On the northern coastline of France, the Alabaster Coast, chalky pockmarked and crevices cliffs (falaises), sweeping crescent beaches and an iridescent ocean have inspired great French writers and painters for centuries. Visitors walk the chalky cliffs to discover three yawning arches– natural bridges to the sea. With centuries of erosion, enamel white columns of rock elegantly lean into the ocean with the majesty of an elephant drawing its trunk to water.
To crown its majestic beauty, nature adds a 100 metre high exclamation mark with the marble white aiguille creuse (hollow needle). Nearby a narrow rock tunnel hides a tragic tale from over 200 years ago.
In 1792 a Swedish ship was smashed into the Étretat rocks by a violent storm. Unable to assist in the savage weather for 24 hours, the local population watched helplessly as the bodies of shipwrecked sailors washed ashore. Carrying one sailor to his grave from a narrow cave, he miraculously came back to life, having lay unconscious for hours protected somewhat by the cave.
Today trou d l’homme (or manhole) is a narrow natural tunnel that leads to Jambourg Beach. Only passable at low tide, visitors should carefully time their visits to match the tides.
Standing atop Falaise d’Amont, enjoy the changing light as Monet so superbly captures in his works of Etretat – the pebbly arcing beach and the craggy white cliffs reflecting sunlight into a shimmering azure ocean.