Our ardor for unexplored exotic and pristine destinations impel us to constantly seek for new travel destinations. Our bucket list inspired by other few travelers and the social media stays inundated. Two destinations in France were on top of our list one the abbey of Mont Saint Michel and the other the white chalk cliffs of Etretat. Both of these make a great day trip from Paris.
We stumbled upon the pictures of the luminous chalk cliffs rising from the magnificent cerulean currents of the Atlantic Ocean. And were rapt with desire. We coveted captures of those picturesque arch cliffs in our travel memorabilia.
Etretat is a commune in the upper Normandy region of France. The possibility of visiting Etretat on a day trip from Paris uplifted our spirits to explore this natural wonder which seemed celestial.
How to Reach Etretat France?
A train from Saint Lazare station in Paris to Le Havre and a bus thereafter will drive one to the town of Etretat. But the same seemed like a Herculean task. The train connectivity to Le Havre and the bus from Le Havre to Etretat are limited. We made the following plan with a tight schedule.
10.50 am – Board an InterCity train to Le Havre – Reach 12.56 (Journey time 2 hour 6 min)
13.12 pm – Bus no 24 from Le Havre station to Fecamp town with a stop at Etretat. (Next bus was at 16.25 pm. There are extra buses at 13:30 and 15:00 in summer. Check bus timings here.
17.30 pm – (Last bus) from Etretat to Le Havre.
Board an InterCity train back to Paris (Saint Lazare station). Different days of the week have different train timings. Check information here before planning your itinerary.
We reached Saint Lazare station on time to board the train to Le Havre. We had our tickets booked online which saved us time. The train route passing through lovely towns of France crossed the meandering river of Seine several times.
As the journey was nearing to end our anxiety started to build up. The train was already 10 minutes late. The bus station was supposed to be just beside the train station but we still skeptical about it. As soon as the train stopped at the station we jumped and beetled through the crowd to the exit. We breathe a sigh of relief when we saw that the bus station was right across the exit and the bus hadn’t arrived yet. The bus arrived after around 5 minutes.
We bought the tickets directly from the driver and got ourselves seated. The last leg of our journey had commenced and we were all excited eagerly awaiting the destination. The bus drove through the quaint port town of Le Havre through the villas and the pretty countryside. After an hours drive, we finally reached the picturesque little seaside town of Etretat.
We visited the tourist office couple of blocks from the bus station and collected a brochure and information on bus timings to return back to Le Havre. Sauntering through the souvenir shops, bakeries and reached the old market square. There was a long queue in a small takeaway restaurant and joined the queue.
When iffy as to where to eat in any tourist place just join one of the longer queues for the best treatment. And we were not wrong, we certainly had some of the delicious French fries topped with ketchup and Mayonnaise and yummy chocolate crepes.
The old market square has an old market hall with a huge collection of souvenirs and exquisite boutiques.
The square is dotted with many interesting medieval buildings with elaborate woodcarvings and restaurants which make it a perfect place to relax after the strenuous hiking of the cliffs.
The White Chalk Cliffs of Etretat
We walked past the square to climb a long boardwalk bustling with tourists. And stood there bewitched. The boardwalk was running along the beach with two imposing arches at either end. The arched jagged cliffs sheathed in green carpet radiated a magical aura engulfing us into a trance.
To visit the third and largest arch one would need to climb the cliffs. There are stairs from the boardwalk to get down to the white pebble beach.
The wonders aren’t created in a day. Constant battering by the wind and the sea waves have eroded the cliffs to carve out the natural arches.
On the left when facing the sea is the Aval Cliff a natural arch of white chalk with Aiguille Creuse, a hollow needle rock of the same color. One can walk through the arch at Aval at low tide. Walking further across Aval is the huge natural third arch, Manneporte famously described as an elephant plunging its trunk into the ocean.
To the right is the humongous Amont Cliff. On the cliff are the stairs which lead to the Chappelle de la Garde and a monument Nungesser et Coli with a stone airplane. The monument is dedicated to the two missing French pilots who were last sighted over Etretat.
One can easily spend a whole day on the gorgeous shingle beach of Etretat watching the amazing landscape with a laid-back experience.
But like all beautiful things come to an end we too left Etretat after watching the enchanting sunset.
Though there is a good connectivity by public transport from Paris to Etretat. But the frequency may be a constraint hence it would be better to spare a complete day to visit the cliffs and return back to Paris. We were headed to Bayeux from Etretat if you are planning to head back to Paris you need to plan according to the timings of the train back to Paris.
Have you been to Etretat? Do share your experience with us in comments.
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