Our adventure today was to be a road trip to the Normandy coast where we planned to see white cliffs similar to those on the other side of the channel at Dover and eat lunch. Unlike yesterday there was no schedule to meet so we slept a bit later and did not hurry over breakfast.
The notes from our hosts suggested the best way to visit Étretat was to eat lunch at Dormy House and drive the coastal road between there and Varengeville sur Mur before or after lunch. Majella had opted for the former and 3 hours would take us to Étretat via Varengeville in time for lunch.
It had rained through the night, was raining when we woke, and had eased but not stopped when Majella drove us out the gate around 9:30 am. As we drove toward Rouen and beyond through heavy rain, we saw small patches of blue sky appear in the distance and were hopeful that the forecast for some sun through the day might prove correct.
When we arrived at the beautiful village of Varengeville sur Mer around 11:00 am there was still a sprinkle of rain falling. Majella was looking for the view by the church that had been noted and took a side road that seemed to be going nowhere useful so we turned back and found Auberge du Ralais where we had coffee.
While we drank our coffee I managed to locate a nearby viewpoint in maps.me. We went further down the same side road we had taken before and at the end found the church of Saint Valery, perched high on a cliff with a view to more cliffs and Dieppe. By that time the sun was breaking through and we had a chance to enjoy the highlights on the white cliffs. The church and associated graveyard were old and interesting in their own right. The church opened from ground level and stepped down. The pews were arranged in small enclosures that may have been used by families.
No trip to the coast would be complete without Majella testing the waters. From Varengeville sur Mer we drove on to Sainte Marguerite sur Mer where the cliffs had disappeared and the road ran along the edge of the sea. It was overcast and blustery, not an ideal day for the beach, and the beach was not sand but rocks. Nevertheless, Majella and Marie-Françoise went down to the edge of the water. Majella may have dipped her hand in the water but they both retreated rapidly when one of the small waves broke further up than they expected.
We made one more stop along the beach stretch at Saint Aubin. The beach there gave us a view of cliffs including one where a large chunk had fallen away and was resting at the foot of the cliff on the beach. It was windy, cool and threatening rain. Moreover, it was after midday and we had some distance to make to Étretat and lunch. Majella took off as quickly as she could given the prevailing conditions of narrow winding roads and slow traffic.
The notes from our hosts had given the name of the restaurant in Étretat, Dormy House, and the street. The GPS took us to Étretat and we need not have worried about the rest. As we drove down the main street a large sign for Dormy House appeared on the hillside at the far end of town. Majella drove us up the hairpin driveway, parked, and we gaped at the view.
We had not booked but it was after 1:30 pm by then and there was no trouble getting a table for four by a window with a view to the Porte d’Amont. The open arch at the foot of that cliff is the smallest of the three in the area but the presence of the church on the clifftop adds to the spectacle and we were fortunate that the sun appeared at that time to add lustre to the while chalk cliffs. It was a spectacular backdrop for lunch.
Lunch was no less spectacular. None of us was up to eating a full 3 course menu so we had main courses with glasses of rosé for Majella and Bordeaux red for Marie-Françoise and me. Roland stayed with water. The meals were preceded by a small serving of celery soup, served cold, to refresh the palate. Roland and Marie-Françoise had lamb cutlets served on a bed of mash chick peas with other vegetables accompanying them. I had the beef which was tender and served under a carefully arranged topping of anchovies, mushrooms, potato crisps, and caper berries with a few other additions. Majella had the veal which was uncooked but had been marinated in lemon. It was similarly covered in an arrangement of accompaniments. We capped that off with coffees that were served with biscuits and orange jellies. It was a fine way to celebrate our last day with Marie-Françoise and Roland and what will probably be our last gourmet meal in France on this segment of our travels.
After lunch we tried to drive to the carpark near the church on top of the cliff above Porte d’Amont but the road was closed. We drove a few kilometres back along the coast without finding an alternative viewpoint so we turned back to Étretat and eventually found a parking space at the back of town. We walked to the foreshore where we were able to get clear views of both arches, Porte d’Amont and Porte d’Aval, and L’Aiguille (the needle) near the latter. At Majella’s suggestion we climbed the steps and path to the top of Porte d’Amont which afforded us wider views of both features and the golf course on the cliff top behind Porte d’Aval. That would be one for our golfing friends to enjoy. The small church is an interesting stone construction but was not open.
We walked back down from the cliff and through town to the car. By that time it was a little after 5:00 pm and the initial estimate on the GPS was for a 170 km and 2.5 hour drive home. We set off but after I adjusted the settings to accept tolls it dropped back to a much quicker 110 km and a bit more than 90 minutes with a good part of that at 130 kph on the toll road.
Dinner was a simple affair of fresh bread, salad, sausage, and hard boiled eggs. We opened the bottle of Bordeaux that Jean Yves had given me much earlier on our travels. It seemed silly to risk that to the perils of travel to England on Saturday and it was good to share it with friends.