Étretat is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in Normandy in north-western France. It is a tourist and farming town situated about 32 km (20 mi) north-east of Le Havre,
Étretat is known for being the last place in France from which the 1927 biplane The White Bird (L’Oiseau Blanc) was seen. French World War I war heroes Charles Nungesser and François Coli were attempting to make the first non-stop flight from Paris to New York City, but after the plane’s 8 May 1927 departure, it disappeared somewhere over the Atlantic. It is considered one of the great unexplained mysteries of aviation. A monument to the flight was established in Étretat, but destroyed during World War II, during German occupation. A new and taller monument was constructed in 1963, along with a nearby museum
But Etretat is really famous for the cliffs which rise to 70+ m high !
The Albatre Coast owes its name to 140 km of chalky cliffs bounded by the Estuary of the Seine and that of the Somme. These cliffs are most picturesque in Etretat: The visitor is surprised by their verticalness and he founds himself confronted with a wild and a little bit austere beauty.
The Aval’s cliff
The Aval’s Door, a big arch of flint, was dug by the waves by beating the extremity of the cliff. The Needle (51m) is a witness of the geological past of the cliff of Etretat . By becoming famous, it has won over a universal reputation and inspired lots of painters and writers. Is It hollow and did it sheltered the treasures of the Kings of France which was discovered by Arsène Lupin as it is told in Maurice Leblanc’s novel : l’Aiguille Creuse
The Manneporte – even more colossal – is situated on the other side of the Aval’s Door, at the dead end of the beach of Jambourg. Guy de Maupassant used to say that a ship would have been able to go underneath The Manneporte in full sails.
At the foot of the Manneporte, a vast circular room called Le Petit Port shelters green banks watered by small fountains whose cold waters fall in cascades: The Pisseuses. The Courtine is the thick wall which rises in front of us and moves into the sea. An access was dug in direction of the Tilleul’s beach.
The Amont’s cliff
The Amont’s cliff is situated on the other side of the beach and, less than a century ago, was called la Falaise du Blanc-Trait, because of the whiteness of the chalk which is visible far away in the open sea.
How not to honour the acute sense of observation of Maupassant who in his novel “Une vie” compares the arc of Aval to an elephant dipping its trunk into the sea? Everything is there: the trunk, the head and its ears, the fore limbs and hind limbs and you can even found on its back the palanquin of a Maharadjah !
The Roc Vaudieu and The Aiguille of Belval
On the right of the Amont’s cliff, at the end of the beach, rises the very astonishing Aiguille de Belval. This one seems to stand by a miracle of balance: its foot, eaten by the waves, gets thinner and thinner. La Roche de Vaudieu , refuge of the guillemots, looks like a big section of a wall which remains all on its own in the middle of the ruins.
Patrick Advise : And don’t leave Etretat before having the famous local crêpes (pancakes) salted or sweet and drink local cider, as Normandy is a land of apples. If you are not used to drink cider, try the Cidre doux , which contains only few alcool and is very tasty with crêpes