Today we are blessed with countless famous Claude Monet paintings of the Alabaster coast, and in particular Etretat. He never seemed to tire of the Normandy coastline and returned again and again to capture the views from different perspectives and in different seasons and times.
But Monet was not the only painter to fall in love with the majestic white cliffs on the Alabaster coast. Other impressionism painters like Eugene Boudin, Camille Pissarro, Gustave Courbet, Albert Lebourg and Berthe Morisot to name a few, also marvelled upon the beauty of this part of Normandy and immortalized the white cliffs on their canvases as well.
Once you get a glimpse of the Alabaster coast, it becomes obvious why Claude Monet and the other impressionists set up their easels outdoors to paint these cliffs. They are natures sculptured wonders carved from thousands of years of continual assaults from thrashing seas and gusting winds. How could one not be inspired by such beauty!
The Alabaster Coast
The Alabaster Coast, also known as Côte d’Albâtre, is a 130km long coastline. Its name comes from the alabaster white limestone which makes the cliffs appear white along this part of the English Channel.
The Alabaster Coast starts at Cap de la Hève and ends at the Bay of the Somme. The most famous fishing villages and seaside resorts within this coastal area are Etretat, Fécamp and Dieppe . The Alabaster Coast is also the mirror version of the White Cliffs of Dover in England!
Things to do in the Alabaster Coast
The most iconic town to visit on the Alabaster coast in Normandy is Etretat. The little town of Etretat, once a fishing village, has always been a magnet for painters for centuries and later for photographers.
Even after viewing hundreds of photos of the Etretat coastline on the Web, nothing compares with seeing it for yourself. It is breathtaking!!
Take your time and walk along the countless trails that provide you with different ways to view those white, chalky cliffs and rocks, that fall vertically into the sea. Make sure you also take the short hiking trail leading up the cliff to get the superb views from above…. you will be left speechless.
If you still have energy, climb the 341 steps to the chapel and monument, as the views are heavenly. For more details press here
Etretat town is also beautiful and worth exploring. You will see beautiful centuries-old typical Norman half-timbered buildings. The small streets are dotted with many charming shops selling local wares and souvenirs. Also there are an abundance of delicious seafood restaurants serving their daily catch.
Pop Into Dieppe – the oldest Seaside Resort in France
It would be a pity to visit the Alabaster Coast without seeing Dieppe. This town was once THE place to be in the 19th century. It was here in Dieppe that the rich and famous discovered the enjoyment of sunbathing and swimming (well the women were not exactly wearing bikinis!!).
Today, it is worth visiting for it’s beautiful port, lined with the most delicious seafood restaurants. The small town is also known for its stunning architecture, picturesque beaches, lovely churches and its rich maritime history. Dieppe is also famous for its food!!! So come and visit on an empty stomach!!! For more information, press here.
Hiking Trails on the Alabaster Coast
The National GR21 hiking trail is 186km in length, starting from Le Havre, a Unesco World Heritage Site (for its post-World War II modernist architecture) and ending in Le Tréport. This beautiful trail showcases the best of Normandy’s stunning white cliff coastline, its lush green countryside, architecture and World War Two sites.
Of course, you do not need to walk the entire trail but hike sections only (choosing trails according to difficulty and length). All the GR21 trails are clearly marked in red and white and you can obtain trail maps at the tourist offices.
If you decide to do a multi-day hike, it is easy to find accommodation and supplies in the towns en route. There is no better way than experiencing the magnificent scenery of the Alabaster coast than walking outdoors!
Enjoy! and Bon Voyage!!
Going on a Road Trip to Normandy? Check Out My Tips & Trips of Where to Go & What to See!