, day and night.
Fierce geology, fierce history
Past the Dieppe castle, heading West, there’s a steep cliff that confines the beach, leaving just a narrowing strip of land where you can have a drink with a view at the Bar O Mètre. Looking East, from the heights of the cliff, the neo-gothic silhouette of the Notre Dame de Bonsecours chapel overlooks the port with a solemn air. Inside the chapel, the names of the castaway sailors (there are hundreds of them) carved in stone keep on echoing their unlucky fates. From the high blackened dam, holey as a Swiss cheese, one can watch the dimming lights of the ferries that cross the Channel to Newhaven and back. On the pebbly beach, the restless sound of waves and tides coming back and forth is still soothing the memory of the 2000 soldiers who died during the Dieppe Raid, Jubilee Operation, in August 1942. Those brave men paved the way for the D-Day that happened 2 years later.
The eerie lights of Dieppe
Yes, Dieppe is special. It’s more than its fierce history, architecture and overall geographic facies. There’s something ineffable, most probably related to light. I’ve never seen a stranger light than in Dieppe. At twilight, in cloudy days, the sea and sky melt into each other, making it impossible for the human eye to separate them. This is probably the closest vision of the aquatic Otherworld that we may have. Dieppe doesn’t need night’s complicity to be arcane. Even by daylight, Dieppe’s white balance is cold, blueish, eerie, surrounding you in a shroud that seems to conceal the gateway to another dimension.