Beach deli­mi­ted by high ala­ba­ster cliffs near Veu­les-les-Roses  

In order to make full use of the four days avai­la­ble, we lea­ve from Den Haag on Fri­day eve­ning. The plan is to dri­ve a long way down the road that sepa­ra­tes us from Nor­man­dy so we will begin to explo­re the region the next mor­ning. We head to Ant­werp and Brus­sels (A4, then E19, E17), fin­ding some inten­se traf­fic near Rot­ter­dam. Just past the French bor­der begins the high­way (A1) of which we tra­vel a short stretch befo­re stop­ping for the night in Cur­lu, a tiny lit­tle vil­la­ge in Picar­dy, whe­re we have pre­viou­sly found a quiet and safe pla­ce to stay, map out on Fur­go­per­fec­to.

We arri­ve just after 11 pm and the atmo­sphe­re is plea­sant and at this time the roads are deser­ted. The par­king lot whe­re we spend the night is in a clean area, in front of the illu­mi­na­ted vil­la­ge church.

Wheat fields along the way to the coa­st

After the vio­lent thun­der­storm during the night, we wake up in the mor­ning by the sound of the church bells and by the sin­ging of a roo­ster. We move to the coun­try­si­de sur­roun­ding the vil­la­ge for a quiet break­fa­st, begin­ning to plan the day, war­med by a lukewarm sun.

We head towards the coa­st and in two hours and a half, we arri­ve in Veu­les-les-Roses, a pret­ty vil­la­ge built along the shor­te­st river of Fran­ce (1100 m ove­rall length). We walk the water­way to the sea, mee­ting tho­se who once were mills and small locks. At the mouth of the river Veu­les we find an immen­se peb­ble beach and here are the fir­st whi­te cliffs of the Côte d’Al­bâ­tre. The coa­stli­ne so named goes from Le Tré­port, just nor­thea­st of whe­re we are, and ends befo­re Le Havre. From the wharfs that stand out on the dry beach, we rea­li­ze that we are at a low tide. The ran­ge — that is the dif­fe­ren­ce bet­ween high and low tide — in this area can be as high as ten meters. Retur­ning to our steps we cross the vil­la­ge again, cros­sing the road on the other side of the river whe­re we buy cri­spy baguet­tes at the bou­lan­ge­rie patis­se­rie Loue.

The Côte d’Al­bâ­tre during low tide

We move on to Fécamp, stop­ping along the road fol­lo­wing the coa­st to Veu­let­tes-sur-Mer, whe­re we enjoy a Côté Pla­ge crê­pes chil­ling on the sea­front, which is still quiet in this sea­son.

We con­ti­nue and, just befo­re the port town of Fécamp, we fol­low the signs to Cap Fagnet, a bel­ve­de­re over­loo­king the town with ample views of the steep whi­te cliffs. Here are some rein­for­ced con­cre­te con­struc­tions, Ger­man out­posts dating back to World War II. They are just the fir­st of many that we will see the next day, dedi­ca­ted to the D‑Day bea­ches.

Ala­ba­ster cliffs seen from Cap Fagnet
Cha­pel­le Notre-Dame du Salut, Cap Fagnet

Next stop is the most cha­rac­te­ri­stic pla­ce of the Côte d’Al­bâ­tre: Étre­tat and its cliffs on the sea. We park in the vil­la­ge, near the sta­tion, and walk to the Falai­se d’A­mont — acces­si­ble on foot, by shut­tle train or by car — which offers spec­ta­cu­lar views. This fir­st high point is north of Étre­tat whi­le south of the vil­la­ge is visi­ble the Falai­se d’A­val, our next desti­na­tion. We descend from the Falai­se d’A­mont along the path lea­ding to the beach and wal­king along the water­front. The beach is in peb­bles that some ban­ners for­bid to col­lect and take away; some­bo­dy dares to take a swim.

We arri­ve at the foo­thills of the Falai­se d’A­val abo­ve a cha­rac­te­ri­stic rock for­ma­tion simi­lar to an ele­phant trunk. Not far from the coa­st, the­re is ano­ther nota­ble for­ma­tion sha­ped as a pin­na­cle, made famous by Mau­ri­ce Leblanc as a legen­da­ry hiding pla­ce of the trea­su­res sto­len by Arsè­ne Lupin (in the novel the pin­na­cle is hol­low). The climb to this second pro­mon­to­ry is also worth more than the fir­st, offe­ring good views of the coa­st, the pin­na­cle and the trunk.

Ala­ba­ster cliffs clo­se to the Falai­se d’A­val
The Falai­se d’A­val with the pin­na­cle and the cha­rac­te­ri­stic ele­phant trunk for­ma­tion
Sea­gulls by the sea­si­de

After rela­xing into the sun on the gras­sy cliff top, we get back to the car in the late after­noon and head back to Hon­fleur, our desti­na­tion for the night. With a bit of regret we skip the plan­ned stop in Le Havre, a UNESCO site kno­wn for the rein­for­ced con­cre­te archi­tec­tu­re dating to the post-war recon­struc­tion. The road pas­ses to the Pont de Nor­man­die (toll 5.4 €) that with its 850 m span is the wide­st brid­ge in Euro­pe.

On our arri­val in Hon­fleur, we find out that the two cam­p­grounds are alrea­dy clo­sed, pro­ba­bly becau­se we are in low sea­son. We deci­de to spend the night in the free par­king lot of the Pla­ge du Butin, whe­re we have din­ner with cri­spy baguet­tes and a selec­tion of local chee­se.

Sun­set over Le Havre har­bor