Exploring Etretat

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Two weeks ago Mr M declared that he just had to get out of Paris for a couple of days and I had to tell him where we'd go. Of course we had to go to the coast, but as we'd just been to Deauville, which is the closest beach to the city, I picked the next closest, nice beach I knew of, Etretat. We had both been before but loved it, so we very excited to spend two days lying on the beach and swimming in the ocean until our skin was all pruney. But, Monday afternoon, as we drove deeper and deeper into Normandy and the sky slowly gave way to clouds and the windscreen wipers had to be turned on on more than one occasion, we realised that this trip wouldn't be the one we had our hearts set on having. I was hopeful as we sat on a great little terrace in direct falling sunlight for dinner of moules et frites, my favourite sea-side feast, and then went to play on the beach in front of the most gorgeous pink sunset, that the next day would bring a little heat and sunlight for us to enjoy.

 But Tuesday we woke to this;

A little disappointing as on my previous trip, almost three years ago to the day, this vista had looked like this;
So we took shelter in the hire car and just started driving. As we drove through all the gorgeous towns on our way north to Dieppe for lunch, through the drizzle some bunting caught my eye.

We'd happened upon the most amazing brocante and mercerie store I'd ever seen.

Housed in a former grocery warehouse, La Courtepointe consists of an entrance and three different rooms: a large space in the back full of antiques in all shapes and sizes, a small room off the entry bursting with various haberdashery items once treasured long ago and and a room housing ancient fabric and linen opposite. It felt like I'd stepped back in time. There was no way we could have left empty handed; Mr M got himself some used oil cans and we picked an old, slightly tattered educational poster of a map of greater Paris which I can't wait to frame and put up in our entrée gallery.
After dinner at the same place we had eaten at the night before (it was really great!) we jumped in the car and headed south to be able to catch the sunset from the top of the cliffs. By then, luckily, it had stopped raining. We drove around the golf course at the top of the headland to try to access the peak, but, alas, you just can't. Instead we drove through some amazing wheat fields, past some very angry cows, discovered a light house and stumbled across some abandoned Nazi Germany Atlantic Wall bunkers - jackpot for the history-lover that is Mr M. 

After shuffling under some barbed wire to go climb over the bunkers, avoiding cow patties, we high-tailed back to Etretat to climb the cliffs from the beach before nightfall.

We made it back just in time. Enormous spotlights met us as we got back down to the beach, either to help people, like us, make their way back down the path - my theory - or for the surfers to keep doing what they're doing into the night - Mr M's theory. Either way, the one row of red and one row of blue made an electric French flag right along the beach and looked more like a contemporary art installation rather than a form of hazard prevention.

We wandered back in the dark for a decent night's sleep before our early start back to Paris in the morning.

Restaurant La Flottille

22, rue Alphonse Karr, 76790 ETRETAT

La Courtepointe
35, rue de St Valery, 76450 CANY-BARVILLE

The Antifer Lighthouse (Le Phare d'Antifer)



  1. It looks beautiful despite the weather so I'm glad you were able to make the best of it :)

    1. Thanks Katherine! I'm glad it turned out all right in the end! xx

  2. I love Etretat! I would love to go back. So happy to have some recos now :)

    1. It really is so lovely. And luckily so fun to explore which is handy when it rains!!

  3. Oooooh a friend of mine went here recently and i was thinking of a little weekend away by the sea for the boyfriend's birthday at the end of September. Although i'm hesitating because of the weather...xx

    1. Ah, yes, Normandie isn't really famous for its fabulous weather. It would be a lovely place to check out even if the weather is not so lovely, but perhaps just for the one night, it's not really large enough to take up two. Can't wait to tell you more about it on Thurs! xx

  4. You had the weather we had! It is a lovely town, thanks for the brocante tip. We recently visited the memorial Nungesser and Coli on top of the cliffs at Etretat, matching an old postcard we have of the memorial, did you see it? – some pictures here http://www.normandythenandnow.com/last-flight-of-the-white-bird-at-etretat/
    Turns out our memorial was blown up in WW2 and later replaced with a big spike. Memorial styles certainly changed!
    We are glad Nungesser and Coli and their bravery are not forgotten.