Monday, May 7, 2012

Parc Moutiers & Étretat

The plan for today was to hit two pretty places on the coast North of Rouen: a garden at Parc des Moutiers (day moo tea yay), and further along Étretat (et ruh tah), a small resort town featuring dramatic cliffs. Here's the general route.

Parc des Moutiers

A banker, Guillaume Mallet, in 1898 bought a large area of coastal land. He had a house built by the very young Edwin Lutyens, and set about making the 30-acre site beautiful. Here's a Wikipedia article about the place. Still owned by the descendants of Mallet, it is a lovely place to wander. There are formal gardens around the house; then the property slopes down as, seemingly, a pleasant woodland, to the sea. But the pleasant casual woodland is actually a carefully chosen variety of plants that are not at all native to the chalk hills of the coast.

We followed the nicely documented walking route for the better part of two hours, looking and snapping. One of the first things that impressed us was some Pieris plants that were small trees. We have a Pieris in our front yard but not like this.

Primo pieris.

The park has a lot of rhododendrons of different kinds, but we were a week or so too early (or the cold spring has held them back).

In another week, pow!

In a carefully designed marshy place, the triffids were growing.

There were azaleas and camelias.

And quite a few other things, all in all a very pleasant garden ramble.


Leaving Parc des Moutriers we followed small roads along the coast through a succession of little resort villages. By now hungry and thirsty we started looking for a boulangerie or store, and couldn't find such. Then in a tiny square in a tiny village we saw a boulangerie that seemed to be closed, in fact had a sign "fermé le Lundi" (closed Monday) but in fact, was open, so we bought a baguette from an actual jolly baker. Next door a small store also looked dark but in fact was open so we could get cheese and bananas.

Drove a little further looking for a place to park and eat, and stumbled on a WWII monument: the battle of Veule des Roses, a holding action during the German invasion of 1940 that allowed a few hundred British troops to get off to a ship.

In the distance, the cliffs that characterize this coast.

The busy resort town of Étretat sits in a stream valley that makes a gap in the solid cliff line, and a beach. On the West, the cliff runs out to make an arch and a "needle."

The boats are kids in a one-design sailing race.

On the East side, the cliff is climbed by a stairway.

Marian took this as a challenge.

We climbed the whole thing.

Back down on the beach we celebrated with crêpes.

Crêpe au sucre et crêpe au caramel.

Heading back to Rouen, the GPS guided us, for no apparent reason, onto smaller and narrower roads, ignoring the main routes.

What was it, so to speak, thinking?

We finally shut it off when we saw we were close to a freeway, and jumped on it.

Tomorrow: on to Bayeux!

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