Travel

Hiking the Cliffs of Etretat

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Have you ever seen a picture of somewhere and just knew you had to go there?  One day, my husband opened his computer and on his screensaver was a beautiful picture of cliffs and the ocean.  With a little research, we found out that the picture was of the cliffs at Etretat, France and it was immediately a bucket list item.

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Etretat, France is located in the Normandy region of France.  From the apartment in Honfleur that we rented, it took us about an hour by car to get there.  I think it would have been quicker, but being budget travelers we avoid as many toll roads as we can so we rerouted a little bit through the countryside.  Etretat is a resort town situated right on the ocean.  In doing a little bit of research I found there’s some gorgeous resorts, golf courses and spas there.  This trip though, we were going for one reason only – to climb the cliff and get some pictures with that stunning view.  Mission accomplished!

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When we got to town, we visited the tourism office briefly to get a map and find out where the best place to park would be.  After that, we walked to the local boulangerie to grab sandwiches and some goodies for a picnic lunch.  To save money while we were in France, we bought snacks, side items  and drinks at the grocery store and packed those with us pretty much everywhere we went. Then each day, we picked out a fresh salad or sandwich from a local boulangerie along with a treat. Today’s treat was a chocolate eclair and it was as tasty as it looked. After we picked up lunch, we drove to the top of one of the cliffs where there is free parking open to the public, it’s also the best view of Etretat.  Sitting atop the hill is a small stone church all by itself. It’s almost too picturesque to be real.  That’s where we decided to have our picnic lunch and relax a little bit before spending the rest of the afternoon exploring.

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There are two major cliffs to explore with the town and the beach separating them.  We walked around the top of the cliff where we ate and found a little cove with steps to climb down to the water.  We walked along the beach, it’s mostly pebbles which was pretty cool and snapped some pictures being on the other side of the Atlantic.  The steps can get steep and there were some spots where it felt slightly unsafe but we did it anyway and had a lot of fun.  Once we made it to the town, we stopped to get an ice cream cone and rest on one of the many benches that line the boardwalk.  We also visited some of the souvenir shops which had some cute snowglobes that my daughter just had to have.  After a brief rest, we climbed the other main cliff.  This cliff was steep but there are stairs and we just took it slow and steady.  I really can’t even begin to describe the beauty at the top.  It’s just amazing.  We could have explored forever.

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Etretat makes a great day trip and a budget friendly one, too.  The only thing we paid for was lunch and ice cream, which was less than 10 euros to feed all three of us plus the gas it took to get there in our rental car.  The cliffs and parking were free and it’s a whole day of entertainment.  In fact, this day is the day we talk about the most when we reminisce about our Normandy vacation.  Sometimes the simplest things mean the most and this was a hidden gem.

Here’s a couple of tips to make this day trip even more enjoyable:

  • Pack a jacket.  It was very chilly the day we visited.  Even in the summer, the cliffs can be windy and a windbreaker will be perfect.
  • Pack a picnic lunch.  The views are incredible, why waste them in a restaurant. Plus it’s less expensive
  • Make a game out of climbing up.  It’s a hike, especially for little legs.  Play I spy or even count the steps going up.
  • Make sure to have a bottle of water with you, we got very thirsty even though it was cold out.

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