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The Cliffs of Etretat

Good news and bad news.  The good news is I’m successfully navigating the trains, subways, and buses.  The bad news is taxis aren’t readily available in small villages where I’m staying.  One morning I checked out and asked for a taxi to my first bus connection.  An unwitting employee directed me to an ambulance!  The properietor rescued me and his wife drove me to Flers to catch my first bus.  She was delightful and talked about French politics–how refreshing!  She said that for the first time in her adult life, she doesn’t know who she’s going to vote for.  Sounds like a common predicament globally.

Le Tilleul

I arrived at 7:30 that evening in the village of La Tilleul, in a hotel situated directly across from the church.  I love hearing the church bells chiming in the evening hours, and early in the morning.  More bad news, though.  These sleepy albeit charming villages don’t have any services available at night–even if they do have a small market or cafe!  Again, the proprietor rescued me.  He offered me some bread, cheese, and ham to make a sandwich and I happily retired.

The next morning I was eager to hit the trail to the cliffs of Etretat.  I wound my way through acres of farmland, some recently harvested, some just tilled with the rich earth exposed, and some newly green from a winter crop.  Then I entered the forest and walked until I descended suddenly to a Normandy beach.  Knowing how close I was to beaches where our soldiers landed on D-Day occupied my mind, and I’ve never felt the furious sound of the ocean seem so violent.  It was a sobering moment.  The beaches I discovered that day had remnants of bunkers the Germans had placed to prevent landing.

The cliffs struck me with awe.  The sheer cliffs rise unbelievably high from occasional solitary beaches.  The patterns of layers are so predictable that it’s hard to believe they aren’t man made!  In some places, openings have eroded that you can traverse during low tide.  Several fisherman were enjoying their sport as I explored the area.

I hiked through the forest again and down into the quaint village of Etretat.  On the way I discovered a goat farm that sold not only cheese, but chocolates (surprisingly delicious), and ice cream.  I opted for the currant ice cream and was astounded by the burst of flavor.  And the texture–the spoon melted into the mass like it was mousse!  What a yummy surprise.

I hiked up the north side of Etretat to a church, which offers more amazing view of the cliffs and the town.  I felt as if time stood still. I couldn’t soak up enough of the ocean views and the magnificent cliffs.  I returned to town and hiked up again to the south side for more views, and then walked all along the cliffs until I reached the forest that took me home to Le Tilleul.  What an unforgettable day.

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