“Étretat is becoming more and more amazing. Now is the real moment….” Claude Monet, February, 1883.
My soulstrolling pal Kayce Hughlett prompted our weekend adventure from Paris to Normandy. Following her intuition, we found ourselves driving through the countryside from Trouville/Deauville to Étretat on a Friday evening in October.
A mutual friend adores Étretat and recommended a visit. Having heard via other writings and ‘tourist’ tips we headed to Honfleur on route, thinking we may stay there for the night, explore and soulstroll Étretat the following day. Driving into Honfleur we both felt a strong ‘no’ – yes it was a beautiful setting, but there were crowds of people, and a powerful internal resistance from both of us that this was not the right fit.
What to do? Pull over, check booking.com et voilá: Kayce found a room at Domaine St. Clair. It was dark, Kayce’s phone battery was low, and google maps was dimming as we headed off a small side road, wondering aloud: ‘where exactly is our hotel?’ Headlights catching a small sign: Domaine Saint Cloud.
Fantastique! The hotel concierge checked us in, scurried us out one door, across a path, through another door, then up some red carpeted winding stairs to our room: we opened the windows to see the lights shining off of The Manneport.
Giddy with delight we headed to the hotel’s restaurant where the chef treated us to an incredible meal. Upon mentioning she was vegetarian, the server promptly closed Kayce’s menu and said something to the effect of ‘this is an easy decision for you.’ The chef crafted a feast.
I hadn’t noticed how the city noise of Paris had been affecting me until I awoke to birds chirping outside the open window. Ah, quiet.
The sunshine Saturday forecast slowly moved into a foggy afternoon. We drove down into Étretat and strolled to the center of town. Magical: bistros, cafés, brick homes, small shops, rock cliffs, pathways, the sea. Large rocks cover the beach and when your eyes are closed the sound of the waves on the tide, coming and going, flowing, dancing over the rocks, is like being in the presence of a symphony orchestra.
With the change in weather forecast, purchases of the classic ‘Normandy’ blue and white striped shirts were required. Following the path along the cliffs edge we climbed above town. Half moon pose was called for as we strolled our way with fellow explorers: a bride and groom, families with children, picnickers and cows.
“I believe in kindness, also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” Mary Oliver
‘Normandy, creperie, boulangerie, by the sea…’ sung in french, this ryhmes 🙂 We left Étretat in the late afternoon, driving again through Honfleur but passing it by and continuing along. With booking.com as assistant we arrived in Arromanches-les-Bains, also know as Gold Beach. Fog hovered as we walked down to the beach in the dark from our hotel.
It is sobering to walk in this place. To remember. To reflect upon battles fought here and lives lost. To walk barefoot upon the sand.This is a historic place.
Landings took place here during the Second World War. My Grandfather, George C Jones was the Chief of the Canadian Navy during this time. My mom (9 years old then) tells of how she remembers hiding in the closet in the house, due to the weight of apprehension she felt in the air, as they waited to hear the outcome on D-Day. My dad (11 at the time) was growing up in Alexandria, Scotland.
We left Arromanches-les-Bains in the early afternoon and headed to Anguerny. As serendipity and magic have their way: Kayce’s son-in-law has family in the area and it was a short drive from where we were. With the wonders of technology he guided us to a forest walk leading to an old church; one in which he had walked with his family as a child. Quiet, peaceful, birds singing, sunshine….we strolled along the winding wooded path.
Canadian by birth, I was struck by a memorial erected upon driving into Anguerny. “In memory of those gallant members of the Queen’s own Rifles of Canada who gave their lives to take, and hold Anguerny, June 6th, 1944. We will remember them.” Not something we’d gone looking for, or previously known was here. My soul saying to my heart, “I would like to return.”
Merci beaucoup Kayce Hughlett for your soulstrolling adventuresome spirit, for following your intuition and for introducing me to Mary and Max. Thank you Mary for sharing Étretat and to Max for the introduction to Anguerny. Bises!