Going to Étretat was not part of the plan. On my way back I was glad that I decided to squeeze it in. My friends had to drag me off the place and get me into the bus. I didnt want to leave. Étretat, a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Haute-Normandie (Upper Normandy) region of France, has that kind of effect on you.
When I was in France for work earlier this year, I visited a lot of places in and around France but Étretat is possibly the most beautiful. The day before I was to go, I saw pictures on the internet. I knew what to expect and yet the first time you see it, it takes your breath away. These photos below will do no justice to the actual experience of being there but I hope it makes everybody who sees them want to go.
- The Goélands
When you reach the town and before you see the cliffs you are greeted by the Sea Gulls (Goélands, in French). These birds are beautiful when you see them in flight and you will see plenty of them here.
- The Natural Cliffs and Arches
Étretat is best known for its chalk cliffs, including three natural arches and the pointed “needle”. When you walk through the town and reach the beach you see the cliffs. Unlike sandy beaches, here we have pebbles. Walking on them without shoes can be a bit difficult.
- The Sea Gulls are Friendly
They do pose for the photograph!
- The Notre Dame de la Garde Chapel
Perched high on the cliffs is the chapel known as the Mariner’s Church. The church was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt in 1950.
- The Caves
Étretat’s cliffs have caves that run deep into them. The bigger cave under the cliff is impossible to get into when the tide is high. I did manage to go as far as I could. The tide comes in pretty fast. On my way back, the line of rocks that I walked on was submerged completely. The rocks are very slippery too. I learned that the hard way! Ouch!
There are plenty of small cave shafts that lead in to the cliff-side. Most of them are boarded up partially. I did get a peek into one of them. Reminded me of mine shafts. I was tempted to climb in but was not sure where it would lead and with my friends waiting, that was not an adventure I wanted to try then.
- The Way to the Top
The climb (more a walk than a climb) to the top is picturesque in its own right as at every turn the scenery changes and you are mesmerized by the sea and the town that becomes smaller and smaller.
- Atop the Cliffs of Étretat
The sight that greets you from the cliff top of the sea and the town is just beautiful. The colour of the water is is amazing. Stand there for sometime and you will realize how fast the water level increases when the tide comes in.
- The Golf Course
There is a golf course on top of the cliffs. Though I did not play, it is stunning.
- The “Needle”
The Needle seen through the natural arches from atop the cliff was an amazing sight. I just stood there for I don’t know how long gazing at the sea and needle rising out of the water.
- Walking along the Cliffs and the Beach
Walking along the cliffs or on the beach you feel the salty air on your face. The serenity of the place humbles you. It inspires you to dream. The beauty leaves you in a spell. I had my headphones on listening to “La Mer” by Charles Trenet. You forget everything. You are there at that moment. That Moment…. you realize the moment is the only thing that matters.
If you are planning to visit Étretat, timing is important. It rains a lot in Normandy. Étretat is at its best when it’s sunny and warm but not hot. End of April and beginning of May should be a good time though I am no expert on the local weather and as the locals say rainy is typical Normandy weather. Do carry a change of clothes as you cannot resist getting into the water. An umbrella is very useful. Do not forget to try the food. It is awesome. Be sure to try the biscuits as well.
This is the first time I have written about a place that I have visited. Do let me know what you think of the photo essay. If you ever been to Étretat, do share your experiences.
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