A large expanse of the coast of Normandy not surprisingly mirrors the English White Cliffs to the north west and is known as Albatre Cote (Alabaster Coast).
We spent a few days in this area and visited a few of the small and larger towns between Dieppe and Le Havre. Dieppe’s port area is not very interesting but it has an ancient walled city at its centre which has a degree of interest including a very large church (Notre Dame) and a Chateau along the city walls.
Fecamp is a small coastal town with another large church and abbey and the remains of a castle with links to William the Conquerer. Also interesting was the Benedictine factory and museum, which is quite an amazing building constructed by the initial manufacturer of the liquor and dedicated to the Benedictine monk responsible for the recipe. A tour through the museum and manufacturing process ends with a tasting of the interesting liquor.
Etratat is an even smaller coastal town with an interesting town centre but whose main interest lies in the amazing white cliffs on either side of its beach area. The cliffs are easily accessible by walking along the formed paths or on one side by driving to the top and walking along. On both sides there are interesting formations and paths leading down to the beaches. There is a small church and a memorial to a couple of WWII aviators along the top of one cliff.
Of course, as in other towns along this stretch of the coast, you can also get very good fresh seafood including moules marinere or moules Normandie in the many small cafes along the beachfront (no sand here of course just large pebbles which the locals guard jealously).
I found Le Havre fairly disappointing – much more modern than I expected with nothing obvious of immediate interest. To the south of Le Havre though, on the other side of the Seine, is the town of Honfleur. This is a small port town with medieaval buildings surrounding the central port area. There are several cobbled streets winding up gentle inclines from the port area with some very attractive small boutique shops many of which sell local produce (ciders) and some very good local art.
The drive to Honfleur from Rouen winds through some interesting countryside and crosses a large cable stayed bridge, the Pont de Brotonne. On the (tollway) road from Honfleur to Le Havre you cross the Pont de Normandie, another large cable stayed bridge across the widest part of the Seine. When constructed it held the record for longest span between piers and longest cable stayed bridge in the world. It lost both these titles in 199 and 2004 respectively. Nevertheless it is an interesting drive (despite the 5 euro toll), being perched high above the very wide Seine and its plain.
This part of the country has attracted many artists including Monet, who was a regular visitor to several of the port towns. It is certainly worth spending more than a few days wandering along the coast in this part of the world.