The river Seine is wide at the small town of Duclair where the ferry (or bac) takes cars and people back and forth for free. The river is at the top of a huge loop (or boucle) of the river that snakes between Rouen and Le Havre and has carved a wide floodplain. It is a unique landscape of contrasts: a powerful sinuous, silent river; elegant riverside willows, poplars and quiet water meadows; pretty, conventional towns; outrageous, otherworldly, individual villas and grandes demeures built in the local gothic vernacular; and white cliffs carved on the outside of the meanders like a row of uneven teeth under hillsides clothed in dense, bluebell-filled woodlands.
Long sand and gravel barges and glass-sided tourist boats are carried down on the flow that has the unnerving flow of a flood; there is also a constant passage of huge tree trunks and other debris out to sea.
The town of Duclair is compact and busy with a ribbon of smart houses on either side; the opposite bank is on the inside of the boucle and is wilder, being lined with just a few small houses with fields, marshes and ribbons of sand and gravel quarries beyond. The scenery and the bac have attracted a string of painters including Mr. Turner, Edward Seago and many others.
In the evening, the grey banks of rain depart to the west and bright sun lifts the landscape into a bright horizon and a rainbow cuts the sky in half. In the morning the mists lift off the river and the ferry looks like a steamboat of old.
The wider area encompassing the boucles is a regional protected area: Parc naturel régional des Boucles de la Seine Normande. If it were a jewel it would be smooth serpentine cut with sapphire.