I have been writing posts about the towns along the white cliffs of the Alabaster Coast (Côte d'Albâtre) and I thought I would provide a little overview and some practical information on how to get there from Paris. The Pays de Caux is a plateau of Upper Cretaceous chalk, like that which forms the North and South Downs in southern England. It forms a rough triangle from Rouen and Le Havre on the Seine, to the south, to Dieppe in the north. The name caux is Norman for calcium carbonate or chalk and the white cliffs of the Alabaster Coast are the result of sea erosion of the plateau on the edges. The area is covered with large farms and dotted with mostly small but beautiful towns.
It has been hot in Paris so we decided to visit the Normandy coast. Étretat is best known for its cliffs, including three natural arches and the pointed “needle”. Although the 80-mile stretch of sheer cliffs between Dieppe and Etretat, in upper Normandy, is mirrored by those of the English coast of Dover, pointing to their shared geological origin, no other section of the French shoreline resembles the unique breathtaking seascape of La Côte d'Albâtre, the Alabaster Coast. These cliffs and the associated resort beach attracted artists including Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet, and were featured prominently in the 1909 Arsène Lupin novel “The Hollow Needle” by Maurice Leblanc. It is a charming seaside village with beautiful sea vistas, hiking trails and a beach, rocks in the French tradition. The rocks on the beach actually come from the white cliffs which are composed of flint. The beach stones (called rollers) have become rounded and smooth from centuries of ocean action and protect the town, it is prohibited to remove them. Two of the three famous arches are seen from the town, the Porte d'Aval, and the Porte d'Amont. The Manneporte is the third and the biggest one, and cannot be seen from the town.