On the north coast of France, Étretat is renowned for its striking cliff formations, carved from white cliffs, the same stuff as the White Cliffs of Dover. These include the Porte d’Aval arch, and The Needle, a fine needle-like sea stack, 71 metres high.
To the north, the cliffside Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde has dramatic views. Nearby, Le Clos Lupin villa was once home to French novelist and writer of short stories, Maurice Leblanc.
He is known primarily as the creator of the fictional gentleman thief and detective Arsène Lupin, often described as a French counterpart to Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation Sherlock Holmes.
But it is unquestionably the amazing Normandy cliffs that steal the show here. Yet there is far more to Étretat than cliffs and beach. The resort itself is charming, with fine hotels and Le Vieux Marché a remarkable wooden market hall.
Things to do in Etretat
The old market square
The square is dominated by a fine timber-frame covered market which holds charming boutiques inside. Plaques on the building recall British and American wartime links to Étretat. Notably, a British hospital was set up in town during World War I and more than 500 British soldiers died there.
Le Clos Arsène Lupin
Even if you are not familiar with the amusing, much-loved gentleman burglar character, Arsène Lupin, and his accomplice, Grognard, created by Maurice Leblanc, it proves a delight to discover all about them at Le Clos Lupin, a fine townhouse once owned by their creator.
English-speaking visitors are provided with specially adapted materials so that you can enjoy the playful mystery tour to the full. Young and old alike should be entertained by the detective adventure you embark upon.
Nungesser et Coli Monument
This astonishing needle-like monument set up behind Notre-Dame de la Garde in 1963 recalls a pair of French aviation heroes from World War I who, in 1927, attempted the first flight across the Atlantic. Nungesser and Coli’s plane, Oiseau Blanc, was last seen flying over the white cliffs here.
Les Lardins d’Étretat
The famous actress Madame Thébault created this garden in 1903, inspired by the Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, who himself was a keen gardener. He is the one to whom the garden owes its ambience and originality, faithfully preserved to the present day.
At the heart of the natural wonder of Normandy, on the top of the cliff towering along the Alabaster Coast, hides a villa, built in this splendid garden that sprawls across the White Cliffs.
Madame Thébault named it Roxelana, in commemoration of the role that had catapulted her to the heights of cinema stardom. Roxelana was the beloved wife of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Les Jardins d’Étretat overhang the famous Amont Cliff, which attracts painters from all over the world. It was on the very terraces of Les Jardins d’Étretat that Claude Monet painted his Cliffs at Etretat series, regarded among the greatest works of art ever produced.
Alexander Grivko is a landscape architect, a creative power behind Les Jardins d’Étretat. Originally from Russia, he is the art director of the garden design and landscaping company Il Nature with representations in Russia, France and the UK.
In 2016, Les Jardins d’Étretat in Normandy was laid out in partnership with a new business associate, collector of contemporary art. It is now the first garden, existing within the planned international network of art gardens open to the public.
The Avatar Garden
In Sanskrit, ‘Avatar’ means the descent of the divinity upon Earth, namely, the guardian of creation, incarnate in the universe.
This arrangement is symbolically set at the entrance to the gardens, balancing between the real world and the gateway to the surreal fairy-tale made of plant sculptures, where even the trees make music.
The Emotions Garden
This garden has been modelled after Marie-Antoinette’s first French oyster park, which historically lies at the foot of Les Jardins d’Étretat and is now home to a set of expressive faces. The garden plants are shaped to resemble a seabed.
The Impressions Garden
This historical part of the garden overlooks the Étretat cliffs. The plants seem to embody the flowing water, along with the tides and ebbs of the English Channel washing over the cliffs.
This is the vantage point from which Claude Monet made a series of stunning landscapes while working on the upper terrace of the garden
This is the meeting point for artists, where one may discover magical plants inspired by the world of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and the yew arches that symbolize the famous Aval Cliff of Étretat.
The Zen Garden
According to Zen philosophy, the garden embodies the harmony between man and nature. The garden houses a sound installation, evoking the ideas of Gesamtkunstwerk.
Hanging in the air, these earthenware pieces add to the calming sonic ambiance of the garden, as the word ‘art’ resounds in every language imaginable, both dead and alive, to represent the divine harmony of creation.
La Manche Garden
This centrepiece is composed of hedge mazes, shaped like waves, crashing against the cliffs and arches of Etretat.
The garden majestically towers above the lower slopes of Les Jardins d’Étretat, imitating the rocky layers of the White Cliffs of Normandy.