Visiting Etretat, you’ll become familiar with the names given to the extraordinary rock formations either side of the resort, carved out of the chalk and flint of the Pays de Caux plateau: Courtine, Manneporte, Vaudieu Rock, the Aiguille de Belval… Some people think they can see the head of an elephant dipping its trunk into the waves in one spot, while others assert, as the great Normandy author Maupassant did, that a ship with all its sails unfurled could pass through the Manneporte Arch.
> The trou à l'homme
One day in 1792 a raging sea threw a Swedish ship against the cliffs here. The inhabitants of Etretat could only watch, horrified, as the vessel was wrecked before their eyes. The next day, the wind dropped and the waves withdrew, revealing a cave running up through the cliff, with the body of a man lying prostrate inside it. As he was being carried off to a common grave to be buried alongside his unfortunate comrades, he woke up and was saved. The extraordinary cavern in which he was found has now been opened up, although it is only passable at low tide, when it provides access to Jambourg Beach. Check the times of the tides before you set out.
This substantial medieval Norman church, a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles, stands away from the beach, at the back of the resort. As well as admiring the architecture, you might pay your respects at the British Commonwealth graves in the church’s cemetery.
This chapel stands out up on the heights east of the resort. Built by sailors in the 19th century, destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt in its tremendous location in the 1950s.