So, during my last few days in France, I decided to visit a few places in Haute Normandie – Upper Normandy region in the North of France. Apparently it is one of the most beautiful regions in France, and I was living in the captial of this region- Rouen.
I was living quite close to the train station, so it was good idea to do some day trips.
Me and my housemate, we decided to go to one of the many seaside towns in the region. The sea in the North-West of France is La Manche – The English Channel, which separates England from France. And there are many small towns that run along the coast. So we could choose to go anywhere for this sea.
Most of my colleagues had suggested going to a small seaside town called ‘Etretat’ . The word sounds beautiful in itself. I definitely didn’t know what they meant by ‘it is beautiful’. I didn’t know what to expect . But I took their word for it, and decided to give it a go.
Now to reach Etretat, we had to go to Le Havre, another seaside town, famous because the during World War II the British bombed the city to prevent its use by the Germans for an invasion of England. It is also a major seaport and inspired many French authors of the 19th and 20th century.
About this town, one of my French colleagues had said : ‘ Either you will hate Le Havre, or you will love it .’ And she was so right when she said that. There was no in between.
We reached Le Havre around noon and went straight to the stone beach, walking most of the distance from the train station.
It was gloomy, I’d say. No, it wasn’t the weather. But just the feel of the town. I knew in that moment that I didn’t like this town at all. Because there was no in-between. It seemed like a ghostly town even during mid day. And then I thought of the fact that this town was bombed during the second world war. .. Maybe places that have suffered reflect the suffering long after its over? Thats the conclusion I could come to.
The Le Havre beach was as gloomy as the streets of the same. Sea and stones. Sea and stones. And those were the only colours – Light blue, gray and white. There was sadness all around. A beautiful sadness. A sadness that touched my heart. I looked all around at the dry colours and mu thoughts turned to the emptiness of life. I wouldn’t say one shouldn’t visit this place. Because it is not everywhere that you get to see and feel the blandness and light shades of life.
Next, we had to take a bus for the much loved French town called Etretat. And what a bus journey that was! All around the French countryside, the small streets, the huge green fields, the pretty houses and what not! I didn’t realize it was quite far because I was loving the bus ride so much, accompanied by music. Music always adds much more happiness to the already existing feeling.
After a while, we reached the destination. Etretat, right in front of the Mairie.
I could already see so many tourists. As we walked into the pretty little streets, it seemed as if this town was only meant for tourists! So many of them! And to please them, you could see fancy restaurants and cafes and souvenir shops, selling the best of Normandy. Bottles of Cider, and the special cups to serve them. Ahem, by the way, I love Cider!
Just like many other towns that I had seen in Europe, this one too seemed like a fairtyale town. There’s definitetly something about these European towns and the streets! A complete contrast from India, the country that I come from.
Soon, we reached the beach, the main attraction of the town. And there, my heart skipped a beat. To say it was gorgeous would be an understatement. It was really, truly, breathtaking!
Now you’d wonder what could be so breathtaking about a beach. A stone beach, actually.
Well, the cliffs were what made the beach look absolutely gorgeous!
Those weren’t just any normal cliffs. They were artistic. As though someone had painted them such. Guy De Maupassant, the famous French author had said that one of the big cliffs looks like its an elephant putting its trunk in the sea. And it really did! Haha. Thats like naturegasm for nature lovers!
I stood there for a long time, looking at the beautiful views and the happy people all around. And ofcourse, since it was stone beach, we spent a long time throwning stones in the water to see who can throw it the farthest. Yes, I can be that kiddish. But come on, its funnnnn! 😀
Next, we climbed the cliff. From far away down at the beach, I could see the greenery up on the cliff, and that ofcourse, inspired me to go up there, although we were already quite tired by then. But you see, views from cliffs are always worth the effort and energy.
And definitely, it was. One could see the other elephant cliff from above and also, the whole town and the beach, which looked absolutely amazing. And there, I was high on nature. Both physically and metaphorically.