Seaside Adventures in Étretat & Honfleur
Friday, October 13, 2017
I’m a pretty organized person. I show up for events ten to fifteen minutes before they start. I’m never late. I also never forget to set an alarm to wake up, and typically rise at 6:30am every day on a river cruise. That seems early, but it’s really not: this way, when we have an early morning, I’m ready for it.
This morning, I woke up in my cozy stateroom aboard Tauck’s ms Sapphire and felt well-rested. Nobody who has ever woken up at 6:30am has ever been well-rested; you should wake up at that hour feeling like Louis XIV on a day when he feels fat.
I looked at my iPhone. Quarter to eight. We had to leave on our morning tour in 45 minutes, and I’d clearly forgotten to set my alarm.
Now, I hate being rushed. I’m a terrible old man when it comes to my morning routine: I need breakfast and coffee or I’m going to be awful and cranky all day. And on a regular cruise, 45 minutes to shower, dress, round up all the stuff for my day, and have breakfast would have been a disaster. But again, I forgot where I was: with only 98 guests onboard the Sapphire, I waltzed into the Restaurant at 8:15am, got myself some food, sat down, had a coffee, and even had time to read the little news-snippet paper that’s printed out onboard before heading ashore.
Tauck is going to spoil me. I’m not used to being onboard a river cruise that carries less than 100 people – and I’m starting to really like it.
On this, the fifth day of our Rendezvous on the Seine river cruise, we were off to explore two quaint, small towns on the Atlantic Ocean: Étretat and Honfleur. To get there, we’d need to do a little driving – just over 90 minutes, to be exact, from our docking location in Caudebec-en-Caux; a small commune on the Seine with a population of just over two thousand.
Ships can normally sail on to Le Havre, on the Atlantic, but a bridge (that has apparently been broken for much of the season) is limiting our progress. We’ve stopped here in Caudebec-en-Caux for the next three days and will conduct our touring by coach. It’s not a problem, but something you should be aware of (and, if anything, is like river cruising Portugal’s Douro River, where long coach rides are pretty much standard every day).
In Étretat, we were let loose on this pretty little town – and with an hour of free time, it was a relaxed visit that let guests roam about as they pleased.
I stayed and walked along the seaside promenade, where the Atlantic rolled forcefully in and crashed upon the pebbled beach and against the cliffs that are as picturesque and grandiose as the famous “White Cliffs of Dover” across the Channel.
Others chose to visit the local bakery, pulled in by the smell of freshly-baked bread that carried on down the streets for blocks.
I really liked that Tauck just left guests to discover Étretat on their own. It’s a nice counterpart to guided tours that, while informative, can sometimes result in information overload. There is something to be said for losing yourself among the streets of a place.
On arrival in Honfleur, Tauck also gave guests the opportunity to wander the town and have lunch on their own. We were given three hours of free time – and twenty Euros apiece for lunch. Tauck’s reasoning is that you’ve paid for all of your meals on the river cruise, and if they’re taking you off of that cruise, they should be paying for your lunch.
Not every river cruise line does this; in fact, few do. And while €40 per couple isn’t going to let you eat like Napoleon, it should be more than enough to get a couple of very decent plats (as ‘main courses’ are called here) and a nice bottle of wine.