Destination: Le Havre & Étretat, France


Finally wrapping up my past holidays with my final destination in the Normandy region! After going all-out with Germany and Spain, it was time to return to France to rest up a bit from the past week-and-a-half of traveling.

That said, I flew back to Paris from Madrid on Christmas Day, then taking the train back to Normandy (aka “home”), arriving back around 22h30. Although it was late and I was tired from having traveled for almost ten hours straight, I decided to celebrate Christmas with my flatmate, who was pretty much staying in during the holiday season, with a drink and little chat.

A drink.

One drink.

…what turned into one glass of wine instead turned into us bringing out the whiskey after the wine and consuming all of that. As well as talking about everything and anything until 6h00, which by then I’d been up for 22 hours straight. Definitely got super drunk, on the border of wasted, but it was a nice, long chat and let’s be honest, I would do it again. 😉

Any case, I stayed home for the next four days, resting and catching up with work until I headed over to the Normandy coast the day before New Years’ Eve to visit and stay with a teaching assistant friend who would be back for the new year. We’d made arrangements for me to come over, since I didn’t really feel like celebrating the new year in my flat- plus, the travel bug was itching again, so I had to calm it down.

Took the train over, and I arrived in Le Havre in the late afternoon. My friend received me at the train station, and together we just went over to Les Docks Vaubans, a large shopping complex, for a drink at the cafe (tea and coffee does the trick on a cold, wintry Normand day!). After some chatting, we took the tram over to her flat, located a bit outside of the city center, where we spent the rest of the night hanging out, making dinner, and so forth.

The following morning, we caught the bus over to Étretat for a day trip, since I’d been meaning to visit it again since last year. What really surprised me was the fact that it was actually snowing?!! People (namely, the locals) have been telling me that it wouldn’t be snowing in Normandy this winter, just because it hasn’t for the last three years (last year, it didn’t; I can attest to that). But I saw with my own eyes as the bus drove over to Étretat the light flurries and the white blanket of frost alongside the road- my friend noted on her phone that the weather was -5°C, or 23°F, which was mind-boggling!

…and indeed, it was crazy cold that day, to the point that I even used my gloves and borrowed my friend’s scarf to keep warm.

Snow in Normandy?!
Snow in Normandy?!

About 70 minutes later, we arrived in Étretat, again to equally-cold temperatures. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and we spent most of the time hiking along the coast across from the famous falaises, or “cliffs.” From the last two times that I’ve visited, I hiked directly on the well-known cliffs for the views, but this time around, my friend and I went to the other cliffs for the hike: after climbing several flights of stairs, we reached the top where we were greeted by a small church and from there, we got views of the falaises in all its splendor. Of course, I took photos to commemorate this beautiful moment.

Cliffs of Étretat.
Cliffs of Étretat.

We spent the rest of the morning walking along the cliffs, which were hand-numbing cold with the addition of the wind. It was freezing to the point that even the grass that we walked on had frost! Super interesting to see Étretat pretty much frosted over at this time of year, considering that the other two times that I’ve been, they were in October, before the winter chill came and settled in. Nevertheless, wearing gloves and keeping ourselves warm by walking helped- again, the views were fantastic!

Hiking along the cliffs...with frost!
Hiking along the cliffs…with frost!

Eventually, we decided to turn back after an hour, walking back the way we came, descending the stairs, and went into the town center to find a small restaurant-cafe to get warm. We ended up getting food at one of the restaurants, after a *slight* tiff with the waitress who said that we couldn’t just get drinks, but had to order something in order to stay inside. Any case, a simple crêpe and a kir normand never hurt anyone!

We caught the 15h00 bus back to Le Havre, arriving back around 16h30 and, after buying a bit more groceries and going into the city center to see if any bars would be open for New Year’s (there weren’t any), we headed back to my friend’s flat. For the rest of the night, we spent New Year’s Eve making dinner again, as well as experimenting with mulled wine (actually super easy to make) and quietly rang in the new year that way. Tired, we turned in for bed around half past midnight (no partying until 6h30, like last year!).

Sunset in Le Havre.
Sunset in Le Havre.

The next morning was New Year’s Day; things would not be open in town that day, so we had a quiet, calm day staying in the flat before heading out in the afternoon for a three-hour walk around the park and the woods near my friend’s flat. What surprised me was the fact that the ponds in the park were frozen over; seriously, the ducks there were trying to walk/ice-skate over them, to hilarious results!

We returned back to the flat in the late afternoon, resting up for the remainder of the day. Again, we made mulled wine that day, turning in later for bed.

The day after New Year’s was my last day in Le Havre; before leaving, we headed down to the beach for a quick stroll; even though it was still the middle of winter, it was a lovely, sunny day, and the ocean was very calm. Not too many people were out, thereby giving the place a quiet, peaceful atmosphere.

Stroll along the beach.
Stroll along the beach.

Eventually, I had to get to the train station, so we headed over there around 12h45. Said goodbye to my friend, thanking her for the stay, and took the train back to my town, arriving back in the late afternoon and relaxed for the rest of the day.

Overall, it was a pleasant stay in Le Havre over the last of the winter holidays; even though I’d just been there during October vacation, I can’t ever get tired of returning! The brief visit to Étretat was a worthy one, as I got to see its beauty again, this time with a bit of frost! This past winter vacation was a good one, for even though I visited three different countries (Germany, Spain, France), it was at a pretty relaxing pace and in the end, I was rewarded with a lot of great experiences and encounters that I hope to emulate with the upcoming holidays (soon to come!).

Thanks for reading, bloggers! 🙂

— The Finicky Cynic

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8 thoughts on “Destination: Le Havre & Étretat, France

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