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Friday, March 14, 2014

Weekend in Normandy - Rouen, Honfleur, Etretat, and Beyond

We rented a car Saturday morning and drove from Paris up to Normandy for a two-day trip, coming back late Sunday.  We waited until after eating dinner, to avoid the killer embouteillages ("bottling-ups" - AKA - traffic jams) that happen on all roads leading to Paris on Sunday afternoons.

After only about an hour and fifteen minutes out of Paris, we were already at Rouen, where our hotel room would not be ready for us.  So, we decided to keep driving all the way to the coast.  A little more than an hour later, we arrived in Honfleur.  Honfleur is a concrete harbor with one row of historic buildings surrounding it. Nothing but modern buildings anywhere beyond that.  We had a decent lunch with a glass of wine and a dessert crepe, cheaper than it would have been in Paris.  After that, there really wasn't much to do.  So we decided to drive to another coastal town named Etretat, to see some fantastic limestone cliffs we'd heard about.


But first, a couple of photographs from our visit to Rouen. Just a couple of shots from the giant cathedral, one that is famous for having been painted by Monet. Well, when we got there, this was the view we saw.

Why did Monet leave out these giant white pylons!?!?

Inside was still great. Forgive me for indulging in three different photos of the same thing.  I really like all of them.  Please add a comment to this post to help me decide which is best!

OK - now it's off to Etretat, which was about a 45 minute drive from Honfleur. We ended up going to three other towns, including Dieppe, Pourville, and some other one, but none were as nice as this. It's a very small town with a boardwalk backing a kilometer-long pebble beach, and views of fantastic limestone cliffs with spectacular arches. 

First, the weather was just so incredible that we had to go walk on the beach, then lie down and listen to the waves roll a hundred million 2-inch pebbles back and forth. Quite an amazing sound, and deeply relaxing.  We had to risk our lives for that nap. The sign said "Save your life, don't go under the cliffs, as parts can break off at any time." But it was worth it.

Perfect spot for a nap.

The photo below is taken facing the other way.  The picture sucks, but you can see where we walked from the nap spot, all the way along the beach and the town boardwalk, up the steps and steep path, to the top of the cliffs, and beyond the furthest visible point.  

The walk from our nap spot to the top of the cliffs...

I've always believed in long, difficult hikes to get to great scenery. It's a sort of Catholic belief system. You know, earning something makes it that much more enjoyable. So it seems almost sinful to be able to walk up to all this in 20 minutes.

A bit steep
No rails, just a 300' drop. We later saw an extremely steep trail going down between two of these vertical pillars, ending in a big ladder leaning up against the cliff to allow one to climb down the last twenty feet to the sand.

My idea of portraiture.  Seriously! There are people in this picture!  See?

This was what we came for.  We weren't disappointed.  People in this picture too!

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