Etretat – The Impressionists had an Eye for a Beautiful Place

Monet painted the cliffs of Etretat in 1885; the spectacular limestone arches and islets off this charming little seaside resort were a popular subject for the impressionists.  We often choose a destination from a calendar picture or work of art; for Etretat pictures like this one of Monet inspired the visit.

We had planned our five night Normandy trip to see Mont St. Michele, Bayeaux and the tapestry and the World War II beaches, and Honfleur.   Ed wanted to see the Pont Normandie and I noticed that Etretat this inspiration of so much art was just 20 miles north of the bridge, so we decided to spend an afternoon there.

The Pont Normandie across the Seine between Honfleur and LeHavre is just  a stunning sight.  The French really know how to design beautiful bridges.  It is a cable stayed bridge and at the time it was built, the longest of its type.  It opened in 1995.  It was a thrill to drive across it.


Although it was a grey cold rainy day in late October when we crossed the bridge, we still couldn’t resist stopping to get a better look at it before heading for Etretat.etretatnormandie2

Etretat is an old fashion beach town complete with boardwalk; it nestles between  tall limestone cliffs.  Here is a view from across a golf course along  the path to one of the cliffs.  etretatgolfcourseIt is famous for three natural arches, two of which are visible from the boardwalk .  To the right of the beach is Porte d’Aval, the smallest of the arches. etrerightHikers can climb the cliffs and visit a church on the hill. etrerighthillThe day we visited, there was an enthusiastic group of young children taking sailing lessons.  etretatsailorsAs we hiked the cliffs to the left of the town we saw our little crew trying out their new skills on the placid water of the channel.etretatsailorswater2etretatsailorswater1The cliffs to the left of the beach include two more massive arches; one, Porte d’Amont. is visible from the Etretat beach.  etretat3We decided to walk up the path to the top of these cliffs and also to see the largest of the arches, the Manneporte, which lies beyond the Porte d’Amont.  We were immediately struck with how serious the town fathers are about not taking liability for any stupid thing tourists might do in the caves  or the along the cliffs or even walking along the strand.  We passed a good dozen warning signs.  The first alerted us to the dangers of the cables that run across the walk to leverage boats from the water to their positions behind the boardwalk.etretatdangerropesetretatdangerropes2As we approached the stairs up the cliffside, we were warned repeatedly about watching the tides before venturing out into the caves or arches. etretatdangertidesetretattidetableAlthough I couldn’t read this sign, I am thinking it is warning us about being trapped in this cave.etretatcavesignAnd then of course there were the cliffs. etretatdangercliffsAnd they weren’t kidding about the closeness to the edges. etretatejcliffsIf climbing around the cliffs is not nervous making enough, someone that day was working on even more of an adrenaline rush.  etretatflyeretretatflyer2The Port d’Amont and its needle are striking.  It is easy to see why they were so popular with painters. etretat2This is the view to the north from this point. etretatnorthWe hiked past here to get a look at the largest arch in the series, the Manneporte. etretatmanneportAlthough the weather was drizzly and grey when we began, we were lucky enough to have a burst of sunlight towards the end of the afternoon.etretatneedle  The coast is beautiful here any time, but that flash of sun made it even more special.  The day we were there, schools were on vacation and the cliffs were crawling with children and their grandparents. Etretat is a wonderful place to visit and an easily manageable climb for almost anyone.

The impressionists knew a good thing when they saw it.

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6 Responses to Etretat – The Impressionists had an Eye for a Beautiful Place

  1. Martha Strapac says:

    Wonderful pictures. You have given me more motivation to see the cliffs. Thank you, Martha

  2. Deborah says:

    Fabulous photos. Reminds me a bit of the Great Ocean Road here in Victoria, Australia. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Janet says:

    it is definitely worth making the trip — hope you both get to see Etretat.

  4. Monique says:

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures! It makes me want to go there, even though I will not be able to in my upcoming trip to Europe.

    I found your blog on TripAdvisor and decided to say hi! 🙂 I love your writing style!

  5. Janet says:

    Thanks. Glad you enjoyed them. It is definitely something to fit into your next trip to Normandy.

  6. Pingback: Honfleur — Picture Perfect | JANET TRAVELS

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