The weather actually behaved itself for what turned out to be a great weekend trip to Normandie in celebration of Emma’s 21st. Our road trip gang was a pretty international bunch, representing France, Poland, Hungary, Martinique, Spain, and England of course! This is definitely one of the things I have loved the most about this year – meeting people from every corner of the globe and realising how much I still have to learn and see.
Bundled into two cars – it was rather cosy to stay the least – we hit the road and headed to our first stop: Étretat. This quaint little seaside town located on the coast of the English Channel is best known for its jagged limestone cliffs and pebbled beaches. The scene was very much like that seen on a postcard: sun rays were beaming down onto the clear blue waters lapping gently onto the shore lined with traditional wooden rowing boats, whilst cheery locals and tourists promenaded with an ice cream in hand. After hiking up our first cliff, it was lovely just to chill up the top admiring the wonderful view whilst listening to the sea and breathing in the fresh seaside breeze. Having adventured around France quite a lot this year, I think my inner city rat has finally well and truly understood the benefits of countryside/small town life. I have to admit it’s pretty nice just to take off for the weekend and escape from chaos and humdrum that comes with living in a capital.
After taking a quick tour around the town and quenching our thirst with some cidre (one of Normandy’s famous specialities), we made our way to Le Havre, which is where we were to stay for the night. In comparison with the picturesque Étretat, it’s not the prettiest of towns – it’s rather industrial due to its large port. That being said, I cannot claim to have made a thorough judgement having only gone out there for the evening before packing up the next morning. After sorting out our rooms in the hostel, we went in search of food, which surprisingly turned out to be quite a mission. Trawling the streets looking for something that was open and not a kebab shop, we soon began to give up hope as place after place was either closed or no longer serving (it was verging on 11). Finally we found a late night crêperie with a friendly owner who then even gave us advice on and directions for where to go out afterwards. We ended up in a bustling bar and had a chilled but entertaining night of chatter and story sharing. I found myself in an intense bataille de pouces (thumb war) yelling un, deux, trois, bras de fer chinois! (one, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war) Oh, how the childhood memories came flooding back…
After hauling ourselves out of bed after early the next morning, it was time to pile once again into the cars for our next stop: Mont Saint-Michel. Although I had already been there last November, it was no less impressive the second time round. The little island is really quite a marvel of curiosity which draws in millions of tourists every year. It is also the subject of traditional yet nowadays good-humoured rivalry between Normans and Bretons, who dispute over the boundary marked by Couesnon river between the two regions and to whom the famous Mont therefore belongs. The walk up through the cobbled streets shows how much the miniscule village depends on its tourism, lined with shops and cafes aiming to attract its visitors. As always, we all took full advantage of free entry on offer for European residents or students under 26 and visited the abbey placed right on the highest point of the island measuring over 90 metres. After a lovely weekend filled with natural wonders, it was soon time to head back to Paris and fall back into the city routine.