Friday, March 25, 2011


Can you remember the first time you ever saw the sea or ocean?

L'aiguille formation at Etretat. Image from
User Urban, GNU Free Documentation License.
A quote from a 19th century French writer has me remembering my first impressions of the Gulf of Mexico as a small child. Now that I'm expecting young visitors from the flat--but beloved-- Gulf Coast I'm eager to show them how dramatically different the French coastline is.

Our starting point will be the cut-out alabaster cliffs and pinnacle formations at Etretat in Normandie. The old fisherman's village turned seaside resort a century ago attracted famous French painters and writers by the droves: Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet, Camille Corot, Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant and Maurice Leblanc to name-drop a few. It was writer Alphonse Karr who said:  "If I had to show the sea to a friend for the first time, I'd choose Etretat."  (Si, j'avais à montrer la mer à un ami pour la première fois, c'est Etretat que je choisirais.) That's quite an endorsement.

Surf's up at the Elephant Cliff. Photo Carol E. Cass.
See it now
Armchair and laptop tourists can click here for a virtual trip to experience the dramatic beauty of Etretat. Or  here for a 360° panoramic view of Etretat's Elephant Cliff. But for a stupendous minute-long aerial video click here! To feel like your there walking around, try this video, however you might want to lower the volume of the music...and keep in mind that as much as I enjoyed their promenade, I don't know these friendly people.

View of beach from opposite hillside. Photo Carol E. Cass.
albâtre:  alabaster
une falaise:  a cliff
une aiguille:  a needle
la mer:  the sea
le littoral:  the coast
littoral, -e: (adjective) coastal
un village de pêcheur:  a fisherman's village
une plage de galets:  a stone beach
être en état:  to be in good form
N.B: you'll want to be in good form if you decide to walk up the steps to the hilltop church, Notre Dame de la Garde.

Click on photos to enlarge them.
©2011 P.B. Lecron


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