Up on Top of the Cliffs at Etretat, Thinking of Jumpers

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Up and down the coast of Normandy there are high chalk cliffs that sometimes go as high at 200 meters. We got a chance to see these impressive natural barriers up close today as we had lunch in front of the large-pebbled beach at Fecamps.

This town of about 10,000 was once the capital of Normandy (well, in the 10th and 11th century anyway) and today it’s a tourist mecca where people come to sit by the sea and munch on big bowls of mussels. The Norman preparation of these delicate little sea creatures is in a broth of cream and cider. The mussels were much smaller and more tender than the ones we have in the US. To the right and to the left as we sat at the seaside Le Reidroc restaurant, the cliffs loomed, and out at sea we watched local schoolchildren learn to sail boats in a stiff wind.

Later we drove up the coast on a lovely winding road that took us by farms and houses with million-dollar views of the sea. We stopped at the village of Yport where we saw another dramatic cliff formation but found just down the road at Etretat an even more spectacular formation. Jean the local tourism board rep told me that every year about 10 or 12 people plunge to their deaths in suicides off of these high cliffs. The shape of the cliff looks like an elephant’s trunk, and behind the elephant is a tall high formation they call the needle.

It’s natural drama, and everywhere we looked there was more of it. This part of the world is certainly blessed with beauty. We spent the night in Le Havre, where across the street from our hotel is a manmade jaw-dropper. It’s an arts center and cinema that looks like a massive yogurt container with its top off. Kids were running up the steep sides seeing who could go up the farthest.