It doesn’t take a trip to another continent or the other end of the world to recharge your batteries, widen your horizons and clear your mind. Sometimes all it takes is a short ride in your close proximity to discover new places, to relax and – what I love to do – to sit and gaze at the sea while taking deep breaths of the salty breeze rolling in from the open sea. Last weekend was one of those opportunities where I decided to have a little weekend getaway to the coast – this time to the Normandy in northern France.
Since I am regularly traveling to Paris I have decided to not stay in the glamorous capital this time (and avoid the European Championship mania) but drive off to the north. The trip included two stops that I can warmly recommend: The first stop is a mere one hour drive from Paris and is called Giverny. Now this might sound just like a small village somewhere in the French province, but Giverny was also the place where Claude Monet lived and worked. So you know Claude Monet, you see colours, flowers, water lilies, dreamy impressionist landscapes. And you won’t be disappointed in Giverny!
Giverny is a tiny and cute village typical for the Normandy with stone houses, little alleys, quite a few galleries. But the highlight is of course Monet’s house and gardens. The famous Jardin d’Eau features the iconic pond with water lilies as in some of Monet’s most popular paintings. You can wander around and discover a plethora of flowers and other plants – it truly is a lovely experience. Another highlight is the visit to his house: You can peek into his drawing room which is so dreamy and inspiring, you almost feel like you want to have a seat and wait for Monet to appear and enjoy a coffee and chat with him. You can walk through his bedroom, guest rooms, the dining room and kitchen. Don’t miss it if you’re in that corner of France! But my biggest advice is: Buy your tickets online in advance! That’s what I did and I was pretty happy as the queue for the tickets was enormous! You want to avoid that for sure!
The next stop was the coastal town of Etretat. Another 1,5 hours of drive from Giverny through green fields, little villages and lots of cows you windle down some small cury village roads and suddenly the Channel appears in front of your eyes. Down there is Etretat, a tiny coastal town or better yet village that is pretty popular for its stunning cliffs. Some of you might remember my trip to another coastal town in the Normandy a few years ago, to Honfleur (see HERE), but Etretat is different: While Honfleur is more a little town with a buzzing port and lots of bars and restaurant, Etretat is more quiet and the main reason to go there are the cliffs and the spectacular landscape.
The famous Falaises d’Etretat (the cliffs of Etretat) are easily accessible to both sides of the little bay. Clearly marked paths and stairs lead up to the cliffs and offer spectacular views of the village as well as the Channel. To the left is the famous Port d’Aval and the Aiguille d’Etretat, a needle like rock standing solemnly in the sea. The other side is called the Porte d’Amont and you will easily spot a chapel on top of the hill from the village. Take your time and walk around on both sides. The paths lead you all the way up and down, even down to the beaches and the sights are really incredible. I couldn’t stop taking photos. Obviously.
It comes as no surprise that even Claude Monet was majorly inspired by the cliffs of Etretat. Many of his paintings feature the spectacular rock formations along the coast close to his beloved Giverny. And even though we might not have the talent nor the time to paint the beauty around us, but our quick smartphones will do their best to immortalize the breathtaking landscape in Etretat. Go there and see it for yourself!
Photography by Igor Josifovic