Étretat by night... La Falaise d'Amont
We drove to Étretat, in Normandy.
There's an 80-mile stretch of sheer cliffs between Dieppe and Étretat, in upper Normandy, mirrored by those of the English coast of Dover, pointing to their shared geological origin, no other section of the French coast resembles the unique breathtaking seascape of La Côte d'Albâtre (the Alabaster Coast).
Around Fécamp it also goes by the poetic name of le Pays des Hautes Falaises (high cliff country) filled with the flavour of salty air and the shrieks of aerobatic gliding gulls.
This part of France, called Le Pays de Caux (chaux=chalk), attracted many a famous painter and writer, like Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Samuel Beckett, in the 19th century, especially the Impressionists namely Courbet and Monet, who were captivated by its ever-changing light.
The poet Guy de Maupassant spent most of his childhood in Étretat .
Although Alabaster seems to be the most appropriate name because of the chalky whiteness of the cliffs, closer examination reveals black and ochre flint, also salty rust...as you see here!
From the low nestled town and beach, you can see two natural arches and the pointed "needle", they are the Porte d'Aval, and the Porte d'Amont.
Étretat is a very pretty little place. As soon as you step onto the chingle beach you'll see the cliff formations to either side. To the west, on the Falaise d'Aval, a straightforward if precarious walk leads up the crumbling side of the cliff, with lush lawns and pastures to the inland side, to the point where the turf abruptly stops, occasionally ripped by the latest fall of cliff.
From the windswept top you can see further cliffs, it was at times somewhat hazy.
The Falaise d'Amont is on its eastern side – which Maupassant compared to an elephant dipping its trunk into the ocean – are what stick in the memory.
The cliff itself presents an idyllic rural scene, with a gentle (ahem, STEEP) footpath winding up the green hillside to the little chapel of Notre-Dame, from where you have a spectacular view.
In the evening, after a meal, we were treated with a fabulous sunset and the lighting on The Door and Needle of La Falaise d'Amont...