The greatest impressionist artists couldn’t keep their eyes –nor their heart- from it. It has this powerful impact on the human mind, like a blow to the head that rearrange your dreams and tinge them white and blue without you ever noticing. Enticing, fascinating in every season, we’ve been irresistibly attracted by it and, since we are back in France, we’ve never missed a chance to admire its rough beauty. Have you guessed what we are talking about? Let us introduce you to the tremendous Normandy coastline and its great white cliffs falling strait into the Channel! Ready for a getaway?
GR 21: summer trek between Yport and Etretat
“You need to go out!”, says the hot summer wind, carrying around the enticing scent of yellow grass and wild flowers. This is the first call of summer, the sun is now warm and gentle, the sky is of an adorable periwinkle colour, prompt to seduce lovers’ hearts… No way to resist, we’re going out for a walk! Picnic is packed and there we go: on the road, riding towards the sea. Our plan for today: tramping for 20kms on the famous GR21 track, from Yport to Etretat, and back.
Fresh air, lovely day… Can we ever get bored of such an atmosphere? It’s nearly perfect… All along the track, we enjoy the magnificent view from the top of the cliffs. The sea looks like a never-ending watercolor, displaying all the known and unknown variations of blue. Who could the artist be?
The rugged landforms of the path create here and there verdant alcoves where lovers enjoy cuddling under the warmth of the sun, hypnotized by the slow movements of the turquoise swell.
And then, suddenly, we’re in Etretat. A humble chapel, Notre Dame de la Garde, overlooks the crescent shaped bay where the old Norman city lies. In summer, the touristic season turns it into a crowded and animated place: smells of sunscreen, selfies in swim wear, melting ice creams… Aaahhh! Let’s go away quickly! Let’s go back to the tranquil coastal track in the company of peaceful grazing cows, to the high grass beaten by the winds under the sharp looks of crying seagulls, and to the wild flowers…
The sun is in our back. Three more hours, and we’ll be back to charming Yport. On the way, even more charming, the tiny village of Vaucottes. So small, so cute, so pleasant that we dream about settling down there, between the cliffs and the beach. Life is beautiful in Normandy!
July in Quiberville
It’s planted there. Yes, quite literally. Enormous grey square. It’s plugged into the ground on a corner, grotesque looking. An UFO between the ocean and the cliffs. An apocalyptic vision in the heart of paradise. OK, but what are we talking about? What is it? A vestige of a bygone era, caught up by geology. A German bunker… We didn’t come for it the first time we came in Quiberville. However, we fell in love with it without even thinking! And now we never miss to say “hi” whenever we visit this part of Normandy.
If it’s not the bunker nor the sea that we came for initially, what was it? Mussels and french fries of course! What’s better than a good fresh pot of mussels to eat on the pebble beach, looking at the blue-green surf stroking the foot of the cliffs ?
And there’s also that cute little chapel in Varangeville-Sur-Mer, where the famous painter Braque is buried, and which is nearly in balance at the top of the plateau. Years ago, it was hundreds of meter inland though! Did it moved towards the border to look at the sea? No, not at all! But the other way around. The cliffs are moving back super fast, and soon the chapel will meet the bunker down there… But will it know how to fall with as much style?
Autumn in Étretat
The wind is sharp and lively, rocks are slippery and the air is full spray. Luckily, the clouds are still holding back the rain. But it won’t last long, and we are expecting a shower soon. Is the light playing with all the colours of the landscape? The full panorama is pastel, already shivering in the premises of winter.
We’re leaving Etretat following the beach, passing through a narrow tunnel in the cave of “Le trou à l’Homme”. At the end, you find yourself on the other side of the cliff, in a new world, spectacular, where nature reigns. It’s a fact; we can feel all its mineral power. We walk at the foot of the cliffs, impressed by the size of those giants, but we need to hurry. The tide allows us only three hours before it begins its erosion work again. All along the plateau, the cliffs are moving one meter back every year! We can still see large white scars in the rocks, traces of the last damages…
Against all expectations, the sunlight floods the landscape. The track is arduous. Several times, we have to climb the slippery rocks. The old iron ladders had all been taken away by the swell, so we have to use wet pieces of rope that someone before us abandoned there. Then we have to make our way through old man-made tunnels. The stroll has turned into an adventure!
We finally arrive on a calm beach. Sandbanks appear between the pebbles. A small path climbs on the heights. From up there, the view is quite different, but as impressive and enjoyable as from down there. Nature never stops to show off! We’re tired, but so happy.
The grass has suddenly turned yellow. The ocean is sharp and metallic, threatening and constantly moving. Foam is beating the cliffs and covering the pebbles. End of the world in Normandy… The wind is so strong, taking away our screamed words, making our hearts beat faster and pushing us like ragdolls towards the border of the cliff.
Once more we feel so alive, in the middle of those furious elements, that we forget about the insidious cold that is freezing our fingers! Our fingers which intermingle as if to better resist the power of the wind. Closeness of the souls…
Dear Albatre coast, thank you for this beautiful year.
M. & Mme Shoes