The Bogtrotter

Tag: France

Etretat – beach walk on the wild side

by on Feb.09, 2009, under France, French Walks, Walks

Chalk cliffs of Etretat

Chalk cliffs of Etretat

Those looking for a challenging but spectacular coastal walk should head for Etretat in France, where the chalk cliffs rising up from the English Channel create the magnificent image of the Alabaster Coast.  Etretat is a pretty little coastal town which is now a tourist honeypot, and the start of one of the best short walks you will ever do.  With the beach section only accessible at low tide you need to check the local tide times and ideally start about an hour before low tide.

As low tide approaches a group begins to gather at the western end of Etretat beach, and you can sense something is about to happen.  A short walk across the seaweed-covered rocks (and a splash in the rock pools if you’re so inclined) takes you to a metal ladder fixed to the cliff.  Climb up the ladder to a ledge and you can then walk through the tunnel carved out of the rock.  You are now the other side of the Failaise D’Aval arch, and on a much quieter beach enclosed by the mountainous strata-lined chalk cliffs.  Carry on across this pebble beach – with the Mannaporte Arch in front of you striding out into the sea.  When you reach the next arch go though this and down a ladder to reach another enclosed beach.  This one has a beautiful waterfall cascading down the cliff – the perfect place to stand and cool off from the summer heat.

Waterfall on the beach

Waterfall on the Beach

One feature of this walk is it’s challenging nature. This is one place the Health and Safety brigade have failed to reach.  The rocks are slippery, the ladders are exposed, and there are no handrails or barriers on the open ledges.  It is not unneccessarily dangerous and can be done by any reasonably active person, but is not for those of a nervous disposition!

Arch through the rock

Arch through the rock

Another archway to go through to reach the final beach – from a distance I think this one looks like a silouette of the queen on a postage stamp.  This final beach is probably the best for sunbathing – and is much busier than the previous two.  At the end of this beach is a roadway which cuts through the cliffs.  From this road you can join the cliff path and follow this all the way back to Etretat.  The clifftop walk gives stunning views of the chalk cliffs – which seem to go on forever into the distance.

In the summer there are large crowds on the cliffs, and the numbers increase the closer you get back to Etretat.  But it is easy to see why – the scenery is unsurpassed.  Once you are back in Etretat – head for one of the great restaurants where you can try the local seafood (highly recommended) washed down with a glass or two of Normandy cider and calvados.

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Bull Running in the Camargue

by on Jan.18, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Running the bulls through Le Grau Du Roi

Running the bulls through Le Grau Du Roi

If you have ever wanted to chase a bull down the road then this is your chance!

The Camargue region of Southern France is one of the last remaining wild areas of Europe. Across the salt marshlands you will see jet black horses mingling with the famous white Camargue horses. The area is full of ranches (manades or mas) where bulls are bred for their meat, but also to play with.

All the local villages have an arena, whils Nimes and Arles maintain their impressive Roman arenas. But unlike in Spain, the French prefer not to kill the bulls. Throughout the summer “Course Camarguaise” are held, where the competitors win prizes by grabbing ribbons from between the horns of the bulls.

Before and after these events some of the bulls are run through the streets, guides by the local “guardians” on horseback. The locals have one aim – distract the horses and guardians, and allow the bull to roam loose through the town.

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Pont Du Gard

by on Jan.18, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Some monuments are visible for miles around. Others just creep up on you and suddenly hit you between the eyes. That’s how I first saw the Pont Du Gard.

Pont Du Gard, France

Pont Du Gard, France

I’d heard a lot about how impressive this Roman aquaduct was, but until I was there it was difficult to believe. True – seeing the pale stone set against a pure blue winter sky did help, but it really was a stunning image.
Just like a six year old, I was darting around trying to find the best viewpoints. It’s great to be able to walk across, under and around the viaduct without seeing hundreds of warnign signs or having a warden shouting at you to “get off”.
For directions and a history lesson visit the official Pont du Gard web site at
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