“Impressions de Bricker” France Report – Part 3
Ã‰tretat is the next stop on our Impressions de France-inspired tour and I promise this will be much more exciting marginally less likely to put you to sleep than the EPCOT Centrist geekery of Part 2 of the Trip Report, where we nerded out over a random sign, and creeped out the locals.
Anyway…Ã‰tretat. With 3 different glimpses at Ã‰tretat during the course of Impressions de France, I believe it receives more screen time than even the Eiffel Tower. We were a little unsure of what to expect from Ã‰tretat; we knew the white chalk cliffs and natural arches would be pretty, but didn’t know much beyond that.
We drove here directly from Beuvron-en-Auge, which was about halfway between Ã‰tretat and Mont Saint Michel. We booked at Hotel Dormy House, an oceanside hotel that looked like it had some character and was rated highly online. This hotel was one of the unanimous favorites of the trip: great location perched above the city near the white cliffs, one of the best breakfast buffet selections, and a style reminiscent of grandma’s house. I’ve used the word a lot, but a very charming place.
After checking in, we went behind Hotel Dormy House to survey the view and determine where we should go for sunset. We spotted the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde in the distance, and decided that was our best option. It was only a few minutes away (but as lazy Americans, we felt the need to drive that distance), so we were there in no time.
At this point, sunset was still ~45 minutes away, but the sun was beautifully illuminating the puffy clouds overhead and the sky was looking incredible. As Mark and I were setting up our tripods, Sarah walked to the front of the chapel for a view of the sunset overlooking the ocean. Next to Mark and I, there was a stereotypical looking French artist type, and he began yelling at a man in front of us.
I don’t know what he said, but he was right. The man had meandered directly in front of us despite seeing the cameras set up, and was moving with no purpose whatsoever. This happens all the time in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, often late in the evening when no one else is around and the lone stray person in question is playing on their phone. Unfortunately, American norms preclude shouting at people as a viable solution. The French, apparently, are far less tolerant in this regard.
After the man moved, the French photographer fired off his shots, and then took his camera off the tripod. He turned to me, showed me the images and said something I did not understand before walking off. This was all still a good 30 minutes before sunset. Mark and I were perplexed at first; while the light was really good at this point, how did he know it wouldn’t get better? As time passed and the sky went downhill, we began thinking maybe this dude was a sunset-savant. Below is my photo taken at about the same time as the angry French photographer:
Wanting some alternate views, I decided to run off to the side of the chapel to grab some more photos. From there, I saw Sarah talking to someone who had brought her dogs out to run around. Sarah has an affability to her that seems to invite conversation (which is pretty much the exact opposite of me), making this is a fairly regular occurrence. I thus didn’t think much of it.
It was starting to get darker at this point, and Sarah and I had previously discussed recreating this scene from Impressions de France:
This had always struck me as a “life goals” kind of thing; I could picture us growing old and walking along the oceanside with our dachshund (well, maybe a husky by then). Even though we didn’t bring a dog for the trip, I thought the photo-mimicry would still translate. Then it dawned on me: Sarah’s new friend had dogs!
We asked Mark to take the photo, and asked the lady if we could borrow one of her dogs for the photo. We explained that we were recreating a scene from a film, and she obliged. This is the result:
This request got me roped into the conversation with Sarah’s new friend, who it turned out operated a bed & breakfast near the chapel. I’m not really sure what happened, but we were suddenly walking with her to her house to see her cats and have drinks. Sarah and her seemed like best friends at this point, so I guess I assumed this was normal? I don’t know. After giving us a tour of her house, she started talking about having her daughter take us to a museum in Paris and a friend who operated a taxi drive us around.
At this point, I really had no clue what was going on, and was ready to get out of there. Unfortunately, this lady was really chatty, and there were no gaps to ‘excuse ourselves.’ Although the veil of the internet can conceal this to an extent, I’m normally terrible at socializing with people I don’t know. My max for a conversation with a stranger is about 2 minutes before things break down to us awkwardly looking at each other and discussing the weather. I also realized that in the confusion, we hadn’t told Mark what we were doing. He probably thought we had been abducted by this point.
We finally found a gap in the conversation to break free, and walked back to the chapel where Mark was waiting in the car. I wonder if he felt like the parent who should sit his kids down and tell them about “stranger danger.”
Anyway, from there we headed downtown to park and find a place to eat.
I don’t remember the name of the place where we ate or the precise names of the dishes, but it was one of the best meals of the trip.
This was not a ‘foodie’ focused trip, so often we focused on value for money (particularly in Switzerland, where everything is expensive) over quality.
That meant a lot of fast food and quick meals from markets rather than a lot of multi-course sit-down meals.
We did eat more nice meals in France than anywhere else, and of those, this was a highlight.
The next morning, Mark and I got up early for sunrise. We started by going back to the chapel to see if we could capture the full moon over the “needle.” Unfortunately, it was too overcast for the moon to appear.
Then it was back to our hotel, where we hiked up to the other side of the needle to a little cove above it. At first, it appeared that the sunrise was going to be a total dud. Official sunrise time came and went, with only an overcast sky and zero color.
However, for maybe a 90 second window, the sun peaked through a sliver in the clouds, and totally lit up the sky. As soon as it rose above that cloud-gap, the pretty sky totally disappeared again. It was almost like a light switch was flipped, and then flipped back off.
We ended up really liking Ã‰tretat. Sarah loved it, and envisioned the sleepy oceanside town as a place we could live. This is not uncommon with us–a recurring conversation we have is living abroad a while, and we’ve dreamt of living in places like Paris or Kyoto (my top picks) temporarily for a few months to get to know these cities. It’s a dream that–at this point–will probably never happen, but it’s fun to think about the possibilities, nonetheless.
Ã‰tretat reminded both of us a lot of the towns we love along Pacific Coast Highway if you drive a couple of hours north or south from Los Angeles. In addition to the natural beauty, it had a nice, walkable downtown with nice storefronts and a small-town ‘retreat’ vibe to it. The cliffs and arches are the obvious draws, but the coastal trails and downtown made it a solid pick for a day trip.
I won’t fixate on them since neither are Impressions de France locations, but after checking out of Hotel Dormy House, we headed to Honfleur. This spot had been recommended to us by the English couple in Beuvron-en-Auge, and we’re really glad we went. This port town had a picturesque harbor (literally, it was a popular subject for Monet and other famed French artists to paint) and myriad little shops, bakeries, and places to explore. Another spot we really liked, and could have spent much more time.
From there, we made an impromptu visit to Omaha Beach, and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Omaha Beach was fascinating and odd–particularly in the stark juxtaposition between the bleak mental imagery the beach conjured as compared to the lively (active) that we saw.
The Memorial & Cemetery, on the other hand, was a completely somber and powerfully moving experience. Obviously, we’ve read about World War II, seen documentaries and Hollywood depictions of what occurred in Normandy, but nothing can prepare you for being there and seeing the vastness of the cemetery. World War II is a common topic of discussion during our travels in Europe, and this further put the impact of the war and the loss of life that resulted from it.
We’d highly recommend all of the locations discussed in this installment of the trip report. From here, we were on our way to Paris, and we pick up there in Part 4 of our Impressions de Bricker Trip Report!
Oh, and as promised…
Need Disney trip planning tips and comprehensive advice? Make sure to read Disney Parks Vacation Planning Guides, where you can find comprehensive guides to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond!
For Disney updates, discount information, a free download of our Money-Saving Tips for Walt Disney World eBook, and much more, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!
If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, we’d really appreciate it if you’d share it via social media to help spread the word. We put a lot of work into making this site a helpful planning resource, and hope it’s useful to you! 🙂
Does Ã‰tretat (or the other destinations here) look interesting? Do Sarah and I need a lesson on stranger danger? Thoughts on our Impressions de France tour? We’d love hearing some feedback on the report thus far (from those of you who are still reading…), so please share any other thoughts or questions you have, in the comments!
I’m really enjoying following along on your journey, and especially excited about the Paris portion coming up because we will be there in May 2017 (along with Copenhagen, Berlin & Stockholm) and I’d like to see what you recommend. Normandy seems so charming and I’d love to visit on another trip!
This is definitely reminding me of childhood trips to Normandy with school/my parents. I love this area. My husband and I are semi-planning a visit next Autumn as he’s never been. The beaches are wonderful in off-season, great for a picnic with fresh bread, cheese and cider. And for kite flying!! The history is also fascinating. I have so many 90s pics of the cemeteries, Pegasus Bridge etc. Loving the trip reports Brickers!
You and Sarah should definitely consider living overseas. We moved to Utrecht in The Netherlands (25 minutes from Amsterdam but a beautiful medieval city google it!) 9 months ago. Our first 4 day trip was Paris and Disneyland. We have not regretted this move for one second, even our 12 year old twin girls have not complained!! The hardest part has been all the questions about Trump. The move has changed us in ways we never imagined. I’m loving these Europe blogs…keep it up!
Utrecht is lovely and if you are missing anything from the US, there’s an American store a short walk from the train station in the Centrum. (I am an American and I live in Doetinchem. I’ve been in the Netherlands for 14 years now)
There are some fantastic places over here…I would suggest a visit to the Delft area, and if you are interested in WWII, Arnhem has some great museums and walking tours. One of the things I love about living here is the ability to travel. We’re only 15 minutes from the German border, and if you have access to a car, the sky’s the limit. We have done bus tours to Paris a couple of times and we drove to Füssen in Bavaria, Germany and visited Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles….gorgeous views. It would be the perfect area for a landscaparazzi to visit! If one were interested in that sort of thing. 😉
Great photos of a beautiful place I love to visit. I also very highly recommend you to visit Deauville, Trouville and Cabourg (all three close to Honfleur), I’m sure you’d love these towns. And of course the magnificent medieval city of St Malo !!! All these places are incredible for photographers.
Tom, enjoyable as usual. I was immensely pleased to discover that you and Sarah are just like my husband and me. In this scenario, I’m you and my husband is Sarah. My husband can and does strike up conversations with strangers ALL the time, especially if they look like they speak a foreign language (he’s quite the linguaphile!). When I was young (like you and Sarah) it would totally freak me out, as I’m not at all that kind of person, but I’ve mellowed through the years and now I’m quite used to it. In fact, a number of times it’s led us to generous stranger moments that I guess happen in a “Steves Europe world.” Anyway, I would say just hang back and embrace her conviviality.
I have also mellowed a bit. Not totally by choice, more out of necessity. When people first started recognizing and stopping us in the parks, I was not very chatty, at all, probably leading them to thinking I’m an ass (true, albeit for different reasons! 😉 ).
Given the conversational, somewhat personable writing on the blog, I’ve realized people expect the same out of me in person. Given that, I’ve worked on being more comfortable and outgoing with strangers. I’m still bad at it relative to Sarah, but it’s not downright awful like I used to be.
We saw you and Sarah a few times in the DLP park and Hotel NY during the race weekend, but we didn’t want to freak you out by coming up and introducing ourselves. We were quite star struck, and were whispering and giggling like schoolgirls.
I do relax my not-talking-to-strangers rule if I happen upon someone I really like or admire, so just fyi, if I see you and Sarah in a park, I’m totally coming up to you and introducing myself. We can be super-uncomfortable together!
Really enjoying this TR, and has been bookmarked for my future plans. Looking forward to more! And on the sociable Sarah front, I’ve always found it a lot easier to strike up conversations with fellow dog-walkers/owners.
I enjoy striking up conversations with dogs, but not their owners! 😉
Ha! I usually start with the dog and build myself up to the owner if I’m feeling brave! I have improved, found solo trips to Disney get a bit unnerving if I don’t strike up conversations with others occasionally.
I am absolutely loving your France reports. They are making me more and more excited for my trip this summer. I agree about the food. France definitely is the best (of the 7 European countries I’ve been to). Switzerland’s food is very expensive and nothing special. I found Germany’s food pretty blah.
Everything in Switzerland is overpriced. I loved the beauty of the country, but probably wouldn’t go back anytime soon given the costs. It also seemed that most of their best seasonal dishes were wild game, and growing up in a midwestern family of hunters, venison and other game are not really all that novel to me.
Some travelers may sneer at this, but we found ourselves doing McDonald’s at a few points in Switzerland. (Even that was overpriced, but not $40+/person for a mediocre meal.)
I had hoped prices in Switzerland had gone down (I was last there in 2012 for work) as I would love to take my family there – it was beautiful. But I remember paying $18.50 USD for even a meal at McDonalds! I don’y think anything else was cheaper than ~$35 for a meal.
I did Switzerland (Interlaken area) in 2014. Loved the scenery, hated the prices. Considering a trip back in 2017, but would only look at all-inclusive deals. Would rarely turn my nose up at a McDonalds!
Loving this TR! I thought your woman at the chapel story was going to turn out Rick Steves’ Europe-esque, with convivial food and drink around a tiny table. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Rick Steves’ Europe, but I feel like that happens.
I can’t recall the name of the memorial at this late hour, but if you return to Normandy there is a preserved battlefield along the cliffs. It was even more impactful than Omaha Beach for me. When I remember the name I’ll reply.
Looking forward to continued installments!
We watch a lot of Rick Steves’ Europe, and I think those situations are usually facilitated by people he knows, and not totally spontaneous encounters. Regardless, there are definitely a lot of nice, welcoming locals in these parts of Europe.
Thanks for keeping up with this trip report. It’s good reading.
I’m glad the guy at the shop in the last installment didn’t call the police on you. That would have been a concern of mine with heightened tension in France these days.
I don’t think him calling the police was even a remote possibility. We very much looked like dorky tourists infatuated with taking photos of something, it just might not have been totally clear what that something was.
In my opinion, there’s a chasm between bizarre–but harmless–tourist behavior and suspicious terrorist behavior. Maybe that’s just me, though.
So glad you guys made it to Honfleur. I used to travel there for work and it is a quaint French town away from tourists. Loving this trip report
It’s funny, but I’ve often thought about doing a France tour based around the locations from the Epcot film, so imagine how delighted I am with this trip report! I spent a few days at Paris Disneyland this summer but didn’t get to any of the film’s locations this trip. I suppose I’ll have to go back! Did you get to visit any of the spectacular castles from the film?
The castles are coming in Part 5! 🙂
I love sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads.
I know it was awesome.