Day 1: Ètretat

July 5, 2018

We made it to France! Having arranged a direct flight to Paris, we successfully eliminated any dramatic airline stories from this first blog entry. Instead, let us tell you that we prepared for the trip by purchasing France-themed M&Ms and doing a ceremonial Chartreuse shot before we headed to O’Hare!

France trip pre-gaming

Upon arriving at Charles de Gaulle International, we deplaned, passed through customs, and found our bags happily circling around the conveyor belt awaiting pick up. CDG is not the easiest airport to navigate — and it was definitely a zoo today for some reason — but we eventually managed to exchange some money and find a Relay store with the SIM card we wanted. (Fun fact: Setting up SIM cards is super easy for everybody on the planet except us)

Picking up our rental from Europcar, they told us they did not have anything similar to the Toyota hybrid model we signed up for (boo!) but in exchange, they offered us a Mercedes C Class (nice!), which also came with navigation, buying us the extra time we needed to get the data plan working on the SIM card. (Seriously, how does everybody else understand SIM cards better than us?)

I guess we’ll accept the Mercedes instead of a Toyota

Matt handled the Parisian traffic with ease, despite the fact that motorcycles appear to have no inclination or legal duty to acknowledge Rules of the Road over here. After a comfortable and scenic drive north, we made it to Ètretat just before 5PM. Navigating narrow streets, we found La Castel De Terrasse and admired the grandeur of the place.

Castel de la Terrasse, our humble abode tonight

Our host Estelle introduced us to the resident seagulls (yes, that’s right) and explained why our guest room is themed after famous French writer Maurice Leblanc. She also suggested the best way to explore the Cliffs De Ètretat and where to find the best seafood.

These boats aren’t going to sail themselves people!

Once a popular retreat for impressionist artists such as Monet and Manet, the Cliffs de Ètretat are still a popular tourist destination. Before dinner, we hiked up part of the western cliff(s) called Falaise D’Aval to set down some of the natural splendor.

Looking west from Falaise D’Aval at La Manne Forte


Humans for scale! Falaise D’Amont In distance


La Chambre des Demoiselles and Ètretat beach

We walked back to town for our dinner reservation at La Marie Antoinette. We bravely tried the oysters, but stuck to cooked fish for our main course. We also had our first French bread and French bottle of wine, so I’d say dinner was a success.

Good oysters. Delicious seafood. And check out that dog in a suit!

Afterwards, in preparation for sunset, we walked back to the cliffs and explored Falaise D’Amont to the east. We hiked up past the church, beyond the field of dairy cows, then back down to the beach via a rocky staircase and a small 40ish-yard tunnel through the cliff.

Chapelle Norte-Dame de la Garde


Shadows climb the cliffs


Low tide reveals hidden skulls… just checking if you’re reading the captions.


Falise D’Amont at low tide


Entrance to Le Chaudron tunnel and MarioKart shortcut.


Watch out for the super rare rock jellyfish


Getting a perfect shot of…


…this seagull enjoying the sun setting on Falaise D’Aval


Golden hour sinks below La Mancha (English Channel)

Throughly impressed with the views and satisfied with our hike and dinner, we walked back to the Castel de Terrasse to end the night. Day One was a success (amazing weather!) and we are hoping to keep the trend going.

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