With mid-term break around the corner, I needed to find something that the whole family could enjoy and not break the bank; we have been travelling a lot lately and we enjoy it, my bank account, however, has a different opinion. A one week tour of Normandy, including the cliffs of Étretat and Mont St Michel, was first on our long list of one-week road trips we NEEDED to do before moving back home in a few years.
Our first road trip in 6 months took quite a few tries before finalizing the final trip. Changing dates, narrowing down the cities we explored and how much time each location required to properly explore. All of this, while trekking along our 18-month-old and 4.5 year old kids.
After driving nearly 6 hours from home just to reach the cliffs, we offloaded at our hotel and went into town for dinner. Most everything didn’t serve dinner until 7 pm so we ended up eating fairly late, but we had a chance to walk around the town of Fécamp, which was nice after being in a car for so long.
The hotel was pretty awesome too. The property is a farm in the middle of no-where; we ended up driving up a dirt road for a while and narrowly missed the driveway. In the front yard, hidden from view by thick trees, we saw a Yurts and a Tipis. We rented the Tipis. The kids got a kick out of it; there was a shared bathroom so my son had a great time walking through the “woods” to get there, a wallaby was parked at the fence directly in front of our tipi and the peacocks helped keep the kids occupied while we packed the car. Review to come shortly.
Regardless of the time, these kids go to bed, their internal clock always wakes them between 6/7 am. Munchkin woke first, played on our phone for a little while but we had left the majority of our luggage in the car since there wasn’t much room in the tipi for non-essentials, this means toys were left behind as well.
Way too early
We packed up the car when the kids were done sitting around, waiting for the sun to come up. We decided to visit the cliffs first and check out our breakfast options afterwards. This is why I always pack an assortment of snacks when we road trip; you never know when a meal is going to be postponed. In this case, it was Sunday morning and none of the cafes or restaurants served food beyond croissants until 11 am.
We arrived at the parking lot as the sun was starting to rise. There were a handful of keeners and their dogs but for a tourist site on a weekend, it was pretty empty. We changed into our waterproof hiking boots, threw some splash pants on the kids and went for a hike. The baby girl was strapped nice and tight into the hiking back-pack; I gave my baby carrier away after Munich – she is way too heavy to be strapped to my chest and refuses to sit that low when it carry it on my back. This backpack allowed her to rest higher on my shoulders and therefore had an unobstructed view of the area. P.S If your baby refuses mitts like mine, wash and tumble dry a pair of $1 gloves – instant infant gloves.
It didn’t take long to realize that Munchkin has a lot more courage than me when it comes to heights and he was walking much faster than me too. Hubby kept him in his sights and I just worried about not falling backwards – I probably should have practised walking up steps and hiking up a cliff with this pack before attempting it in the field. Oh well, practice now for Mont St Michel?
Once we were finally at the top, which really didn’t take that long, the view was amazing. The sun was rising onto the cliffs and even the kids were expressing their aww.
Surprise at the top
Way at the top of the cliff there was a fenced path; it looks like a bridge until you get to it and realize there is solid ground underneath, but nothing around it. After this bridge/path, there is another large ledge/lookout. Walk down a few steps around this ledge and you’ll come across yet another path/bridge that leads to this beautiful rock formation. If you look closely to the second image, you can see the hubby in the blue jacket, peering through a hole in the rocks, looking out over the beach. I didn’t make the journey; someone needed to photograph if from my end – sure, let’s go with that excuse.
At the beach
We were all starting to get a little hungry and our two-hour parking window was going to run out soon so we started making our way back down the cliff. The hike was much easier, obviously, but the rocks were much more slippery on the way down. Because I had a baby strapped to my back, I walked along the rough shoulder of the path. Munchkin decided to be a dare-devil and walked along the slippery centre “I would never fall, mommy, I’m big and strong”. It wasn’t steep enough for him to roll down anywhere if he did slip, he would just have a bruised butt – and ego – so I let him be. Keeping him from running down the hill was a real test of parenting; since he had yet to slip, I must be wrong about the slippery-ness of the rocks, and therefore running was the acceptable speed to climb down a giant cliff.
Once at the bottom, we took a second set of stairs to the beach floor. The baby girl desperately wanted out of the backpack and munchkin wanted to explore the cave that was around the corner. While Hubby took him to the caves, I unloaded the baby and let her play in the rocks and sand.
There is a decent sized sign at the top of the stairs that warns visitors; access the beach at your own risk because the waves are higher than expected (I can vouch for that, my shoes got overrun with water in an area I thought was safe), no dogs allowed, and do not take even a single pebble. They are scattered throughout the beach and don’t look like much but the pebbles help keep the sand on the beach, as well as keep the town from flooding. It took a few conversations to get the kids to drop the pebbles and not grab another when I wasn’t looking.
Breakfast to go
Food wasn’t exactly easy to find. Every restaurant and cafe we walked into either didn’t serve food until 11/noon , or they only served croissants. 2 out of 4 of us refuse to eat croissants so that wasn’t going to work for us. We did manage to find a nice bakery that had a mix of sandwiches, treats and bread. I also grabbed an eclair for the road; I only have 1 week to eat as many of these guys as I can, I won’t let something as silly as ’10 am’ get in the way.
The cliffs of Étretat was an amazing experience for us all. My son loves to tell his friends that he could ‘see the world’ from the top of the cliffs. Baby girl loved racing away from the oncoming waves.
The day was still young so we made our merry way to Honfleur, roughly 45km away. Be sure to check back with us in a few days, or better yet – sign up for the email – to keep up with the road-trip updates.
For more information on the gear, we wear during cold-weather vacations, check out a recent post on the Proper Gear to wear in a European Winter.
An excellent resource for planning all of Germany can we found with the Lonely Planet Normandy Guide
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