Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

About to crumble

This time last year we set out for our first visit to la ‘Haute Normandie’. As you may recall, we returned to the same place in November 2009.

One of the main reasons why I wanted to go there, were the ‘Falaises d’Etretat’ (the cliffs of Etretat). Some years ago a colleague of mine had read somewhere that, because of the increasing pollution and the severe erosion caused by the constant beating of the sea wind and water, the future of the unusually shaped cliffs was in peril. Some scientists even predicted that in fifty years the cliffs would collapse, depriving the Normandy coast and the village of Etretat of its main tourist attraction. Although I don’t expect being around in fifty years, I really wanted to see these cliffs before they collapse into the sea.

March 2009: Etretat - 'L'éléphant' (the elephant), one of the two
famous cliffs. It looks like the head of the elephant sticking out
of the rock, putting his trunk into the sea ...

We left Brussels fairly early one Thursday morning with the intention to stop on the way in a village called Villers-Bretonneux, East of Amiens, to have breakfast. At the end of WWI, the village in the Somme department was liberated on April 25th, 1918 by Australian and Commonwealth troops. It was pure coincidence that this heroic event coincided with Anzac Day. Today Villers-Bretonneux has become a ‘piece of Australia in Picardie

The village is located smack on the A29 motorway and is marked by a small rest stop and gas station selling pre-packed sandwiches. We had lost quite a bit of time in a gigantic traffic jam caused by a large lorry lying on its side, blocking one of the motorway lanes. So when we finally arrived at Villers-Bretonneux it was almost 10 o’clock. As we wanted to get to Dieppe before noon, we decided to skip the planned visit of the village and the Australian war memorial and grabbed a fast snack at the rest stop.

By the time we reached Dieppe the sun was shining. We would be staying in a self-catering cottage near Saint Valéry-en-Caux, and therefore needed to do some shopping for our evening picnic: a baguette, three kinds of cheeses, some rilettes and a bottle of red wine. On the internet I had read several positive reviews about a restaurant called ‘Quai 5-7’ facing the port of Dieppe and I really wanted to try it. When we went to check it out, we were slightly disappointed by the overall look of it. Moreover, although it was well past twelve o’clock, there were no patrons inside and the two waiters were idly standing around.

The weather being sunny and reasonable warm, we decided to have an aperitif on the terrace of a nearby bar. If you’ve ever been to Dieppe, you know that the quays are lined with restaurants. Contrarily to the ‘Quai 5-7’, they were all rather busy, which worried us even more … Sitting in the early spring sun sipping our aperitif, we asked the landlord of the little bar if he could recommend a restaurant. When I mentioned ‘Quai 5-7’ he just shrugged his shoulders. “I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never been there myself”, he replied. He suggested the ‘Tout va Bien’ (All’s well) just two restaurants further up the quay.

When we had finished our drinks, we returned to my first choice, to see if in the meantime any patrons had shown up. As the place still looked rather empty we thought it wiser to follow the barkeeper’s advice and have lunch at the ‘Tout va Bien’.

(to be continued)



Anonymous said...

I just love Etretat. I sure hope the falaise isn't going to disappear anytime soon.

Hope you are enjoying this spring weather.

ladybird said...

Dedene, They looked just fine to me last year, but then I'm not a geologist.

Yes, spring has set in here too. We had 18°C today, but being in the office all day, I hardly had the time to enjoy it. Tomorrow is my day off. So let's hope it lasts till then :)

chm said...

Reading your blog, it came back to my mind there are arches in Etretat, one at each end of the beach. The northernmost one is called la Porte d'Amont and the southernmost other is called la Porte d'Aval. Next to the porte d'aval is a remnant of the cliff call l'Aiguille, the needle. Your picture shows the porte d'aval and behind it l'aiguille.

Maurice Leblanc, a mystery writer of the turn of the last century wrote les 'Aventures d'Arsène Lupin, gentleman cambrioleur.' One of these adventures is called L'Aiguille creuse, the hollow needle.
Arsène Lupin converted the needle in a several story living quarters where he could hoard all the treasure he keeps stealing here and there, and enjoy them.

Here is a link for numerous old postcards of Etretat:,132.html

ladybird said...

Chm, thank you for sharing this link. These black and white postcards are great. Compared to today's views you can see the effect of the erosion. So maybe the scientists are right about the uncertain future of the cliffs.