We left Sètes with the intention of heading directly to Honfleur, which had always been my favorite north coast town, and where F and I had spent a delightful few days 15 years ago. Spotting two McDonalds before getting to the part of town I remembered, I started to doubt. The acres of bus parks followed, then a town that seemed invaded by tourists, English menus, and pseudo-character. Honfleur has been disneyfied, so we drove over the new bridge across the estuary of the Seine, past Le Havre, and checked out Fécamp, which still seemed too much of a city, and Yport, which, though lovely, had no open hotels. We took our last chance on the little casino town of Étretat, much painted and photographed because of the beautiful falaises--high cliffs dropping in sculptural grandeur into La Manche. It turned out to be an excellent choice, and had the feeling that Honfleur once had--a working town of great natural beauty, and full of friendly people.

Our hotel in the town center looked out on the town square and marketplace. Hiking trails into the countryside and along cliff-tops were documented in abundance. The food was excellent and relatively inexpensive. The rocky beach was beautiful whether fogged in or sunny. And we arrived the week of a "Carnaval" with a street parade and theatrical pageant of great silliness and seriousness, involving, somehow, a giant octopus, Neptune, human seagulls and fish, transvestite "old ladies", scared children, marching bands, and much declaiming in a French that seemed derived from productions of Racine in Paris, rather more than from any carnival I've known. A good time was had by all.

We hiked the environs, tried several of the restaurants during several days' stay, explored the town and the beaches, popped into the casino long enough to confirm that all casinos tend towards the condition of Las Vegas, tried various local wines in our room, watched the first real rain of our trip multiply the reflections of the town square, visited the market, and took side trips to Yport for a much longer hike (see the Yport page), and Honfleur just for lunch (again, there's a separate page for this).

We've love to go back to this little town--it is what the Normandy coast is all about: seafood, norman architecture, apple brandy, and the north seas. A good stop!



Copyright© 2003 - Darrell Taylor