The main star of the show in Etretat would be the cliffs due to their exceptional natural drama and aided by the fact they were painted so memorably by famous impressionists.
Over the year’s erosion has created extraordinary arches in the chalk either side of the resort. The amazing needle like structure known in French as an Aiguille, adds to the beauty of the cliffs.
There is more to Etretat than just the cliff formations and also the thick pebble beach. The resort behind is small but full of charm. Along with the extravagant hotels and the remarkable wooden covered market which stands out.
A typical old villa in town, Le Clos Lupin conceals mysteries for visitors, while the churches around Etretat stand out more prominently.
There are some stunning walks along the cliffs tops where further surprises await, including a breath-taking gulf course.
If you return to the famous cliff formation on the beach at night you can see them magically lit up. You will become formations with the extraordinary rock formations, curved out of the chalk and flint of the Pays de Caux plateau, Courtine, Manneporte, Vandieu de Belval.
Some people believe they can see the head of an elephant dunking its trunk into the waves in one spot, whilst others believe as the great Normandy author Moupassant did that a ship with all its sails unfurled could pass through the Manneporte Arch.
The trou a’ l’homme
Back in 1792 a raging sea threw a Swedish ship against the cliffs here. The people of Etretat could only watch on in horror as the vessel was wrecked before their eyes. After the wind dropped the next day and the waves withdrew, it revealed a cave running up through the cliff, with a body of a man lying instead it, however as he was being carried off to a common grave to be buried with his unfortunate comrades, he woke up and was saved. The magnificent cavern in which he was found has since been opened up. It is only passable at low tide only, providing access to Jambourg beach.
With a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles, this substantial medieval Norman church stands away from the beach at the back of the resort. Along with the amazing architecture there is also time to reflect and pay your respects at the British Commonwealth graves in the church’s cemetery.
Notre Dame de la garde Chapel
Up on the heights east of the resort stands the Notre Dame de la garde Chapel. Built by sailors in the 19th century, it was destroyed during World War 11 and was rebuilt in its tremendous location in the 1950’s.
The Old Market Square
A fine timber-frame covered market dominates the square. Inside houses charming boutiques. Plaques on the buildings recall American and British wartime links in Etretat. During World War I a British hospital was set up in town and c.550 British soldiers died here.
Nungesser et Coli Monument
In 1927 set up behind Notre Dame de la Garde, this amazing needle like monument recalls a pair of French aviation heroes from World War I who in 1927 attempted the first flight across the Atlantic. Oiseau Blanc, Nungesser and Coli’s plane was last seen flying over the white cliffs here.
Le Clos Arsene Lupin
You may or may not have heard of the amusing and much loved burglar character Arsene Lupin and his partner in crime Grognard. It’s a delight to discover all about them at Le Clos Lupin, a fine townhouse once owned by their creator, French author Maurice Blanc. English speaking visitors are catered for with specially adapted material so everyone can enjoy and be entertained by this detective adventure.
Perched on top of the cliffs west of the resort lies this exceptional golf course. More than 150ft above the sea, making a round of golf at Etretat quite a remarkable one. Early in the 20th century British fans of the resort were central in founding the course. The first president was actually Viscount Bernard Forbes, 8th Count of Granard and a Liberal Politician. The course was designed in 1908, in partnership with Arnaud Massy, an exceptional pro who taught golf at Etretat. He went down in history as the first non-Briton to win the open championship or British open.
The famous No.10 hole was redesigned 100 years after the course was created making it even more spectacular.
Les Jardins d’Etretat
Etretat gardens are a beautiful modern addition to the seaside resort.
A famous actress of the early twentieth century and a close friend of Claude Monet, Madame Thebault built a house and started a small avant-garde garden here.
These days the garden is home to some amazing stone sculptured ivy shrubbery, all of this is on a hillside looking out over the magnificent coastal panorama. Created by famous landscape architect Alexandre Grivko, this will impress impressionism lovers as well as admirers of contemporary art.