Day 4 continued: So after we left the general vicinity of Paris it became farmland and some of the prettiest farmland I’ve seen. For our entire first day, google maps took us on back country highways! Not one toll road in site which was a plus but the downside was there was an astonishing lack of gas stations! Which is how we came to the photo above. We both needed a snack and I needed a toilet so we stopped in a little town at a market where I was informed the public W.C. was right across the road. Awesome! That was it guys. haha Just little stalls with a hole in the ground that neither had toilet paper nor flushing capabilities and the urinals were open air even more so. Quite exciting let me tell you. (needless to say napkins were also purchased at said market haha)
Country side and this was probably the more mediocre stuff. I’m talking rolling hills and loads of tree-lined roads in the best areas.
And these little country roads bring us to stop 3: The town of Fécamp (which is just about to the sea, so pretty far north)
Main reason for stopping here? We were just passing through and saw this cool structure and signs posted about so figured we’d stop and stretch our legs. As the sign designates, Fécamp’s claim to fame is for the great celebration that was had on Easter 1066 by William the Conqueror following the Battle of Hastings (battle that united Normandy and England under one hat.)
The ruins of Fécamp castle which was built in the 10th century. This is the main site, which you can walk around the perimeter of but not much in the way of exploring.
Another view of the castle ruins
We walked around Fécamp, explored a little park, and grabbed a few croissants from a bakery to snack on when we hit the road again. All in all it’s a great little spot to stop and stretch your legs on your journey to the North. (I didn’t know it at the time, but the abbey in Fécamp looks really beautiful. I wish we’d had time to visit it so if you go, consider adding the abbey to your to-do list and let me know what you think!)
20 more minutes on the road and we’d reached my ultimate, favorite destination: Étretat. Not only does it have WWII history ties (which I always enjoy learning about) but… well you’re about to see the landscape is spectacular. The sign above reads:”
WHERE DURING THE 1914-1918 WAR A BRITISH AND THEN AN AMERICAN HOSPITAL WERE ESTABLISHED WHERE FOREVER REST 540 BRITISH SOLDIERS OF THE FIRST GREAT WAR. WHERE ON SEPTEMBER 27 1944 THE MEN ON THE 5IV HIGHLAND DIVISION ATTACHED TO GENERAL EISENHOWER’S ARMIES ARRIVED AS LIBERATORS AND WHERE IN 1945 THE AMERICAN CAMP PALL MALL WAS SITUATED. EXPRESSED TO GREAT BRITIAN AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IT’S GRATITUDE AND FRIENDSHIP.”
First Étretat tip: plan on parking being a bit nuts in the summer. We circled through the town once finding NOTHING on the street until we made our way into the actual main parking lot for the beach where we lucked out as a spot had JUST become free. We saw several other lucky ducks after us too so probably late afternoon, early evening is your best bet to find an open spot. Parking in the car park was funny as it cost 1 euro for an hour or 3 euros for 2 hours… We guessed this was a strategy to get people to pay more since they figured you wouldn’t want to keep coming back to the car to pay. lol After we parked we headed straight for the cliffs on the right (or the East). Just follow the “board walk” to the end and you’ll see these stairs (above.) It’s only paved the first bit, then it’s sort of a “dirt stair/trail mix” which was fine with me!
The view from the East cliffs, properly known as the Falaise d’Etretat looking West at the cliffs we’d hike up next.
The climb only took us maybe 5-10 minutes to get to this spot but I’d allow an hour to climb and explore this area.
The beautiful church: Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Guarde. The original church on this site was built back in 1854 however it was destroyed by the Germans in 1942. The current construction was completed in 1950. Still while they may have had more modern approaches to building this chapel in 1950, I can only imagine the work it took to haul up all the stone and building supplies for the original chapel.
A view of the church, the beach, and the Chemin des Dounaiers on the other side.
I can never resist going out on points, especially when they connect to a staircase leading to a solitary beach. Braden grumbled about going down steps we’d potentially have to climb back up, to go back down but I persisted in convincing him. By making him take a picture of me and then bring my camera to me. hahaha!
A lucky thing I convinced him to0, otherwise he would’ve missed out on this incredible view looking further East.
Looking down from the stairs to the area we’d end up at.
Proof he came with!
Awesome adventure stairs!
And lucky for Braden, we wouldn’t have to go back up since there was a tunnel leading back to the beach! Score!
Small (inaccessible) beach at the base of the cliff stairs.
Braden exploring on the rocks.
The tunnel is actually super long! And at first it seems like it isn’t very tall but don’t worry, both Braden and I walked through the whole thing barely ducking our heads so you’ll fit!
The exit of the tunnel on the other side. Much taller!
Climbing down the rickety ladder from the tunnel to the beach.
And we were down! We decided to take a break and lay out on the pebble beach for a while. For anyone who hasn’t experienced a pebble beach.. you’ll want water shoes. lol There were people swimming so I expect earlier in the afternoon, this makes for an idyllic swimming spot!
Looking back toward the hidden access point of the tunnel. You’d never guess it was over there!
A view from the West cliffs looking even further West at Chemin des Dounaiers. (This is why if you don’t have time to hike both and have to pick, I’d say go west as you get a view of an even more monster arch out on the ocean and more views in the long run.)
The hike up the West side starts on the opposite side of the boardwalk by these cool old military bunkers.
After reading the short plaques of WWII history we started the ascent. This side definitely took a bit longer to climb but was less steep overall.
Standing out over the point you CAN see from the beach, looking at the arch you CAN’T see from the beach.
Cool rock towers to explore!
It took me all of 5 seconds from seeing these things till I was racing down to go check them out.
It was just a small room inside the rock but still cool and the drop off from the bridge a little scary!
Braden in front of the bridge and drop off!
A view looking East this time back toward the town, beach, and Falaise d’Etretat. Can you make out the church up on the hill?
More poses as we hiked along
Dramatic white cliffs.
Another point, this time right over on top of the main arch (and no secret stair case.)
Looking further west from on top of the arch. You can barely make out the lighthouse down there. (The walking paths actually seemed to go out to it but we were losing daylight fast so missed out on potentially checking it out.)
And another favorite view of mine. This time looking East from on top of the main arch. On the other side of that cliff is the main beach/ town. See the church in the background?
Family photo with one of my favorite views
Coming back down the view of the town and part of the golf course. (Seriously best golf course views ever or what?!)
The sun setting on Étretat
Another look at the bunker in the previous photos.
And with that, we were on our way leaving a much emptier parking lot behind and with still a 90 minute drive to our apartment for the night. We ended up at a McDonald’s for dinner (don’t judge) as we got lost while my phone spazzed out and were honestly starving after eating next to nothing all day. My favorite part of the later drive was this incredible bridge as we drove to Caen. It spanned probably the widest part of the Seine river, consequently costing almost 6 euros to cross once… but still cool to think we were crossing the Seine near where the river meets ocean, when we’d previously crossed it X amount of times while in Paris.
Day 4, part 2 costs costs:
3 croissants in Fecap: 2.50 euros
Étretat car park: 3,50 for 2.5 hours
Mcdonalds Dinner: 14 euros
Expensive bridge crossing 5.40
Other tolls on the road to Caen: 3.40
Night 4 Airbnb apartment lodging: $47
Part 1 costs from previous post: $92
Day 4 total: $168 for 2 people