If there’s too much bustle on the streets of Honfleur, duck into this unmarked hidden garden built into an alleyway connecting three busy downtown streets. While the gently flowing river, plants, and art installations therein will offer a quiet respite from the streets beyond, know that it was once the other way around.
The river running through the heart of today’s Jardin du Tripot was, in the late medieval era, likely an area for daily public washing and something of a social center. In the late 16th century, a mill was erected within the river for grinding wheat into flour, and while much of the machinery was later removed, segments of the old mill remain. Tanneries and dyeworks were later established along the river in the 19th century, but by the 1950s, the businesses had shuttered and the once-vibrant alleyway fell into disuse. The space sat neglected until 2013, when the then-mayor launched a rehabilitation project to return the secluded alleyway to its former glory—if not, beyond.
Refuse materials were salvaged from the site to turn Jardin du Tripot into a botanical and artistic oasis hidden smack in the middle of this medieval port town. The waterways and dye trays have been repaired and reinforced, while hydrangeas, bamboo, rose bushes, aquatic plants, mulberry trees, and more were planted in green patches throughout. Installations by local artists adorn the greenified alley, including an oversized mosaic snail, a family of iron ducks, and a mischievous child hiding under an umbrella onto which river water cascades from above. Of course, a sprawling mosaic depicts Honfleur residents of yesteryear dying, tanning, and washing, to remind you it wasn’t always leisure in this cloistered jardin.