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Étretat
France > Normandy > Seine Maritime > Côte d'Albâtre > Étretat

Panoramic view of Etretat : Click to enlarge picture
Etretat
ÉTRETAT, another 20km west towards Le Havre, is a very different kettle of fish to Fécamp. Here the alabaster cliffs are at their most spectacular – their arches, tunnels and the solitary "needle" will doubtless be familiar from tourist brochures – and the town itself has grown up simply as a pleasure resort. There isn't even a port of any kind: the seafront consists of a sweeping unbroken curve of concrete above a shingle beach. If you want to stay in a Etretat hotel, check this website.

Thanks partly to its superb setting, and the lovely architectural ensemble that surrounds its central place Foch, Étretat is a very pretty little place. The old wooden market halles still dominate the main square, the ground floor now converted into souvenir shops, but the beams of the balcony and roof are bare and ancient. As soon as you step onto the beach you'll see the cliff formations to either side. To the west, on the Falaise d'Aval, a straightforward if precarious walk leads up the crumbling side of the cliff, with lush lawns and pastures to the inland side and German fortifications on the shore side extending to the point where the turf abruptly stops, occasionally ripped by the latest fall of cliff. From the windswept top you can see further rock formations and possibly even glimpse Le Havre, but the views back to the village sheltered in the valley, and the Falaise d'Amont on its eastern side – which Maupassant compared to an elephant dipping its trunk into the ocean – are what stick in the memory. The cliff itself presents an idyllic rural scene, with a gentle footpath winding up the green hillside to the little chapel of Notre-Dame.

Étretat's tourist office is alongside the main road through the centre of town, on place M.-Guillard (mid-June to mid-Sept daily 10am–7pm; mid-Sept to mid-June Mon–Sat 10am–noon & 2–6pm; tel 02.35.27.05.21, www.etretat.net). Four hotels crowd onto the corners of place Foch, all significantly cheaper than the grand sea-view places. Much the most picturesque is the Hôtel la Résidence, 4 bd René-Coty (tel 02.35.27.02.87; under €55), a dramatic half-timbered old mansion that has beautiful wooden carvings decorating its every nook and cranny – the quality of rooms however is variable, and few are as elegant as the facade. More dependable is the Hôtel des Falaises, opposite at 1 bd René-Coty (tel 02.35.27.02.77; €30–40) – in fact from its modernized rooms you get a better view of the Résidence than if you're actually staying there. L'Escale, on place Foch itself (tel 02.35.27.03.69; €40–55), has simple but pleasant rooms, and a snack restaurant downstairs specializing in moules frites and crêpes. The grand, modern Dormy House, perched above town on the coastal route du Havre to the west (tel 02.35.27.07.88, www.dormy-house.com; €55–70), offers comfortable rooms with superlative views, and a good restaurant.

Campers will find the Camping municipal (tel 02.35.27.07.67; closed mid-Oct to late March) 1km out on rue Guy-de-Maupassant. Much the best restaurant in town is the Galion, distinct from the adjoining Résidence at 4 bd René-Coty (tel 02.35.29.48.74; closed Tues evening, Wed & mid-Dec to mid-Jan), where the €20 menu makes a definitive introduction to all that's best in Norman cuisine.

Alternate spellings:: France, Étretat, Étretat, Etretat

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