Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn
I closed my eyes, allowing my senses to absorb the scene surrounding me. I caught the faint smell of sea salt, heard the rhythmic sound of waves crashing into the jagged rocks below, and felt the soft carpet of lush grass below me.
If you’re looking for a weekend trip to escape from the hustle and bustle of crowded cities, like my group was, the Cliffs of Étretat is the perfect getaway. The town of Étretat is small; it’s a charming commune nestled between two cliffs. Despite the town’s minute size, there was plenty for us to see.
We started our weekend off with a short walk from our bus stop to the boardwalk. Immediately after crossing the street to the boardwalk, we were hit with the striking view of the formidable cliffs. There was a staircase that would lead us uphill to the western cliffs, but it wasn’t going to be an easy climb. We were, after all, essentially scaling the 250 foot monolith in a single uphill climb. Upon summiting the cliff, the staircase turned into a system of trails that seemed to wind up and over the green hills for miles. I couldn’t resist the temptation to just plop down on the grass and take in the scenery – the impossibly turquoise sea, the striking white of the chalky cliffs, and the seagulls flying over the water. We explored the trail system some more, finding a bridge that led into a tiny cave, and taking our time to check out every different viewpoint that the trail offered.
Having thoroughly absorbed the views that the western cliffs offered, we headed back into town for lunch. It was incredibly intriguing to see so much British influence in this area of France – there were fish and chips restaurants, British flags proudly flying from buildings, and quaint English-style cottages. Of course, we were going to take full advantage of this, so we grabbed fish and chips for lunch and picnicked on the beach. We wrapped up our day with the botanical gardens of Étretat where we admired the awe-inspiring and sometimes strange sculptures on display.
The next day, we had the chance to explore Rouen, the capital of Normandy. One of the tourism pamphlets our hotel gave us described Rouen as “medieval and trendy.” Though at first we chuckled at the oxymoron – how could something be both medieval and trendy – we soon came to realize that despite being an oxymoron, medieval and trendy was an apt description of Rouen.
Walking through the streets of Rouen was like being plunged into a storybook. We came across the famous Gros Horloge, a fourteenth century astronomical clock, a memorial to the valiant Joan of Arc, and the Rouen cathedral, one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in all of Europe. It was incredibly fascinating to see the two different sides of Rouen. The city was steeped in history, but at the same time, a lively and vibrant one. The streets where medieval warriors once stood are now home to chic cafes and designer stores.
Out time spent in the city of Rouen was vastly different from the day before basking in the sun on the cliffs of Étretat, but what’s more in the spirit of Georgia Tech-Lorraine than having a complete change of your surroundings each day?